Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Security Considerations in Student Housing

By Richard Holtz

It is certainly not something that student housing developers and property managers want to think about, but the tragic events at Virginia Tech and similar institutions have demonstrated the need for effective security and emergency communications for everyone affiliated with the campus environment.

The lessons learned by public safety officials following the recent mass-shootings around the country provide valuable insight for developers and managers of student housing.  An article published recently by the Mass Notification and Emergency Communications website highlights some areas of focus for the multifamily industry.

The MNEC (Mass Notification Emergency Communications) industry brings together integrators, codes, technologies and customers. Over the last two years, NSCA (National Systems Contractors Association) has been committed to educating and engaging integrators in this emerging marketplace.   The organizations will work to educate end-users and government officials and further engage a wider scope of integrators and manufacturers in this critical public safety initiative.

The MNEC suggests that for multifamily developers, the first step in evaluating emergency response is to focus on communication.  When property owners plan and develop a proactive approach in this area, they can take logical and reasonable actions that can deliver significant value to tenants.  Understanding what means of communication authorities will be using in an emergency and being prepared to assist residents in receiving messages is vital.

Networked digital signage is an example of a critical tool that is easy to implement and maintain on student housing properties.  In an emergency, as information is often conflicting and chaotic, digital signage can be a key tool in quickly reaching large numbers of residents in high-traffic areas.

Blue Light Phone Systems offer developers another way to enhance emergency communications on their property.  These brightly lit stanchions, equipped with emergency telephones, cameras and broadcast speakers, can be strategically placed in potential problem areas around the property.  Emergency Blue Light Phones can prove invaluable as initial-report tools, alerting proper authorities quickly and directly.

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) is another safety feature that takes on added importance in a time of crisis, and it is essential that the cameras feeding these systems be of sufficient resolution.  Security cameras need to be part of a system that is able to capture high-resolution footage in order to take full advantage of capabilities.

Access Control systems with a common credential provide a safe environment and instill that sense of security that residents rely on.  The presence of access control will, not only deter potential threats, but improve residents’ comfort as well.  A secondary benefit is having a historical record of who went through an entryway.

While solutions for low-voltage technology often focus on cable television, phone and internet as amenities for tenants, that same infrastructure takes on a whole new level of importance when considering resident safety.  Be sure your technology vendors and consultants have taken these valuable lessons into consideration when assessing your needs.

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