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Protect and Enable: Tips from Security Experts


What does being an agent for the Secret Service have in common with managing security for a museum or school district?


A lot, it turns out — just ask Russ Collett. Before his current role as the associate vice president of protection services for the Art Institute of Chicago, he protected five U.S. presidents during his 25 years with the Secret Service.


Collett, along with leaders responsible for security for two school districts, recently shared their insights for how to ensure facilities — and the people and assets they house — are kept safe and secure. Whether you’re protecting priceless pieces of art, or teachers and students, one thing is certain: both roles require a comprehensive approach that combines preparation, planning and technology to maintain safety and security.


Following are other insights from these security leaders:


  • Prevention and empowerment are critical components for any safety and security plan. Increasingly, these two elements are made possible in part by smart building technology like the Honeywell Command and Control Suite, which combines automation, analytics and visualization, in a user-friendly design, so security personnel, for example, can easily obtain a holistic view of all video feeds and alarms, and receive notification of possible threats before they become serious issues. And, from a usability standpoint, a user-friendly design can ensure those touching the technology are empowered to quickly react to issues and opportunities — and don’t need a complex user manual or engineering degree to do so.  


  • A multi-layered defense is best for managing and addressing threats. As a Secret Service agent, Collett was well-versed in employing a layered approach to protecting a figure like the president, and not relying on just one measure for protection. The same can be said for protecting a museum; Collett’s approach includes the use of security officers, cameras, alarm points, card readers and an RFID system to monitor art movement and associated environmental conditions, among other factors. A security leader for a school district also recommends a layered approach, and relies on integrated and automated building technologies at the core of his district’s plan, followed by locked learning areas, security corridors and remote panic buttons. Beyond those measures, an additional layer includes the installation of permanent walls in areas that used to be large, open space, along with the use of internal classroom locks.


  • Your efforts are only as good as your preparation and training. Managing to threats — vs. simply waiting until they happen before reacting — is an important aspect of any security plan. But even so, issues and security events can occur, and how one responds is also important; the best laid plans are only as good as how they’re carried out. Drills, such as one school’s active shooter exercise, allow organizations to test all of their layers of security, and put their plans into action, providing valuable practice and also revealing potential gaps in plans that should be addressed before real events occur.