Defining the Role of the Professional Security Consultant

Once a relative haven -- at least perceptually -- from the threats of the “outside” world, today’s college and university administrators are beginning to recognize that a campus is, indeed, not immune to the intentional violence and seemingly senseless crime of its surrounding community.

Attempting to maintain its “open door” policy, most post secondary educational facilities have sought to reduce their vulnerability through the increased use of security electronics and/or guard personnel. The results have been less than spectacular. To whit: In the report titled “The Incidence of Crime on the Campuses of U.S. Postsecondary Education Institutions, A Report to Congress,” issued by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, on January 18, 2001, on-campus crime statistics are listed for the years 1997 through 1999. During that period, with the exception of murder, the occurrences of crime reported on campus increased in some categories, or was reduced less than seven percent in others.

The Consultant’s Traditional Role

In recent years, as colleges and universities expanded and updated their facilities, many administrators employed the services of a professional security consultant to assist them. The traditional role of the security consultant in the post secondary market has been one of security system designer. Working with formulaic design criteria, the consultant has, more often than not, assumed the role of electronic system designer and, in some cases, project manager.

The New Reality

Motivated by the encroachment of community crime to the campus environs, and awakened by the events of 9/11 to the real potential of evil, the academic community is revisiting security policies and procedures, as well as electronic security infrastructures. And, once again, the academic community is looking to the professional security consultant to provide sound professional advice and recommendations. Unfortunately, most practitioners in this field lack the resources or skill sets to provide a complete answer to academia’s concerns.

The New Role of the Security Consultant

To offer a true value to the academic client, the role of the security consultant needs to be expanded beyond that of electronic security product specifier and system designer using limited, cookie-cutter solutions and methods. Consultants must possess a more expansive repertoire of tools. The professional security consultant must necessarily affect and interface with all the engineering disciplines (mechanical, architectural, electrical, landscaping, telecommunications) in order to be an effective asset to the college and university marketplace.

New Tools Need to Be Used

Today’s consultant must use specialized tools to assess the threat and vulnerability of the client’s premises, policies and procedures. Consultants must look beyond the myopic interior design services such as how to best secure the high-value multimedia classroom, and begin looking at the total picture. In addition to a thorough knowledge of the implementation of security electronics, the consultant must be able to address the total scope of a project, including:

- analyzing the structural integrity of the perimeter systems;

- assessing the threat of and vulnerability to collateral damage;

- measuring the effect of bomb blasts;

- lending expert advice on modifications required of the mechanical, electrical and landscaping system; and

- evaluation of policies and procedures, and recommendation of changes needed to reduce the school’s vulnerability.

Integration With Related Technologies

Right now, the academic community, from the sizeable metropolitan universities to the smallest community college, is investing heavily in network infrastructure improvements. The professional security practitioner must know how to leverage these new resources to provide more efficient and cost-effective security, while also maintaining the integrity of the networks for other uses, such as streaming media. The consultant must have the resources or partner relationships to address disaster recovery systems, protection of Storage Area Networks (SAN), business continuance and network security policy development.

Incorporation of New Services

As college administrators begin planning new buildings, the security consultant must be able to advise the architect and owner on structural issues that provide better protection of its inhabitants. Input into items such as susceptibility to single points of failure, the design of the window walls in relationship to potential disasters and the incorporation of passive protection in the building design are part of the professional consultant’s services. The role landscape will play in the protection of the new building, the effect of collateral damage from adjacent properties, collaboration on the design of the lobby to maximize protection -- all of these items are part of the professional security consultant’s services.

Bringing a Consultant Into a Project

In days past, the security consultant was introduced to campus construction projects after the design (and the capital spending) was finalized. It was often routine for the consultant to compromise the desired design to meet unrealistic budgets restraints. The consultant often had to work with preselected architectural hardware, even though the selection did not meet the criteria of high security the consultant wished to establish for the project.

Today’s professional consultants are anxious to be brought into the project early in the design and development phase. Monies can be allocated up front for the services that will allow the building to meet newer, more efficient security standards. In many cases, today’s consultant actively participates in the process, from the financing (including bond referendums) through to the final acceptance and completion. The result is a building that meets the newer standards for security and better protects the inhabitants. Perhaps more important is this: The building’s security design is complete in every way, and the owner can rest assured that the delivered product meets his expectations for complete, professional security design.

In short, administrators, and the architectural and engineering community, must employ the resources of professional security consultants who can address these important details. Anything less, in these days of real danger, is imprudent.

Jim Webster is a consultant with Cosentini Information Technologies in New York. He can be reached at .

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