Schools work to provide a safe environment for students, teachers, and administrators. Bullying, theft, and vandalism continue to be a daily concern. However, the fear of becoming a high-profile target for an active assailant has risen to the top of the list. While schools have a wide range of internal and external security concerns, the primary focus tends to be on the main entrance.
The lobby and main entrances are what typically come to mind but don’t forget about the emergency exits around the building. While administrators and staff think of those doors as emergency exits, others outside of the building may think of the entry points.
Securing the front entrance of a school is a top priority. It’s vulnerable to exploitation by visitors. It’s also vulnerable because the main entrance usually has glass panels, and in most cases, multiple doors for students, teachers, and visitors to enter and exit freely at peak times. This area is even more vulnerable when free passage is allowed. When the flow is limited, most schools electronically lock these doors to prevent free-flow into the school.
Physical barriers, or bollards, along the sidewalk separate vehicles from pedestrians and the building.
A safety vestibule is created between two sets of doors where a visitor can present identification before being allowed through the vestibule and into the building. In a vestibule configuration, multiple technologies can limit the risk of unauthorized entry. A voice intercom system allows the visitor to push a button and notify school staff that someone desires to enter. Once a voice communication session is created, video surveillance from a remote office allows staff to observe the visitor and verify identity with a driver’s license or other credentials. Cameras in and around the vestibule provide a way to identify the visitor, as well as the areas surrounding the visitor. The camera, integrated into the intercom system, allows an eye-level close-up image of the visitor to be viewed and recorded. A camera outside of the building entrance and inside the secure side of the vestibule provides a record of the entire movement of the visitor. A camera inside the vestibule can provide situational awareness if an honest and innocent visitor is being used by a criminal to gain entry under duress.
Many schools leave the vestibule open for free access in the morning and afternoon to allow large volumes of students into and out of the school quickly and easily. During this time, the concept of using the vestibule as a safety-net is not always a possibility. Other policies and procedures need to go into play to mitigate the other risks during these times. Security personnel, teachers, administrators, and in some cases, even metal detectors, are necessary solutions.
Secondary entryways need to be secured with access control, panic push bars, and video surveillance cameras. Authorized use of the doors can be controlled with credentials issued to appropriate staff. The door hardware keeps the door shut and prevents manual opening while still allowing free egress in case of an emergency. A key concern security professionals encounter is propped door scenarios. Students will often try to keep a door open when it should be secured. A properly designed and deployed security solution will know that the door is held open and send an alert to staff or to a central alarm monitoring station for investigation.
A comprehensive vulnerability assessment and site survey will uncover potential threats at schools of all sizes. The resulting security plan will prescribe a unified security and emergency notification solution.
Unified solutions integrate a variety of technologies that provide panic devices for occupants, video surveillance for live monitoring and recording, access control for doors, and voice annunciation to provide clear and calm instructions in case of an emergency.
There’s not a one-size-fits-all technology solution that will guarantee 100% safety, but an experienced security organization will give you a significant advantage. A security professional can visit your school and work with administrators and security staff to devise a tailored, comprehensive solution.
You can count on Securitronics to perform a comprehensive site survey that will address your most demanding safety and security concerns. We are dedicated problem-solvers, always ready to use new and innovative technologies to develop your plan and secure your property, assets, and personnel. Our goal is to build long-term, lasting partnerships based on absolute trust and personalized services from the most skilled and talented security professionals available.