Locksmiths Play a Key Role in School Security

June 1, 2017
Understanding applicable technology options and the bid process can ensure opportunities

This past April the unthinkable occurred yet again. This time it was in San Bernardino, Calif., where a gunman walked into an elementary school without hindrance looking for his estranged wife. When the incident was over, the man’s wife and an eight-year old child had been shot dead before the shooter took his own life. The sad reality in many of these recent school shootings is that they could have been prevented with just a few basic security precautions in place.

“Access control is one of many school safety strategies school leaders should assess. Too many school leaders have taken the perspective after the Sandy Hook shootings that fortifying the front entranceway covers what needs to be done. It is what has been done on the other side of those fortified doorways that is most important,” says Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services (www.schoolsecurity.org), a Cleveland-based national consulting firm specializing in school security assessments, school security and emergency preparedness training, school security litigation consulting and related services. “The San Bernardino elementary school murder-suicide shooting reminds us that there are basic security best practices that can be discussed at each local school level. For example, having your school administrators and office establish a protocol where visitors who wish to see a staff member wait in the office while the staff member is called to the officer versus sending a visitor, even a family member, to the classroom.” 

Many public school districts face extreme budget issues when it comes to security technology planning. Cuts in state and federal funding have left school administrations looking for as much bang for their buck as possible. Still many security experts say there are measure schools can implement and remain within their budgets.

“Keeping safety and security as a first priority is important because doors and hardware play a very important role in school security. There are many solutions available today based on the needs and budget including sustainable solutions. Attack resistant doors and glass to delay entry, vestibules for entryway safety, security and privacy sidelights, bullet resistant, hurricane/tornado storm rated sheltered openings. Adding more access controlled openings by using electrified hardware, card readers, as well as using established technologies like wireless, WI-FI, and PoE type of devices to get more access control openings for a better price point which seamlessly integrate into your buildings existing systems and infrastructure giving the K-12 community solutions to address the variety of needs within their buildings,” explains Donna Chapman, ASSA ABLOY’s Director of Security Consultant Relations , who has 19 years’ experience specializing in architectural door hardware and access control.

According to Tom Leone, Senior Regional Sales Manager – East for door hardware (DHW) at dormakaba, simple technology steps taken at a school’s entrance can make all the difference in stepping up security. He recommends that exterior entrances should have access control on the exterior so the facility can be locked down in an emergency situation. Leone also says that classrooms -- if the budget allows it -- should have hardwired or wireless access control to lockdown in an emergency situation or at least intruder function locks to mechanically lockdown the classrooms. Finally, he suggests that there be an administrator dashboard which can provide a visual representation of the entire system’s performance and events – i.e.: door status, emergency lockdown/unlock commands so the security is more proactive.

“Depending on the type of door, you can use an electric strike with an exit device or electrified exit device on exterior openings tied into an access control system that can initiate lockdown,” Leone adds.  “On classroom doors, you can install an electrified mortise or cylindrical lock or wireless mortise or cylindrical lock that is tied into an access control system that can initiate lock down. If the budget does not permit intruder function, locks are a must for classroom doors to be mechanically locked down from the inside.”

So the million dollar question is, how can the locksmith play in the K-12 school security market? Vendors like William J. Sporre, the VP of Global Sales and Marketing for Marks USA, say it is all a matter of professionalism and being prepared. Sporre stresses that coming in as a security professional capable of educating administrators and offering more than just locks on a door as a solution will boost credibility and help them win bigger jobs. Sporre also explains that tools like Napco’s Security Access-Control Vulnerability Index or SAVI, can aid in creating a strategic plan for potential clients.

SAVI, which has been created for security professionals to use as an objective, brand agnostic audit tool can valuate any school’s access control vulnerability. The security professional can simply survey what mode of security a school may have in place, and SAVI automatically and immediately calculates a risk score. The next step for the security professional is to help create a plan of actionable next-steps that can be suggested and deployed to improve the school’s security and SAVI score, ranging from adding ballistic glass or better gates, to classroom intruder- or standalone digital access -locks with lockdown function or key fobs. Or the solution may entail a more sophisticated approach like adding networked wireless locks with near instantaneous global lockdown, to implementing an access control systems for a few doors to many, in real time

“With something like the SAVI report, you are not selling Marks or Napco. You are selling security solutions that can range from a small budget project to something with a more substantial budget. Just because you don’t have a lot of money in your school security budget doesn’t mean you can’t shore up your front door, where there is the biggest potential for an incident. So looking at a high security locking solution is not expensive or even stepping up to a basic door access system or even bullet proof glass in the school front and office areas is not crazy to consider,” says Sporre, relating that several of the recent school shooters breached the front doors by simply shooting out the glass. “The locksmith must know the client before going into the situation. Not every school has thousands and thousands of dollars to spend on elaborate cameras and high-end access control, so they have to know what kind of money these people have to spend.”

ASSA ABLOY’s Chapman insists that the locksmith shouldn’t underestimate themselves when competing for school bids. She stresses that their services are specialized and important.

“Locksmiths play an important role within the K-12 community. Locksmiths offer many services and have advanced to a more electronic access control proficient level just to address the changing needs of securing more openings within a school both electronically and mechanically. Typical projects go out to bid and get awarded based on the project qualifications which your consultant can help lay out and identify so not only are you assured to get a great product but also a good installation and service after. Locksmiths are great to have on hand as a critical and professional part of your maintenance team,” says Chapman, referring to potential project partnerships. “Partner up with integrators. This is one way for two channels to use their professional expertise and strengthens their advantage for the sake of the project. It also ensures that the requirements for the end user to get the best quality solution available are met. Our industry requires all parties involved on projects to better collaborate, communicate, and coordinate for the most successful end result.”

Leone also offers some sound advice for locksmiths wanting to move into the school security picture. Here are a few suggestions and comments.

  • Locksmiths typically bid aftermarket projects direct to the school district in the aftermarket (existing facility).
  • Locksmith should develop a business model and cost structure for both mechanical installations as well as electronic (such as running cable).
  • New builds typically go through the contract hardware distributor who provides a complete package (multiple scopes) on the project.
  • Understand local building and fire codes so they do not provide solutions that may lockdown the opening, but not meet local building or fire codes.
  • Be trained and up to speed on lockdown solutions for both access control and mechanical.
  • Thoroughly understand the day to day operations and challenges of the school – for example allowing authorized personnel to get where they need to go, while keeping others out of areas they don’t need to be.

Prevention, however, is the ultimate goal of any security plan. Patrick Fiel, a national school security consultant with more than 35 years’ experience managing law enforcement and security organizations and the former Executive Director of Security for the Washington D.C. Public School system, says that once a security plan is established, the process is just beginning.

“Schools must have emergency/crisis plans and lockdown procedures in place. They have to train staff, hold safety/security drills with emergency responders, and practice responses to different emergency situations, e.g., Active Shooter. They must test communication/access control systems frequently: PA system, phones, radios, duress buttons, fire alarms, and other devices. Make sure that all entrances and exits are locked and secured, which includes the classrooms. Cameras in and around the campus have proven to be a strong deterrent, and very effective in helping to ensure policies and procedures are being followed, as well as in assessing incidents. They also provide a critical live insight for first responders during an emergency situation,” he says. “The combination of well-planned security procedures, risk assessments, crisis preparedness planning, security technology, and training can help to reduce campus shootings.”