Improving A School’s Security In An Emergency: What You Can Do Now

Start with the fundamentals. Make sure that perimeter doors and critical interior doors, like classroom doors, can be safely secured.

Exit devices perform the crucial function of facilitating safe exiting while restricting access from the outside. Typically used on perimeter doors, panic bars are the first line of defense against intruders and their specific function should be carefully considered.

Exit devices are available with many options appropriate to improving school security like electronic monitoring. When tied to an access control system, many parts of the device can be monitored for movement including the latchbolt and lever. This helps eliminate security breaches caused by doors being propped open or vandalized. SARGENT, an ASSA ABLOY group company, offers an Exit Device Security Shim Kit for double raised-frame doors that prevents chains or ropes from being wrapped around exit device pushbars, trapping people inside a facility as was done in the Virginia Polytechnic incident.

Falling between a mechanical lock and an access control system, stand-alone electronic locks use a keypad, card reader, or a combination to allow access. A radio frequency (RF) fob, similar to a car remote, is also available to remotely lockdown standalone electronic locks by pressing a panic button. From up to 75 feet away on the inside of the classroom, the panic button secures the door and disables all user credentials to prevent entry from unauthorized persons. This is an ideal solution in that everyday access is unrestricted by those with a PIN or credential, but secures the classroom quickly in an emergency. (See sidebar)

Standalone locks also provide some advanced features of a networked access control lock like audit capability and temporary access codes.

Electronic access control systems provide a heightened level of security, with control and monitoring functions. They use wired or wireless electronic locks that are tied into the master access control system. This enables every lock in the system to be configured via the main system. Access codes can be changed almost instantly from the central location. An EAC system adds a greater level of security by using locks that interface with a master access control system in the main security office (or centralized facility) by means of either wired or wireless devices. EAC systems also provide monitoring functions that enable precise tracking of anyone who uses a lock anywhere in the system as well as the status of critical doors to ensure they are not only closed, but latched and secured.

Another major benefit of an EAC system is that it can provide a complete audit trail for every credential in the system. Records of the activity of every lock are stored in a central database, including which credential was used to gain entrance and what time they entered the room.

ASSA ABLOY group brands offer a full complement of access control locking technologies including Wiegand-compatible, Power over Ethernet and wireless to meet the needs of any facility.

If it’s not feasible to add a full EAC system right away, consider installing basic stand-alone electronic locks that operate using a keypad or credential to reduce the need for keys and their potential for theft and loss.

Although the pressure to make sure a school’s security is greater than ever before, it’s imperative to keep in mind that the quick fix may not always be the best fix. Implementing the wrong life safety and security upgrades can be more harmful than no solution at all. The short-term benefits of any changes to a system must be considered while ultimately looking at how they will fit into a school’s total security picture, now and in the long term.


Christopher Gaughan is Director of Product Management, Architectural Hardware Group, ASSA ABLOY

We Recommend