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Equipment Security for Classroom Technology

Jan 21, 2009 12:00 PM, By Linda Seid Frembes

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AMX Resource Management Suite (RMS)

AMX Resource Management Suite (RMS)

At Temple, Field uses security cables and padlocks that are openly visible on equipment that would be most at risk. The university also deploys a wider strategy using motion-sensitive room alarms, projectors wired directly to a silent alarm via a contact closure, and fixed alarm panels that have an audible alarm that also sends a message to staff and campus police. "There are one to two full-time staff as well as student workers to cover each area," Field says. "There is enough staff to notice if someone they don't recognize is moving equipment out of a classroom."

The second part of the approach is to alter the appearance of the equipment or, as Montgomery describes, to "uglify it" using decals, paint, a soldering iron, or a branding iron. "You must make the alteration visible so the thief will see it and may get deterred," says Montgomery, who used to paint a series of stripes on his equipment.

Field adds that laptops at Temple have specialized tracking software and an ID tag that includes a solvent in the glue that burns the tag information into the laptop if it's removed. Additionally, the AV systems at Temple are monitored through AMX's Resource Management Suite (RMS) for realtime monitoring. "If a piece of equipment shows as offline, a staff member is notified by email and text alert to go check it out," Field says.

Overall, Montgomery cautions that a professional thief can get in and out of a classroom in 2 minutes to 3 minutes—a window of time so small that staff may not have enough time to respond. "Therefore, try to design the system so that the security device trips early in the removal process," he says.

The staff at Temple is also more vigilant with their rounds during semester breaks, finals, holidays, and other quiet times when there are less people on campus. Staff members are instructed to stop and question anyone moving equipment whom they don't recognize.

Finally, if all efforts fail and theft does occur, schools need to report every theft to the local police, as well as notify local AV vendors and the manufacturer, and check online auction sites for their stolen equipment. In some cases, according to Montgomery, the mere act of reporting a theft may result in the equipment mysteriously reappearing.

Alarm panel for classroom equipment security

An Equipment Safety Checklist

According to Malcolm Montgomery, president of Edutech Consulting Services in Cincinnati, there are some protective measures that schools can take to deter theft of AV equipment:

  • Visible warning labels that may overstate the security systems in effect
  • Physical deterrents such as padlock and chains
  • Projector security mounts
  • Projector security cages that are locked and/or alarmed
  • Start-up screens with institution ID
  • Start-up access codes
  • Screamer alarms bonded to equipment
  • Security cameras
  • Tamper sensors connected to the alarm system
  • Smart control systems (or projector remote management software) as an alternative or adjunct to a central alarm system
  • Security screws
  • Branding iron with institution ID that cannot be removed or covered by an added label.

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