Video Surveillance & Physical Security Industry Viewpoints
August 9th, 2021
Author: Lizzi Goldmeier

Optimizing Security & Operations for Campus-Wide Events

Situational awareness enables proactive responses

College campus security and operations teams face multiple concerns for large events, ranging from vehicle and pedestrian traffic to facility maintenance and, of course, public safety incidents such as accidents, altercations, and medical emergencies. When thousands of people converge on a college campus, whether for an athletic event, competition, conference, political demonstration, or graduation ceremony, the key to effective operations is situational awareness.

Campus police can’t be everywhere at once to monitor areas, so they often rely on remote video surveillance; however, in practice, comprehensively and consistently monitoring multiple feeds is a challenge for security officers and a major drain on time and human resources – besides being prone to error. Fortunately, there is a way to leverage existing surveillance networks to improve situational awareness by pairing them with video analytics software. Powered by deep learning and artificial intelligence, video content analysis enables complex object identification, recognition, classification, and indexing activities to make video searchable, actionable and quantifiable. Operators can search and filter footage to understand scenes and investigate incidents; trigger calls to action by customizing rule-based alerts to increase situational awareness and accelerate responses to developing incidents; and, finally, visualize and track trends to drive intelligent decision making in the long term.

Prevent crowds and traffic jams

Large events are dynamic, and security officers need to be aware of and quickly respond to any potentially problematic situations. A video analytics system can assist by enabling real-time alerts to be triggered for behaviors such as crowding or traffic formations. For example, if the number of people in a particular area, such as outside an auditorium, exceeds a pre-determined expected threshold, system could alert security and drive assessment and response. Or, if the number of vehicles in a parking lot or roadway exceeds a normal threshold, the system could alert security or operations teams that could responsively deploy staff, as needed, to address the problem. Crowds or traffic bottlenecks require fast resolution because they can be more than just an inconvenience: they can lead to accidents or altercations. The sooner security teams are alerted to a bottleneck or crowd, the sooner they can respond to prevent the problem or resolve it. Furthermore, sometimes, traffic hotspots or long lines can also derogate the campus guest experience and, by proactively detecting growing queues at ticket gates or food service counters, service staff can respond and preventatively alleviate discomfort and frustration.

Locate missing persons

In large crowds, individuals (especially children!) may wander away from their parties. Using video analytics such as appearance similarity or facial matching, investigators can search for or be alerted to appearances of the missing person based on their facial features or clothing descriptions. By tracking their movements and identifying potential matches, security can more easily find missing persons and reunite them safely with their parties. This function is useful both for large campus events, but also for day-to-day security operators, who have to find missing students on campus and return them to safety.

Monitor building occupancy

In compliance with health, safety and fire codes, operations and security managers are obligated to ensure that building occupancy limits are not exceeded. Video content analysis allows operators to leverage surveillance infrastructure to quantify how many persons exited or entered a building, such as gymnasium, theater, or auditorium, and measure – at any moment – how many people are in a facility. Managers may also choose to receive real-time alerts when occupancy has exceeded the limits; however, by assessing long term occupancy trends, they can also identify times of a day, week, or year where excessive occupancy occurs and develop plans to prevent it proactively.

Occupancy alerting and trend data can also be key for monitoring usage of restroom areas and identifying when cleaning or maintenance is required. Staff can be deployed to clean or check facilities based on actual usage of an area, rather than on a routine time schedule.

Detect social distancing and face masks

In addition to ensuring safe occupancy levels, campuses currently have the added pressure of ensuring that facilities are complying with new occupancy restrictions mandated in response to the COVID 19 pandemic. For many campuses, occupancy is restricted to 25% or 50% of usual levels, and social distancing and mask wearing practices are encouraged. As mentioned above, occupancy alerts offer management teams a real-time count of persons in a building or area, so that staff can be assigned to limit the number of people entering a facility. But video content analysis is also key for detecting metrics such as social distancing and mask wearing, to support compliance auditing and reporting, as well as contact tracing. In addition to setting up real-time alerts to monitor for violations and enable intervention – following an event, operators can generate reports to demonstrate how effectively the venue enforced and encouraged social distancing and mask wearing for influencing future planning and ongoing campus health and safety.

Leverage data for future event planning

Another benefit of video content analytics is that it aggregates and visualizes data as graphs, heatmaps, and histograms. When campus managers want to prepare for an upcoming event, they can analyze video data and generated reports from previous similar events to understand guest navigation patterns; vehicular traffic trends; and the most common paths and visited spaces. This intelligence is critical for event planners to proactively prepare for expected traffic volumes with signage, parking, and staffing to ensure that future events are streamlined and safe for the attendees.

Large-scale campus events are less challenging and stressful when management teams have comprehensive data to guide their actions and decision-making. Situational awareness regarding foot and vehicle traffic, crowding, and building occupancy is a way to make service, maintenance, and operations staff more effective so that events are safer and more enjoyable for everyone. Video content analytics is a multi-faceted tool that not only helps management teams investigate and respond to various problems that typically occur during events, but also provides quantifiable data to drive positive guest experiences in the future.