School Security Stays Top of Mind for Industry Vendors

May 2, 2018
Meeting the challenges faced by cash-strapped and under-staffed school districts remains a priority

The spate of violent school and university attacks spanning the almost two decades has presented as much of a challenge to security vendors as it has school administrators and government legislators. Finding solutions that work and are cost-effective for both higher education and K-12 environments is a goal for all concerned.

Editorial director Steve Lasky posed a series of questions to several of the top vendors in the security, access control and locksmith markets regarding trends and solutions for the school security market. The following are the responses of those vendors who chose to participate. Locksmith Ledger engaged with:

  • Mark Williams – CSI, a Senior Architectural Consultant for Allegion
  • Rick Caruthers – Executive VP for Galaxy Control Systems
  • Eric Widlitz –Vice President of North American Sales at Vanderbilt
  • Jorge Hevia – Senior VP Sales & Marketing for NAPCO

LL: In your work with higher education and K-12 schools, what are you seeing as some of the emerging trends in school security as it relates to physical security hardware and technology?
Williams: There is a focus on both building and classroom perimeters and how we treat these various layers of security. For the building perimeter there is more focus on reducing the number of access points and classifying building perimeter openings as either Primary or Secondary/Tertiary openings. Additionally, look at how those openings are scheduled in terms of hardware. Primary openings include the main entrances and event entrances that support sporting or theater events. Many schools are moving to secure vestibules at main entrances to monitor and control access to the building for visitors. Both opening types include access control, including card access, video and door and latch bolt monitoring. Secondary/Tertiary openings are exit only, with no outside trim and door and latch bolt monitoring.

Classroom and interior openings, depending on budgets, are trending to electronic solutions on the upper end and mechanical security classroom locks at the lower end. Other interior openings are being added in cross corridor type applications (similar to fire doors when they were required by fire codes) where sections of the building can be closed off or secured in order to contain any danger inside the building to a limited area.

Caruthers: We are seeing access control expand beyond the traditional perimeter readers to more of a complete solution-based approach with integrations to Video, Audio and Wireless Locksets. Cloud-based access control is another emerging trend in school security as well. Integrated with VMS software, these end-to-end solutions can provide administration with numerous amounts of benefits. A few include features that allow authorized personnel to access live and archived video, facility maps showing camera locations and views, while monitoring event activity from user dashboards. On the cloud side, advanced access control and monitoring capabilities provided by cloud access control as service providers are easy to implement and operate, while accommodating a wide variety of budgets and needs.

Widlitz: One of the biggest discussions today is around the obvious: the safety of our students and faculty. Every day there seems to be some sort of unfortunate event on a school campus somewhere. We have had many discussions around best practices for implementing single building or campus-wide lockdowns. This can be accomplished relatively easily and when combined with integrated video, the results are even greater.

We are also seeing K-12 and higher education campuses using a greater number of online electronic locks with their system, which allows for a cost-effective way to monitor a larger amount of internal classroom doors in real time. These doors can also be included in any type of lockdown procedure. Another area we have seen a lot of growth in is the ability to integrate many of the backend systems on a campus. This becomes important when you may have an ERP system that is your central point of record, and when you remove a student or faculty member from the system, you want their access to be removed from the access control system in real time and automatically. By integrating these systems together, this can be accomplished.

LL: How do you perform site surveys or assist your dealers when assessing school security requirements and what are the most crucial facts to be aware of when conducting or assisting a security assessment?

Williams: The only way to conduct a site survey is to walk the building. It is important to first understand the demographics of the area where the building is located. What is it near—a shopping center, bus stop, and freeway? This helps us understand what level of security and equipment is required. Additionally, meeting with the building users helps us understand how the building functions, what concerns they may have, as well as past issues they may have experienced.

After the meeting, I like to walk the outside of the building and focus on classifying the doors as Primary or Secondary/Tertiary openings and address any issues that surface during the user meetings. Main entrances need to have visual access from the office. Since the average age of our public school buildings is approximately 45 years old, the main offices are many times buried inside the building. So, some sort of camera and intercom is generally required. At secondary entrances, I generally focus on removing exterior trim and dogging and adding door position and latch bolt monitoring.

