In the wake of the Michigan State University mass shooting earlier this week, we face the same questions we face each time these incidents occur. Among those questions is “what do I need to be doing right now to keep my organization safer?”
I approach this as a business owner and try to think pragmatically about steps our customers and others can take right now, today, to mitigate a similar type of incident. Though none of these steps will 100% stop an intruder with a gun, it can slow them down and in these types of incidents, every second could save a life.
We’ve partnered with universities on multiple projects and always work to help these institutions keep their communities safer. Video surveillance, access controls and systems integration can all be a part of the process.
Universities do have security measures in place and for buildings like dormitories and even some classroom buildings, access controls are required to enter, whether that’s a card-access system, a security guard with a desk or a physical key.
But consider a student union.
A student union, in many cases, is a hotel, a restaurant/dining hall and a study area. Some also have gaming areas (pool tables, etc). It would be nearly impossible to lock up every entrance from the outside. For a state university’s campus of 40,000 undergrads, think of all the people who come in and out of that building each hour… not to mention professors, graduate students and other employees of the university. Additionally, for the hotel area of a student union, people are obviously coming and going who do not attend the school. And on a big game weekend or graduation? It would create havoc to have all those doors locked up.
On the other hand… even Hampton Inns have access controls on certain entrances of some doors. A guest can easily access the lobby, but not the back or side doors after a certain time of night. Sure, the lobby entrance to the union’s hotel would remain open to the public, but if other doors required card access, that could be a step in the right direction.
Think about the computer labs on campus. Those are definitely locked. Only people with access cards would need to be in that building or room, so perhaps universities need to start thinking this way about all campus buildings.
What I’m talking about here is deterrence. If there are less access points to the building then there are less access points to the people in that building. Deterring a perpetrator has to become the objective. None of these steps can prevent someone from getting in – but it could slow them down.
In addition to rethinking access controls for main buildings on campus, university security teams need to take a good, hard look at gaps in that security. There are some areas that need video surveillance in addition to the access controls. And main entrances that can’t be locked down because of the need to have people easily enter and exit buildings, video surveillance is critical. When you think of the situation at MSU, if the shooter had escaped, video surveillance would have been critical in locating him.
Lastly, there’s the people factor. While I’m a big believer in technology and systems that can support keeping people safe, there is still a need for people in a security role. Sometimes you still need security guards and officers patrolling. Don’t discount the value of that service.
Here’s the thing. We’ve got an issue in this country and few disagree with that, if any. While these suggestions cannot solve our problem, they can certainly work toward making it better.
At ECT Services our goal is to make our customers as safe as possible, arming them with the right tools to effectively keep people, equipment and buildings safer. If we can help your organization redesign your safety and security measures, we’d be honored to be part of your team.