Schools, especially public schools, are under tremendous pressure today to have the highest level of security. Often times the staff in charge of security are provided with very limited budgets while being told to do more with less. This is a stressful position to be in if you’re in charge of the safety of a school or an entire district and have hundreds or even thousands of children to protect including staff and administration personnel.
So how does a school safety and security director manage to keep everyone secure?
One way is for the school to attempt to design a system themselves. This would mean reading about products on the internet and trying to determine which products and system are right for the school. Then put together a bid package with some basic part numbers and put the system out to bid. This process is a recipe for disaster (I have seen this time and time again with many costly mistakes made). Not only does the school waste potentially tens of thousands of dollars, but the end result is a poorly designed system.
A slightly better choice would be to hire a consulting or engineering firm to help with the design and due diligence of selecting the proper security products and a security company that can properly install a system. If you are planning on putting a system out to public bid this is the best choice. Hiring a professional to write a bid specification that accurately defines the scope of work can potentially save you thousands of dollars and it ultimately results in a faster, more complete implementation. However, there are two problems with this path. First, hiring a consultant or engineer can be costly, especially for a school or district already under budget constraints. Second, even the best bid specification cannot take everything into account, particularly the qualifications of a security system integrator. Consider how fast a security company will be able to provide their service. This can be requested in a bid spec, but how do you know the company will actually be able to come through? For example, say you want a four-hour response time on service calls. How do you know they will respond within four hours and what would happen if they didn’t respond in four hours or even at all? These qualifications are hard to ensure when bidding a project through a public bid specification.
The best possible choice is to find a few security companies that have been referred by other schools. A good referral is an excellent first step to ensuring you will have a reputable company supporting you and your security system. Second, ask the handful of companies that have been referred from other schools if they have a state or GSA contract. You should be able to find 2 to 4 companies that meet these prerequisites. Have these companies put together a solution and provide a proposal for the security system. Make sure these are solutions that have been successfully used and tested in other school environments (you don’t want to be the guinea pig in someone else’s experiment). Have each company make a presentation, including a demonstration of the system. If possible, (especially in camera projects) ask for an on-site test (for more information on the importance of this step, see our previous post about it here). This helps provide accurate knowledge of how the security system will perform in your specific school environment. After going through these steps you should have an accurate conclusion as to the security company and security system that will best meet the needs of the school at the best price.
Securing a school or an entire school district is a difficult task at best. Finding the right security company that can partner with the school and deliver a quality solution with years of support can be hard. Make sure the proper due diligence is invested during this selection process or large sums of money and time will have been wasted.