The Sandy Hook tragedy has brought school security to the top of everyone’s minds. While the safety of students has always been paramount, in the wake of the horrifying events in Newtown, Connecticut, the urgency has never been greater to improve the security of our schools – and do it now.
In the event of a school emergency, being prepared is the best defense. A secure facility keeps unauthorized individuals from entering the building, protects from dangers from within the school and ensures ready or controlled egress as necessary. However, each school is unique and there’s no “one size fits all” security solution. That said, there are a number of steps that can be taken to improve a school’s short-term security, even while mapping out a long-term plan.
In brief, a school’s security system needs to do the following:
- Control and monitor access, using either traditional locking solutions – locks and exit devices – or combined with access control technology.
- Quickly secure a classroom from the inside with the aid of specially designed lockset functions.
- Provide a safe means of egress from the building with exit devices.
To accomplish these objectives, companies like ASSA ABLOY offer a wide range of solutions, from mechanical locks to networked access control systems that provide an entire facility with real-time lockdown capability. In every case, school administrators should consult with a certified security professional to ensure that the best solution is implemented for their facility.
What Should You Do Right Now?
The first order of business is to make sure that perimeter doors and critical interior spaces that can serve as areas of refuge, such as classrooms, are secured.
Start with the fundamentals. Check all existing openings for basic functionality. Do all doors easily close and latch? Does the hardware operate as intended? A tip: remove door stops from outer doors, such as those commonly used for recess areas, as door stops can block doors from closing quickly should the need arise.
How does the existing hardware control and monitor access? If a master key and key control system are in use, what are the key control policies? Do you know where all of your keys are? Does your key system have procedures in place to prevent unauthorized distribution? Any gray areas in the system must be addressed immediately.
Keep in mind that any changes to an existing security system must conform to federal and local codes including fire codes and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Options: In Detail
Before selecting hardware, it is important to determine the best locking scenario for every door in your facility, which can include the following options:
- The door remains locked throughout the day, limiting access through a single point.
- The door remains unlocked except in an emergency situation.
- All door locks are controlled from a central location.
Once the operating scenario for each type of opening is selected, it is time to choose the hardware that will achieve that scenario.
Many door hardware products were developed specifically with schools in mind so teachers and staff can secure a facility quickly and easily in an emergency situation.
Traditional classroom locks can only be locked by key on the outside. Today, there are several functions that allow the classroom to be secured from inside, reducing the chance of harm to teachers or staff. Classroom Security Intruder function locks can be locked from the inside or outside and offer the additional assurance of visual indicators when the door is secure. Schools should consider changing locks that are lockable from outside only to locks that are lockable from the inside as a quick and easy way to improve the security of their classrooms.
In addition, functions such as storeroom or corridor may be useful depending on where they are being used and the security goal of the door opening.
Topics to include “Interactive Security Assessment Basics,” “Visitor Management Procedures,” “Overcoming Yesterday’s Design Challenges,” “Lockdown Procedures (including “Active...