Caruthers: We are engaging with many dealers globally who are working in the education vertical market. This gives us a unique perspective into their needs and allows us to offer "lessons learned" advise or even the ability to share interesting features or methods that are used or introduced in other areas. Having access to these global projects allows us the ability to collaborate making the whole process more of a global collaborative effort.

LL: Relationship building must be more than a sales tactic; it should be a sincere and honest practice. So how do you work with the schools and your dealers to ensure schools have a reliable solutions partners?

Williams: We focus on the end user—their needs, their budgets—and giving good advice on the best solution for their individual situation, regardless of what products we sell or represent. We recognize that schools and school administrators are experts at providing education and that they are constantly inundated with product pitches from sales reps who do not recognize they are only a piece of the total solution. We align the end user with a team of proven partners who provide value in terms of application and code knowledge as well as integration, installation and service capabilities.

Caruthers: Many of the large school districts that have our systems installed have developed relationships with the executive staff at Galaxy Control Systems. This builds a level of comfort desired from the school district and only strengthens the partnership between the dealer, customer, and manufacturer.

Widlitz: This is a simple answer: staying involved in the process from start to finish. Access control systems today are more complex and powerful than ever. By staying involved and working side by side as part of the project team, you ensure the best, most cost-effective solution for the school.

Hevia: We find campus security professionals as passionate about their work and security as we are, and especially eager to learn about new evolving, converging technologies. NAPCO didn’t just jump into this market because of elevating security concerns and recent events. Security is all NAPCO does, and we do it well. Our reputation both proves it and depends on it every day. We offer flexible, tiered security solutions and carefully assess our client’s needs and budget. We will never force fit their needs into whatever technologies we have.

LL: How can legacy equipment be integrated to provide cost savings and further force multiplication?

Williams: In many cases we can use existing equipment and retrofit with a school safety and security product kit. For example, we can retrofit an existing exit device with a wireless kit that monitor both door position and latch bolt position and report to a head end system. In other cases, we can specify products like classroom networked or security locks that will fit into existing door preps so installation costs are reduced.

Caruthers: Knowing that schools have limited funds and those funds are not allocated each spending cycle it is important to work closely and offer solutions that consider the use of legacy systems while providing a cost-effective solution to reach the desired level of newer technology.

LL: How do you work with your dealers or locksmiths and their school partners to seize opportunities to be creative and propose cost-effective solutions based on ROI?

Williams: ROI conversations and business cases are somewhat tricky. There is a case to be made that some of the cost of an electronic access control system can be offset by reducing keying expenses or that using cameras to monitor areas of the school could be cost-effective if the school is paying for personnel to monitor. In new construction where communication cabling is being installed in all the classrooms, access control becomes less expensive to add as infrastructure to facilitate access control is already there.

Caruthers: We have found that schools typically do not have much money beyond the installation funds, so we try to educate them on those items that may cost them more in the future. We advise that schools look to the cost of owning and operating a system for 5 - 7 years and take that into consideration when choosing a manufacturer. For example, some systems are very competitive during the bid and installation phase but become quite costly to maintain in the ‘out of warranty’ periods.

Widlitz: Listen, listen, and listen. You need to truly understand the customer’s issues. What are all the systems involved? What are they trying to achieve and what is their desired outcome? Sometimes this may not be achievable, or it may be achievable but for a lot more than was budgeted. Then you need to start building the system from the ground up, taking into account how you may be able to integrate multiple systems together to reduce resources in different areas. This shows efficiencies and cost savings and enables you to supply a security solution that provides all the necessary functionality for the user that they can afford. Or, you can provide a flexible solution that allows for growth over time to achieve all the functionality the customer wants as their budget allows.

Hevia: Our solutions are extremely flexible and can meet any needs or requirements for any classroom, campus and budget.

LL: Locks and access control are usually the most ubiquitous and basic security technology in a school. What innovations does your technology offer today’s school to enhance its security footprint?

Williams: With more than 100,000 existing school buildings that are an average of 45 years old, our open architecture solutions offer schools the ability to retrofit complete access control solutions into their existing buildings, including monitoring the door and latch bolt position. Additionally, our solutions are not limited to a specific head end system.

