Super Nova
Super Nova

Jul 1, 2003 12:00 PM

University campuses are often thought to exist as a community unto themselves, which is not entirely accurate. Campuses are often located right in the middle or on the edge of cities. "We have borders to the campus, but the external perimeters are open," says Bronson S. "Steve" Bias, executive director of public safety at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. "We have no walls or fences, and a number of city streets intersect into our campus. This gives us the same risks as any neighborhood, especially a neighborhood that might be perceived by outsiders as weak. A university's mission is to grow and open the mind and to do so, the physical plant needs to be open as well."

Nova Southeastern University is also a big part of the Ft. Lauderdale community and the other communities where satellite campuses and facilities are located. At Nova's main campus, the new, joint-use Nova-Broward County Library was built in partnership with the county, aimed at bringing non-student users onto campus.

As if these security considerations were not enough, consider that college campuses are mostly offices and administration, not just classrooms. Universities face the same risks to property, assets and documents as any major company or organization. Taking student resident issues into account ! family problems, stalking, alcohol-related incidents and more ! it's clear the college campus has a myriad of security challenges.
Serious on Security

Bias says Nova is his "third start-up." While serving as a police commander at the Hollywood, Fla., police department, he was involved in setting up the internal affairs unit and the hostage negotiation training. After police work, he joined the drug store chain Revco in charge of its security training, eventually establishing his own loss prevention and training program for the chain and for Bi-Lo supermarkets. He came to Nova's 250-acre campus in 1987 to establish and build the Public Safety Department.

Serving nearly 20,000 students, Nova facilities are located in 34 states and 17 countries. About five years after Bias arrived, a growth explosion hit. A change in university leadership coupled with an increase in benefactors has fueled a decade of growth in which 10 new buildings have been constructed, including the new library; many other buildings and facilities are being renovated, contiguous property has been acquired, and the student population has swelled. In the last 10 years, Bias has presided over a public safety department that has grown by a factor of 20, to more than 100 staff members that include management, security officers, dedicated police officers and technical personnel. The public safety staff presides over the security for 41 buildings on the main campus as well as satellite campuses.
Nova's Security Philosophy

"The basis of our program comes from the National Crime Prevention Institute (NCPI) at the University of Louisville. We employ an activist approach, one in which we are out there protecting our 'customers' (defined as anyone on campus not committing a crime)," Bias says. "Security has three elements: physical, procedural, and personnel. Personnel is probably the most important ! not just the security guards, but everyone in the facility, on campus. Our goal is to involve everyone ! not just public safety staff ! in an enlightening or interesting way. And we consistently follow the same basic plan: alertness, awareness, communication (through the NovaLERT awareness program), cooperation (with external resources like police), and follow-up."

Bias explains that first-line supervisors have four responsibilities: role model, trainer/coach, motivator and delegator. But how do they manage security for such a diverse and far-reaching organization? "Constant communication vertically and horizontally, so that we can make informed decisions," he says. "First-line supervisors are trained how to make decisions, but we never criticize supervisors for calling vertically for resources or direction. Enlightened security management doesn't subscribe to such a 'sink or swim' philosophy."
The Security Operations Center

Upon entering the Public Safety building, visitors encounter a glass-enclosed Security Operations Center. The SOC is the command focal point for all security information for the campus: two-way radios, telephone, emergency call boxes throughout the campus, and campus surveillance and digital video recording from nearly 200 cameras. The SOC also serves as an information center providing customer service.

If communication is the heart of Nova's security program and philosophy, digital video recording is at the heart of the communications center. Until 1996, Nova employed analog recording, but the growth spurt during that period prompted a switch to digital surveillance.

"We were faced with a decision whether to build out our existing system or bring in a new, more comprehensive digital system," Bias says. "Fortunately, the university's growth funded our purchase of new technology."

Nova selected the NiceVision Pro digital video recording solution from NICE Systems, Ra'anana, Israel, as a central component for an extensive new security system to comprise hundreds of cameras. NICE partner Siemens Building Technologies Inc. oversaw phased installation of the multi-site system. Kroll-Schiff and Associates provided design and consultation services for the project. "We needed high-frame-rate, extensive camera capacity, ease of integration and the ability to expand coverage on the main campus and elsewhere," Bias says.
Making Digital Video Recording More Effective

Nova currently uses nearly 200 cameras, and future plans call for the expansion of cameras to the main campus and the extension of coverage and surveillance to remote campuses. Eventually, all video will be monitored and recorded at the SOC. "The interesting thing about surveillance is an operator can only watch one screen at a time, one thing at a time," says Jim Ewing, Nova's head of safety compliance. The actual size of the area of attention the operator is watching is about the size of a business card. You can have hundreds of cameras and monitors, but the chances of seeing something happening are very slim," he says. "That's why we have a 'call-up system,' which alerts staff when there's an alarm or a call from a blue light phone location or motion detection."

Alerts and alarms bring up a primary screen or pop-up screen, supplying the appropriate camera view. The access control system also shows a pop-up when an alarm occurs. If a problem requires action, the SOC uses two-way radio communication to direct personnel to the scene.

"The true value of the system is in the deterrence, and we can't measure the crimes that don't occur," Bias says. "We have minimal crime activity and no incidents of predatory crime. The most important aspect of all this technology is that it builds the confidence of the customer."
Other Technologies and Future Integrations

In addition to the NiceVision system, Nova employs the Software House C-Cure access control system, including contactless entry for the library. The C-Cure system is currently able to bring up the multiple campus intercoms, while future plans call for adding maps to the system to assist operators by providing a better picture of their environments.

The Public Safety team doesn't stop there. Jimmy Ricci, university locksmith, makes sure the right hardware is selected for each building and that there is consistency across all locations. "We have to carefully pick the doors that are so important that we want to secure them electronically and marry that with camera coverage," Ricci says. "It's too expensive to do every door, so we only equip around 10 percent."

"In the future, all exterior doors on campus will be controlled electronically," he continues. "We'll be able to remotely monitor and control them from the SOC; starting first on this campus and then expanding to distant campuses."

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