September 21, 2017
How do you use “sound” or audio solutions to improve your school security? That was the topic of a Sept. 21, 2017, webinar program from the Security Industry Association (SIA), titled “A Sound Solution for School Security.”
Speakers Guy Grace, director of security and emergency preparedness for Littleton Public Schools in Colorado, and Richard Brent, CEO for audio solutions company Louroe Electronics out of Van Nuys, California, tackled this topic and presented essential recommendations, and addressed the legality of audio surveillance.
According to Grace and Brent, audio devices (which are typically ceiling-, wall- or post-mounted microphones) can be used to:
- capture critical information and evidence,
- enable a proactive security posture versus a reactive posture,
- increase monitoring efficiency,
- expand situational awareness at cost-effective price, and
- create a turnkey surveillance solution.
Grace and Brent both noted that with the proliferation of video surveillance camera system investments at schools and other facilities, audio also capture key evidence to give a more complete understanding of an incident, whether in real-time or for evidentiary purposes. The technology is credited with first appearing on school buses around the U.S. to handle issues of conflict between students and unruliness, but the technology was steadily recognized as useful on campus, too.
Grace, whose security system covers multiple schools, said he has integrated audio monitoring (also sometimes referred to as audio surveillance) into his comprehensive security platform and his security management strategy. A complete system not only has solutions for outbound communication via mass notification, but has intercom-style solutions as well as listening solutions via audio surveillance microphones. Per a poll conducted, roughly 71% of school security leaders and security solutions professionals were seeing schools with both traditional public address and mass notification systems, but only 41% had integrated audio systems with duress systems or with video management systems (VMS).
Audio for Campus Security
Grace said one of the common use cases in the school environment, which is also applicable to commercial environments, is that of visitor management. Having both video security cameras at entrances as well as intercom devices allowing 2-way communications, enables staff to engage with visitors remotely. In some cases, a visitor may be asked to present their driver’s license or ID to the camera and state their business at the school, before being allowed to enter.
Grace is also finding direct benefits in school-specific cases of resolving parental custodial disagreements and with bullying among students.
Common Applications of Audio Monitoring at Schools
- Visitor Management – as an additional point of identification and verification
- Vandalism – using audio indicators as a first alert of trespassers after hours (sometimes before they can even be seen on cameras)
- Mass Notification – for confirmation of notifications during duress or lockdowns
- Run, Hide, Fight, Care Protocol – as a first warning of danger
Where to Use Audio Solutions on School Campuses
- Main Offices Entrances/Exits
- Public Interior Areas (Hallways, Cafeterias, Classrooms)
- Outdoor Common Areas (Playground)
- Parking Lot
- School Buses
- Dormitory Check-in Center
Legality of Audio Surveillance
In addition to the benefits, the program covered the legality of audio surveillance. Speaker Richard Brent noted that all 50 U.S. states recognize audio surveillance as a tool, and noted that audio recording or surveillance is legal when one manages the expectation of privacy.
In addition to the archived webinar, SIA and our speakers would like to point you to the following resources related to the topic of school security and use of audio.
- SIA School Security Resource Page – This information page explains SIA’s advocacy positions on school security and includes a wealth of additional resources and links to other pages with clear information on school security.
- Partner Alliance for School Security (PASS) – This organization, of which SIA is a partner, provides clear guidelines and recommendations for school security. The PASS guidelines are available to download for free from this link.
- Case Study on Using Audio in the Littleton Public Schools – Provided by Louroe Electronics, the case study examines best practices related to use of audio technology, as implemented by this Colorado school district.
- Sample Audio and Video Monitoring Policy – Schools, campuses, and other organizations can download a PDF of this sample policy and adapt it to their own needs.
Director of Security and Emergency Planning,
Littleton, Colorado, Public Schools