Summer 2024: Campus Safety & Physical Security Leaders Prepare for the School Year Ahead

Not always a day at the beach: University of Wisconsin Security Systems Specialist Patrick Bucci shares his perspective and best practices

For many in the academic realm, it’s summertime and the livin’ is easy. Not so for many of the operational staff, however, including campus and school safety leadership. School winds down for the summer, but the work ramps up. With fewer bodies on campus, summer is the ideal time to make physical infrastructure changes, including planning, designing, and implementing physical security systems.

To dive deeper into the summer dynamic in campus safety and physical security we sat down with Patrick Bucci, security systems specialist at the University of Wisconsin. Bucci is a Security System Specialist on the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s Access, Video and Infrastructure Security (AVIS) unit. As administrator of the campus access control system, which includes a robust surveillance camera system, as well as 5,000 access control points that feature biometric scanners and scheduling systems, Bucci works diligently to protect the University’s students, faculty and staff from an array of potential threats.

Bucci’s experience and training in nonviolent intervention and apprehension as well as loss prevention and asset protection, and his insights are especially helpful at the intersection of higher education and physical security.

Challenges and Opportunities of Summer in Campus Security & Safety

We started out by discussing the differences between summer and the academic year. While some college residence halls turn into ghost towns for a stretch of the summer, this isn’t exactly the case at the University of Wisconsin:

“For my team, the only major distinction between the summer months versus when class is in session is the number of people on campus. The University is a 24/7/365 operation, so during the summer we still have an active population. Plenty of people are working or conducting research, and student athletes are here training for the fall. We also have construction and renovation projects happening over the summer, and my team remains active in those as well to bring our security systems online.”

Bucci notes that the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity are the same: organization. With numerous overlapping campus security projects and hundreds (if not thousands) of parts and pieces involved, it’s difficult to maintain balance and stay organized. But this is also the greatest opportunity: better organization (in part due to reliance on better tools) enables his department to accomplish so much more.

Considering Campus Security Scope and Scale

In large, multifaceted institutions like colleges and universities, it’s next to impossible for any single person to understand every level of detail. Leaders don’t have the capacity to know the minutiae of every single element, department, and program. And the people responsible for leading specific programs, such as campus physical security, often can’t see the entire scope of the organization.

At a campus as large as UW Madison, with its 157 buildings and more than 5,000 access control points, the challenge is pronounced.

If not managed well, this kind of scope and scale can easily lead to a lack of understanding of how pieces and even entire departments are supposed to work together.

But Bucci and his team are up for the challenge — and are already excelling.

We asked Patrick how UW approaches thinking about physical security. He explained that his team is part of the Access, Video and Infrastructure Security (AVIS) unit at the UW Police Department (UWPD). Other departments his unit works closely with include the UWPD Security team and campus police officers. AVIS also interfaces with building managers, physical plant and maintenance partners, the campus IT team, and others.

These departments constitute the minimum number involved in any physical security system upgrade or installation, and Bucci ensures cross-team communication happens frequently.

Productive Summers Require the Right Digital Tools

At UW, the access control system team relies primarily on System Surveyor, along with Excel, says Bucci:

“System Surveyor, in addition to being a singular organizational spot to track our physical security assets, has helped change the way we interact with buildings by giving us a top-down visual we can share with stakeholders as we discuss electronic security in their spaces. For campus stakeholders who don’t live within the systems as we do, System Surveyor has been an invaluable tool in deepening our partnerships with them.”

Scalability was a Concern with Legacy Approaches

Given the size and sprawl of the UW campus, legacy manual processes weren’t working well. These processes weren’t keeping up with maintenance, let alone growth.

Bucci described the challenge his team faced this way:

“In the past, we relied on a lot of manual data entry: excel files, folders upon folders in a shared drive. Beyond all that, though, the bulk of our approach to lifecycle management came down to institutional knowledge. The longer you worked at the University, the more familiar you were with each building on campus. Obviously, that’s not a sustainable model.”

Recognizing this reality led Bucci and the team to reevaluate their approach and ultimately led them to System Surveyor, which gives them a modern cloud-based software platform they can use as a system of record, a visual model, and a collaborative workspace.

Mind the Project Scope

Every project in physical security should have a defined scope. This scope may be challenged as the project proceeds (scope creep is real and common), but the scope needs to exist. And Bucci recommends keeping this project scope top of mind throughout the entire project. Your team’s other responsibilities don’t disappear just because there’s a one-time summer project to complete, but that security system project will almost certainly put pressure on the rest of your team’s workload.

Bucci points out how System Surveyor helped his team in this way:

“In our case using System Surveyor allowed us to get hyper-focused on the primary areas we are responsible for: access control systems and video surveillance. Once our team became more familiar with the software, we of course had design or usage changes, but the team stayed focused on just those areas.”

As appropriate scope changes occur, System Surveyor helps the UW AVIS team by giving them a single central resource that is collaborative and dynamic, including detailed visuals. From there, the team can easily execute repeatable documented processes faster and more accurately.

The difference between the old way of doing things and the new approach with System Surveyor was dramatic:

“Whenever a concern was raised before, we had to walk over to the building, physically survey and assess the devices we had deployed, and then go from there,” Bucci said. “With System Surveyor, we have one central resource we can access that offers us a detailed visual for reference. Before we even show up, we know exactly what needs to be done.”

Drill Down into Details with Element Profiles

The UW AVIS team started using System Surveyor to collaborate and engage with partners and stakeholders to design and then ultimately manage their campus-wide security system in a new way. Element Profiles are one powerful feature that made a difference for UW, allowing them to preconfigure and then select from many of the most common physical security products available, outfitted with real data on cost, mounting requirements, field of view, and more. Many manufacturer partners provide this data directly into System Surveyor, and users can upload their own Element Profiles as well.

Bucci again: “After all, a door isn’t just a door. It has a number of different hardware that transform that door into a secure access point.”

The same could be said for security cameras, sensors, electronic locks, and much more — all of which can be designed and configured in System Surveyor. It’s not just video surveillance, we look at all of it.

System Surveyor Is Your Key to a Smoother Summer — and Beyond

System Surveyor’s mobile SaaS-based system design platform is a generational leap forward in campus security system design. It’s a security solution that brings everyone together into a single collaborative system design and can be used throughout the physical security product lifecycle. It’s the modern way to plan projects, oversee their implementation, and then document any changes during the life of the system.

System Surveyor enables physical security leaders and teams to gain and maintain a living as-built, one that can be kept current as the existing system changes over time.

Explore more about how the UW AVIS unit simplified their system design and device maintenance and reimagined their processes: read the full case study

Need help with campus security this summer? Try out the immediate benefits and start your free trial today.