We Need to Educate the Educators

Although the massacre that left 33 dead on the Virginia Tech campus took place two months ago, the repercussions will be felt for years to come. Hopefully, the fallout will more swiftly turn into action that permeates the electronic security industry — and fosters less exploitation and waste — than was the case following 9/11. 

Of course, the real touchstone event that slapped students, parents, school administrators and the rest of America squarely in the face was the Columbine tragedy back in 1999. And since that horrific day more than eight years ago — and the subsequent focus on homeland security and anti-terrorism tactics — security measures have in fact increased on campuses nationwide.

These initiatives have been reflected in Security Sales & Integration research that shows the category of hospitals/schools/universities is among installing security integrators’ top three markets for access control, video surveillance and fire/life-safety projects, as well as government-derived data indicating a precipitous drop in overall campus crime during the past several years. Yet it is obvious there remains much more to be done.

Although electronic security systems cannot eliminate incidents such as Virginia Tech or Columbine, they can absolutely lessen their likelihood, and the extent of damage when they do occur. From basic door locks to perimeter protection to card access to intelligent video, our industry has solutions at its disposal to help keep our sacred learning institutions’ inhabitants out of harm’s way.

However, the reality is that regardless of how great the need or the desire to help, security contracting businesses typically require a fair price to cover equipment, labor, and general and administrative costs. Unfortunately, educational concerns have traditionally been plagued by budgetary constraints, and when funds are earmarked for security, manpower is often prioritized over technology. 

In addition to the monetary issues, schools pose` unique challenges from a physical security standpoint. Designed as peaceful, pleasant environments that nurture learning, many — particularly colleges and universities — are set up as open campuses where people can, for the most part, freely come and go as they please. This friendly, open-minded spirit extends to students, teachers and staff, who have frequently failed to observe basic safety practices, such as anti-tailgating procedures. 

This is why it is imperative that electronic security industry integrators, manufacturers, distributors, trade associations and other stakeholders reach out to the education market and hammer home the value they offer. Send them literature and information, call them, visit with them, find out if you can sit in on board or city council meetings, keep abreast of relevant legislation and funding initiatives, provide them with system demonstrations, join their trade associations, attend and/or conduct seminars at their conferences and events. 

In that vein, we are doing our part, not only with SSI, but also via our sister publication, Campus Safety, which informs school officials about the capabilities and usefulness of electronic security systems in each and every issue. The award-winning magazine’s Web site (www.campussafetymagazine.com) can provide you with more specific information to target this marketplace and accomplish the objectives set forth above. 

In SSI, we are bringing you success stories of how others are helping schools maintain their safe haven status. A shining example of this appears on page 54 (“High School Goes High Tech”) in a case study covering the installation of an IP-based system at Ohio’s Jackson High School. These articles can be shown to campus decision-makers to raise awareness, increase their comfort level with the technology and ultimately help influence them to authorize similar projects for their own facilities.

Let’s all work together, and smartly, so Virginia Tech’s record death toll can never be eclipsed.

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is the marketing director for Elite Interactive Solutions. He is the former editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He can be reached at sgoldfine@eliteisi.com.

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