How Floorplans Can Improve Campus Safety

In the years since Columbine, school safety has changed dramatically. Schools have more measures in place to protect their students and faculty, such as controlled access, metal detectors, and cameras. While these safety measures are helpful, it is important to add an extra layer to improve campus safety by tying these isolated safety measures together. In the current climate, many school districts and universities are utilizing alarm monitoring software or Physical Security Incident Management (PSIM) software to integrate multiple unconnected security applications and devices. Using alarm monitoring or PSIM software enables schools to better assess potential issues or threats and to proactively resolve security concerns.

The widespread implementation of security protocols, the advancement of monitoring technologies, and the increased usage of incident monitoring software have helped schools to improve overall security measures; however, there are still challenges to overcome. For instance, even when using incident management software, when a security event happens, it takes time to determine the exact location. This is especially true on larger campuses. In an emergency, time is a valuable commodity which can cost lives.

Consider the following scenario: an alarm event occurs and the alarm is delivered to the software which is monitored at an alarm response center on campus.  The alarm shows as originated from a source labeled “Southwest Hallway Third Floor Fire Pullstation Number 4.” More likely, on the monitoring center screen it has been abbreviated to something closer to “3F SW Hall Fire PS 4.” The dispatcher can relay this label to the responding agency, but what are the chances that someone other than the building architect is going to know exactly where that source is located? Without compass point references, the dispatcher may not be able to tell which area of the building is southwest. Even if they are knowledgeable about the layout of the campus, it’s unlikely they are familiar with the locations of all the pullstations and/or their corresponding reference numbers.

To save precious time, a better scenario is for the dispatcher to have access to a floorplan designating the exact location of the alarm source, which can then be conveyed to the responding agency. This functionality improves response times and saves lives, and it is included as a standard feature in the alarm monitoring and PSIM software from Bold Technologies.

The ability to add floorplans to an account and reference these plans during alarm handling has been part of the Manitou alarm monitoring software for many years, and is utilized by customers across the globe. However, Bold Technologies recently released the upgraded ManitouNEO platform, and the functionality of the floorplans features is even more powerful in this new release.

How it works:

When a University implements the ManitouNEO alarm monitoring software, whether it is on-premises or through Bold’s hosted cloud solution, they may upload floorplans while setting up the account:

The images can include plans for separate floors, outlying buildings, athletic fields and stadiums, etc. Once the images are added, the monitoring center divides up the floorplan into areas and zones, based on how they were set up by the installing dealer. The areas and zones are added by drawing simple outlines around the applicable perimeters. Then, within the zones, Devices are added by the placement of appropriate icons in the proper location. Devices can include pullstations and surveillance cameras, as shown below, along with motion sensors, door sensors, blue light systems, and any other security device utilized throughout the campus. Now the floorplan shows the devices in the general location they can be found, indicated by a representatively-shaped icon:

The monitoring dispatcher has better visualization of the building, simply by being able to see where devices are placed. When an alarm is activated, the correlating device icon flashes on the screen to draw attention, as noted here:

Now the dispatcher has a specific location to the source of the alarm. The faster identification means they can communicate the issue more efficiently and provide specific information to the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), if needed.

This functionality in ManitouNEO is not limited specifically to floorplans. The software can manage any .jpg or .png file, which means aerial shots, street views, and even Google satellite images are possible. Installation technicians may photograph placement locations of the security devices while they conduct the initial installation, allowing for a concise image of where security devices are positioned. Pictures can then be grouped into multi-story layers and organized within separate files for easier access.

The Plans screen can also help an operator determine the validity of an alarm. For instance, if an alarm event is triggered by a camera, the video footage from what caused the event immediately displays for the dispatcher alongside the alarm. A quick review provides insight into whether the alarm should be verified and the PSAP contacted, or reported as a possible false alarm. This also provides context for the operator as to the location of the event by displaying the camera’s field of view and the location of the point in relation to the doors, hallways, and offices.

Plans can be the next best thing to being physically on-site in the event of an incident, and significantly improve campus safety. Operators can see what points are in alarm, access cameras in proximity to those alarms, and provide context to the PSAP when making notifications in the event of a valid incident. With these additional measures in place, campuses can save time during an emergency and better protect their students and faculty.