Caruthers: We have added mobile applications that allow faculty and staff the ability to lock down a school from the mobile device. We are also working closely with companies that develop active shooter detection to automate the lock down procedure. We feel it is important to have less human interaction with the system during times of crisis.

Widlitz: I think this is really about system integration and having all of your systems talk to each other, automating processes and putting specific rules in place that drive functionality across different platforms. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have your access control integrated with your video, ERP system, housing system, scheduling system, one card system and other access control systems if needed? You can today and at a very affordable price. The best security is layered and fills in gaps as best you can, and when you can share data across multiple systems, a lot can be achieved in setting up a very secure, easy-to-operate solution.

Hevia: NAPCO offers a full range of tiered campus solutions, from economical local lock down with a key from the inside door, to wireless networked access locks and enterprise access control systems. Our solutions are now integrated together to create one interoperable seamless system.

LL: Explain how your school security plan can integrate with fire and life safety systems?
Williams: All security plans need to comply with current codes, standards and laws. This is particularly challenging when it comes to the trend we are seeing with “barricade devices.” I have not yet seen one that meets life safety codes requirements for a single releasing operation with no special knowledge, nor am I aware of any testing or listing that any of these devices have relative to code and life safety standards. Additionally, there is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design to consider. Again, requirements for mounting heights, single releasing operation, no tight pinching, tight grasping or twisting of the wrist and other requirements are not suggestions, they are federal law. All Allegion life safety products carry the appropriate listings and will integrate seamlessly with fire and life safety systems.

Caruthers: We follow NFPA codes and local fire codes when required. This is normally up to the installing dealer to determine and research code requirements.

Widlitz: There are a variety of ways we can communicate with fire and life safety systems and trigger different types of alarms in different systems depending on the specific event. Each school may have unique policies and processes, so we have to be careful to ensure we understand their operational requirements up front in order to configure the system appropriately.

Hevia: Our CA4K Enterprise Access Control and Security Management Platform offers real time monitoring and seamless integration with most security (intrusion and fire) and video surveillance systems. Alarm events can trigger email or SMS emergency alerts and video recording of the area. CA4K’s Threat Level Management System supports instantly deactivating access privileges, by badge, or badge holder-groups, with one mouse click. Global Lockdown can be activated by badge holder, system operator or triggered script, including free access doors. In-list or muster reports

LL: A school district can overcome obsolescence by utilizing a PoE infrastructure for its security technology deployments. PoE allows a school district to adopt non-proprietary technologies for access control, IP cameras, Intercoms, duress, asset protection, mass notification. How do you approach integrating your solutions with other security devices?

Williams: We recognize we are a piece of the security solution so we focus on open architecture products and platforms that can be integrated with any number of software driven systems.

Caruthers: We strive to have an open platform approach to our design but fully understand that without some levels of integration all systems will not automatically operate as one.

Hevia: Our CA4K Enterprise Platform offers integrated conventional-, POE- and wireless-access control, locking, alarms and video and features multiphase threat-level management with SMS & email crisis notifications, global lockdown, remote system management via web client or local or remote alarm monitoring.

LL: Does your security solution have a platform for inter-classroom communication, and if so, how does it work?

Williams: Currently, our products communicate back to a head end system in terms of reporting alarm conditions.

Hevia: We offer wireless networked locks with electronic activation from portable keyfobs, or activated from any one lock or system server and locked down in under 10-seconds. We also offer an Enterprise Access Control and Security Management Platform integrating video, alarms, access control locks, ID, threat level and visitor management, scalable from a few doors to thousands of doors.

LL: Are there any published guidelines which your customers refer to and use as benchmarks?

Williams: We recommend collaborating with a cross-functional team of experts and utilizing tools such as the non-profit organization Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) Guidelines, which can be downloaded free at The guidelines are published by a cross-functional group of K-12 industry experts including, integrators, manufacturers, security consultants, end users and architects. Other non-profits that focus on safe schools and have toolkits are the Secure Schools Alliance ( and Safe and Sound Schools (

Hevia: SAVI, the Security Access-Control Vulnerability Index & Whitepaper provides the facts on security compiled from experts in all facets of the industry, in an easy electronic, self-scoring checklist format, presented objectively and without brand bias. It is designed to quickly enable you to make smarter, more informed security decisions, and protect staff, students and stakeholders.