A consequence of a rash of violent crimes against students in schools has been the enhancement of security measures.
The locksmith industry has been called upon to install door hardware to better protect the facilities. However, because so many variables are associated with these attacks, there is no single solution.
Although the trend is to harden the facilities, there are concerns about such measures causing unintended consequences where the solution might represent a danger to the students and staff of equal magnitude to the risk of a school invasion and shootings. Concerns include:
- Violation of privacy
- Creation of a prison-like environment
- Creation of life-safety hazards by impeding egress during an emergency.
Besides specialized locks and mechanical blockades, which might represent fire- and building-code violations, deploying extra police and deputizing teachers to increase their preparedness to mitigate a disaster, other methods are being pursued.
For example, as of press time, Florida was close to passing legislation that would require all state schools to have panic alarms.
The legislation is named for Alyssa Alhadeff, one of the 17 people killed during the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018.
Alyssa’s mother, Lori, who helped lobby for the bill, said in published reports that teachers could press a button and “know that help will be on the way” if emergencies were to occur at schools.
The panic button, when activated, would alert school staff and first responders simultaneously to life-threatening campus emergencies. This link between schools and law enforcement would reduce confusion that became apparent in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting.
A commission’s review revealed shortcomings of communications infrastructure at Parkland among first responders and across agency emergency channels between jurisdictions, as well as a lack of availability of real-time video surveillance.
“Radios were like bricks; they weren’t working,” Lori Alhadeff said in March 2020. “We didn’t have panic buttons. If we had an ‘Alyssa’s Alert,’ teachers would have seen it on their phones and would have known how to respond properly. They could have locked and barricaded their rooms and got out of the line of fire.”
Without direct communication with authorities, teachers and staff were unsure whether the commotion was part of a drill. After becoming aware of the danger, they were faced with life-and-death decisions — escape into hallways or find safe cover.
If the Florida law is enacted, every public school, including charter campuses, would be required to establish a mobile panic-button system — including a smartphone app — that would connect schools directly with police and other emergency personnel. Schools across the state’s 67 counties would have to have panic buttons in place by the 2021-22 school year. Thirteen counties already use panic alarms in schools.
(As of press time, the bill passed the Florida Legislature and awaited the governor’s signature.)
Similar bills have been filed in Nebraska and New York. Two proposals also have been introduced in Congress that would make Alyssa’s Law — the name all states use — nationwide.
In 2019, New Jersey became the first state to put such a panic system in place.
Although these laws use the term “panic button,” security communications appropriate for protecting educational campuses includes a variety of locks, devices and technologies and therefore will create many opportunities for locksmiths.
Along with automatic door operators, door closers, locksets, exit devices and keys, it would seem like a good idea to include intercoms in your menu of offerings.
A few choices:
Alpha Communications AlphaTouch
Alpha Communications AlphaTouch is designed to be the low-cost smart video-intercom solution for today’s educational buildings. It can be integrated easily with other security communications products to create a comprehensive innovative security management solution.
The AlphaTouch system is an IP-based video-intercom system that allows users to see and speak to visitors and release the door through the AlphaTouch app on their Apple iOS or Google Android mobile device.
At its core, the AlphaTouch system has at least one 7-inch touchscreen door-entry station for easy installation and trouble-free operation. The system provides audio and visual calls without requiring pricey video-intercom monitors and their related wiring, labor and power-supply requirements.
The AlphaTouch has a variety of features and options, including:
- Visitor call logs, with all updates performed online
- A 3-megapixel 120-degree view camera with IP quality duplex audio
- Access control capability and time-limited visitor QR codes
- The capability to call telephone numbers using VOIP.
The AlphaTouch system can handle any number of door-entry stations. The AT700AS door station has a modern, sleek surface-mount design and protrudes a mere 1-1/8 inches off the wall.
In addition, the AlphaTouch system installs quickly by using standard CAT5/CAT6 cabling, which connects each door station to a Power over Ethernet (PoE) switch. AlphaTouch requires a wired internet-enabled PoE network connection to each door panel.
The AT700AS door station has three built-in relays for door release, elevator controls or other low-voltage applications.
AlphaTouch door panels require a minimum bandwidth of 2 megabits per second for uploading and downloading. If the door panels share the internet connection with other devices, you should configure quality of service to ensure minimum bandwidth requirements are met.
The door panels require a minimum of 13 watts to function and a DHCP-enabled network environment to obtain an IP address. Static IP addresses can be assigned at the time of order.
- Free initial programming included
- Full system event logs, with images (where applicable)
- Built-in prox readers (fobs sold separately)
- Optional elevator control integration
Alpha Communications VK237
At many educational environments, a smaller system is appropriate. Satellite and out buildings and charter and bible schools are just a few examples.
For them, the Alpha Communications VK237WS Series 2-Wire Color Video Intercom Kit is an economical master/remote video intercom for door entry or any other application requiring a single master and a single remote intercom station. It has expandability for a second outdoor remote camera station and up to three indoor monitors.
These monitors are surface-mounted on the wall through a provided wall-mounting bracket. A small power supply connects to standard 120VAC/60Hz electric power to power the equipment.
The video monitor is a 7-inch color screen and has electronic tone signaling and a momentary door-release switch. The monitor also features a front-mounted button to turn on the monitor without being called from an entrance door station.
More info: www.alphacommunications.com
Aiphone IX Series 2
The IX Series 2 Peer-to-Peer IP Video Intercom with SIP Capability is an expandable platform for enterprise security and communications. The intercoms provide Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) compatibility, enhanced CCTV control, line supervision, backwards compatibility with the original IX Series and more features and benefits to help create safer buildings, with increased system flexibility.
The IX Series 2 can page across multiple stations with general or emergency announcements and scan through video intercoms and CCTV cameras to monitor locations. New door, master and emergency stations can tie into a SIP IP PBX server to forward calls to an external number.
The IX Series 2 intercom system can assess situations more quickly and accurately with its picture-in-picture feature. Master stations can view images from an associated CCTV camera and closeup images from the 1.2-megapixel IX Series 2 camera. With the optional CCTV camera arm on Aiphone emergency towers, users can toggle quickly between the CCTV camera image and the intercom’s eye-level video feed to better assess emergency situations.
Other benefits of the IX Series 2:
- Zero annual licensing fees for intercom features. Users save money while avoiding repetitive, sometimes forgotten costs.
- No added server costs. As a peer-to-peer solution, each IX Series 2 station acts as its own system — a PoE network drop is all that’s required. That also means there’s less equipment to maintain and install, and if one station goes down, the others are unaffected.
- Futureproofing an organization’s security investment. The Aiphone IX Series 2 stations will be compatible with future IX Series generations.
Aiphone IS, AX Series
The IS Series Flexible Hardwired Intercom with IP Capability provides hardwired and network-based intercom options for entry security, internal communication, rescue assistance, paging and bell/chime scheduling.
The AX Series Exchange-Based Video Intercom allows you to keep your facility secure by confirming visitor intent through crisp audio and clear, identifying video. The AX Series is an exchange-based video intercom system that uses widely available Cat5 wire and has a high capacity, which allows for large-scale open-voice intercom solutions.
More info: www.aiphone.com/home/industries/educational
Tim O’Leary is an experienced security consultant and a regular contributor to Locksmith Ledger.