School Lockdown Solutions

March 4, 2013
With a broad range of solutions available, locksmiths can play an important role in helping schools achieve greater security and improved ability to cope with lockdown preparedness and many less critical issues.

Recent incidents have heightened the demand for more and better ways to lock down schools and improve their security. Locksmiths can help schools achieve these goals using products and systems that incorporate the latest electronic and mechanical solutions.

Where total building or facility lockdown capability is desired, electronic locks achieve fast results. For new construction or remodeling, they can be hard-wired and connected to the building’s computer network. In existing buildings and where hard-wiring is impractical, wireless electronic locks provide the same enhanced security. Both can be centrally managed through the computer network for fast, effective lockdown from any networked computer. 

One lockdown issue with some wireless technologies, such as WiFi, has been the potential for communications delay. “Usually, with Wi-Fi, access control decisions are downloaded by the host into the lock 5-6 times per day,” explains Gary Conley, University of Virginia’s facilities & systems engineer, Office of Business Operations. “Access control decisions in this way are managed within the locks (as is the case with traditional offline locks) to minimize communication from the lock to the host and conserve batteries. However, such limited (non-online) connectivity with the host limits the locks’ ability to receive urgent commands from the host. For instance, even with a historical 900 MHz wireless platform, a direction to immediately lock down could be ignored for up to 10-plus minutes.”

However, with new Schlage AD-Series modular wireless locks, a patent-pending “wake up on radio” feature works in parallel with the 10-minute heartbeat. Without waking up the entire lock, it listens for complementary commands every one to ten seconds and responds. Thus, ten seconds is the longest it will take to initiate lockdown.

Schlage AD-400 wireless locks provide online, real-time lock control and integrate fully with all major access control software. Since they are designed with easily changeable reader modules, they can be upgraded in the future without changing the entire lock. The AD-Series locks simplify the installation process because they combine all the hardware components required at the door into one integrated design. They incorporate the electrified lock, credential reader, request-to-exit and –enter sensors, door position switch, tamper guard and more. Their wireless operation makes them easier and more cost-effective to install in existing buildings, and hard-wired AD –Series locks also are available for renovation or new construction.   The AD Series offers a large number of reader and credential options to monitor the status of each opening.

Electronic access control also provides other benefits to schools, such as the ability to control or restrict access to individuals during certain hours and provide an audit trail of authorized credential use. In addition, it simplifies replacement or cancellation when staff members leave the school or lose their access credentials.

Mechanical Solutions

Mechanical locks with special features also can provide many effective solutions. One important example is the need to secure classrooms, especially during a lockdown.

Schools inVacaville,Calif., replaced their locks with Schlage locks that incorporate a Classroom Security function. This allows an individual to immediately lock a door from inside with a key, eliminating exposure outside the classroom in a hostile intruder situation. The ability to key-lock from inside the classroom allows the teacher to control access and egress in an emergency and prevents the compromise that could occur with an inside pushbutton or thumbturn latch. The same function is available on electronic locks as well.

Vacavillealso upgraded its key system to a Schlage Everest patent-protected key system. Keys are only available to authorized individuals through professional locksmith channels, which helps to prevent unauthorized key duplication.

George Durnay, Vacaville’s director of buildings, grounds and equipment maintenance, notes, “With key blanks that can’t be duplicated at the local Wal-Mart or Home Depot, we are now able to develop a checkout system and an education system so people understand the importance of accounting for their keys.”

Secure Entrance Rooms

Many schools are adding secure entrance rooms between the main entrance and the school’s office to provide a single, controlled-access point. InGreenwood,Ind., a vestibule at each school routes all visitors to the office where they can be identified and screened before they are admitted. A bank teller-type window provides security while allowing a credential exchange. To confirm his or her identity and ensure they checkout when leaving, a visitor is required to leave a driver’s license, credit card or other identification in exchange for a visitor’s pass.

This type of control also provides a quick way to accomplish a lockdown if necessary. In Salt Lake City’s GraniteSchool District, assistant foreman, safety systems/police electronics, Mark Peterson notes, “We typically leave only the main door open for public access. Visitors must report to the office, which is located near the front door. If we need to go into a lockdown, the principal or custodian only has to lock that one door.”

