Deciding Which College or University Your Child Will Attend?

Deciding Which College or University Your Child Will Attend?

As your college-bound student is visiting campuses to help decide their educational future, it is more important than ever to review the physical security measures a school has in place. As your college-bound student is visiting campuses to help decide their educational future, it is more important than ever to review the physical security measures a school has in place.

“When embarking upon college and university tours, parents and students should ask their guides questions about campus security and be equipped with the necessary knowledge to decide if the security measures address your concerns, as well as the concerns of your child,” says Chris Mosley, president of ESA, the largest trade association in the United States representing the electronic security and life safety industry.

ESA has compiled a list of questions parents and students should ask when visiting colleges to help determine the level of security provided on campus.


Access Control in Residence Halls

How do students enter and exit residence halls? Best practice is to have one key to access the entrance to the dorm and a separate key or key fob to access a room.

How does the school change locks or access codes to residence halls, student rooms and/or other facilities when a key or access card is lost? This is critical because an access card or code that has not been properly deleted and/or destroyed can enable unauthorized access, presenting a threat to your child and others. The same is true for the changing the key or key fob.

Are there working security cameras on every floor equipped with analytic capabilities to identify and alert security to threatening incidents?

Are there intrusion alarms or detection systems to alert security when someone without authorization tries to enter a residence hall or other facility?

Is there an intercom system at the main entrance for visitors to call residents – or how do residents permit visitor access?

What is the policy for delivery persons? No one without pre-approved access should be allowed in residence halls without supervision.


Emergency Alert Systems and Plans

How does the institution alert students, staff and faculty to emergency situations, whether it is an impending natural disaster or active threat, such as a shooter? Most colleges and universities have multiple communications systems in place that include text messaging, email alerts, cell phone alerts and computer pop-ups. Digital signs and sirens provide added alert benefits.

Is there a campus safety app that students can use to notify campus security of minor incidents – as well as an emergency button that can notify security of your GPS location to ensure timely response if needed?

Are there easily-recognizable panic buttons in classrooms?

Are there panic buttons and/or phones located throughout the campus that students can easily access?

Does the school have emergency plans in place for natural disasters and active threats? More importantly, does the school provide adequate training for students so they know what to do in case of such an emergency? It is also crucial to make sure your child recognizes the importance of campus security and takes an active role in learning what to do in case of a security threat.


Working Security Cameras Throughout the Campus and in Facilities

Is there adequate video surveillance in parking lots and outdoor areas – as well as in classrooms and other facilities?

How current are the campus video surveillance technologies being utilized? Advanced surveillance technologies with analytics and audio capabilities can be an effective detection and deterrence measure.

Is the video surveillance actively monitored in real-time?


Visible Campus Police Force and Adequate Security Personnel

Is there a visible campus police force with a presence throughout the campus? Campus police forces or security personnel should provide security escorts as well as assistance if a student is locked out of their car.

What background investigations are conducted for security personnel? Does the background investigation include a criminal history check in all states?



Is there adequate lighting – especially along walkways, in parking areas, parking structures, building entrances and secluded areas of the campus?


Smoke Detectors, Carbon Monoxide Detectors and Alarm Systems

Are there working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, adequately and appropriately placed throughout the campus?

What is the evacuation plan in the event of a fire or carbon monoxide leak? When students start college, they should review the evacuation plan for each facility in which they will be living and/or taking classes.


“While campus security may not be the over-riding factor in college selection, it is an important consideration in the decision-making process,” Mosley says.