Colorado’s Boulder Valley School District is redesigning and renovating its main entrances to incorporate a secure entrance room adjacent to the school’s office to function as an access control point. When visitors enter, they encounter a locked door leading into the school but an open one leading to the office, where they must stop and register. For authorized credential holders, the door to the school will open when they present the credential. At schools where the secure entrance room has not yet been reconstructed, a visitor calls the office from a telephone intercom in the vestibule, and the office staff verifies his or her identity using a video surveillance system before remotely unlocking the door. In either case, the doors are locked automatically with the school’s electronic access control system once school is in session.

One added benefit to the district is the ability to control doors remotely. Steve Hoban, director of security for theBoulderValleySchool District, explains, “If an authorized person calls in and needs access, we can remotely unlock the door. Also, if there is a problem outside the school that creates a lockout situation, the school can get the students inside and lock all the doors remotely.”

The ultimate in access control credentials is a contactless smart card that can withstand hacking. At Miami University of Ohio, Schlage aptiQ™ (“ap-teek”) contactless smart card credentials provide a two-way dialogue between the card and reader instead of just reading a card serial number (CSN). The cards are used in conjunction with Schlage AD-400 wireless locks, which provide online, real-time lock control and are designed with easily changeable reader modules that can be changed or upgraded without replacing the entire lock. The locks combine all the hardware components required at the door into one integrated design. They incorporate the electrified lock, credential reader, request-to-exit and –enter sensors, door position switch, tamper guard and more.

A university spokesman states, “The ‘secure handshake’ of information between the aptiQ card and the AD-Series wireless lock makes this format very difficult to hack or copy.”


Biometrics are playing an ever-increasing security role. Although more common on college campuses, some K-12 school systems also are using biometric readers to verify identity and even manage attendance functions.  Biometric hand readers are an excellent method of visitor management at secure access points such as the entrances mentioned above.

With biometric technology, university students who lose an access card or key do not have to worry about an unauthorized individual picking up the card or key and compromising the security of their dormitory. They also don’t have to worry about students loaning out their cards or PIN codes to strangers.”

At the campus, Schlage HandKey readers are currently at the main entrances of each of three residence halls. Students entering the dorm slide their hands onto the biometric reader and, in less than a second, the door opens and they enter the dorm. As they arrive on their specific floor, they again slide their hands into the unit and their personal door opens. 

Faculty members also use HandKey readers to enter academic facilities, and the university plans to use the readers for access to 24-hour computer labs, as well as to check out library books, access the athletic fields and obtain bookstore charge backs. In addition, officials can retrieve reports on building access, assess traffic patterns, investigate unauthorized access events and record all events for safety. Doors can also be unlocked remotely, and a special code can be punched in to alert campus safety officials in the event of an emergency. If someone props open a door, security officials are notified immediately.

Other Hardware Solutions

Exit devices, such as the Von Duprin 99 Series, can incorporate the same classroom security function as locks when applied to classroom-type areas. When needed, they can be locked quickly from the inside to prevent an intruder from entering.

Where greater security is required, the Von Duprin 98/99 \XP exit device is available in a rim configuration that features a two-piece latch positioned 90 degrees to the strike pad, which delivers more than 2,000 pounds of static load resistance.

For situations where a facility might need to prevent individuals from exiting temporarily, Von Duprin’s Chexit® delayed egress device is available with options to meet a facility’s unique needs. This device meets National Fire Protection Association 101 “Special Locking Arrangement” and has optional cylinder dogging for increased security. A dogging indicator light, which can be seen from more than 50 feet away, provides a visual indication that helps reduce the time needed to conduct inspections.

Another exit device feature that may be useful in some applications is a luminescent “soft glow” panel on the touch pad. In Calif., the Piedmont Unified School District uses them in areas such as gymnasiums so they are easier to locate in dark or dim light.

April Dalton-Noblitt is director-vertical marketing, Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies