The safety of our children is paramount. Designing a school security system is a delicate balance of maintaining a free, open, welcoming, creative, and educational atmosphere while still offering a secure location for kids to learn and ease parents’ worries. If your school needs a new or upgraded security system to preserve the safety of its students, you’ll want to keep these best practices in mind throughout the process.
Entrances and Exits
Whether you’re dealing with elementary school safety or high school security, schools must have access control systems in place. During heavy traffic times, such as when students are arriving or leaving, all unlocked doors should be monitored by teachers, staff, or administrators as well as cameras. During class time, all outer doors should be locked, and all visitors should have a single point of access, preferably directly into the main office so they can check in. If at all possible, doors should have sensors on them to alert staff when a door is left or propped open so it can be investigated properly, rather than leave such a vulnerability accessible to the outside. Even better, experts recommend installing an intercom with a camera at the primary entrance to verify a visitor’s identity and purpose for visiting before unlocking this entrance and allowing someone into the building.
Classrooms, Supply Closets, and Other Access Restrictions
Entrances and exits, however, are not the only points of access that need to be controlled. Supply closets, electrical cabinets, A/C and heating unit areas, and other critical locations within a school should be access controlled. Not only could these be points of vulnerability in an attack, but they also pose a danger to students who may be curious or try to pull a prank. Keeping these locations secure either by key access or, more preferably, more advanced access control means could protect your students in more ways than one. Classrooms should also be easily locked from the inside in case of an emergency, and access should only be available to necessary staff and faculty.
Security Systems and CCTV
Outside of basic access control procedures, school security system best practices dictate that schools should have a visitor management system. While a paper sign-in sheet is simple and affordable, it can, at times, be illegible and easily circumvented. Along with the aforementioned intercom-and-camera combination, it is also a good idea to have a digital visitor log that includes photographing visitors and verifying their names and pictures with the school database (such as parents or older siblings). This can prevent unauthorized access to the school and, more importantly, it can prevent an unauthorized individual from picking up a student he or she is not supposed to. In some cases, software can even be designed to alert main office staff if a potential visitor is on the sex offender registry or otherwise may threaten the school (as in the case of custody disputes or domestic violence cases).
It’s also advisable to have CCTV systems throughout the school to monitor for external and internal threats to student safety. Incidents involving hostile visitors, inappropriate behavior, bullying, fighting, and other hazards that can harm students can be caught on camera and properly addressed during and after such an event. Plus, any entry points can be observed at all times using this technology, though it is considered best practice to ensure that faculty and staff can monitor entry points in their normal duties as well, rather than relying solely on cameras.
Security systems in schools should also have emergency protocols in place. These systems can be designed to optimize response to an emergency situation. For example, if a threat makes its way onto the campus, a staff or faculty member can activate a panic alarm. This alarm then does a number of things. It alerts all staff and faculty to the presence of a threat and immediately initiates lockdown mode, locking all external and internal doors within moments (though this can be easily overridden by a teacher or staff member to get students into safe areas, in which case the lockdown protocol can immediately reinitiate on such doors). The protocol also can alert emergency responders such as police and EMS right away, diminishing the amount of time it takes to get help in such critical moments.
Best practices suggest that any school security system should include data security protocols, as well. School computer systems are targets for hackers that are searching for social security numbers of parents and students. Students are particularly vulnerable to identity theft because they are less likely to check credit scores and other indicators of such a compromise in their personal security. They are less likely to have credit cards, apply for loans, etc., so they may not be aware of any identity theft until years later when they try to apply for a college loan or a job. In fact, believe it or not, best practices for school data security aren’t that much different from business data security.
Balancing Budget, Welcoming Atmosphere, and Security
Educational institutions, unfortunately, still face shrinking budgets, but the threats to school safety do not shrink with them. That’s why it’s important to find the balance between an economical solution and a solution that maintains a positive, secure learning atmosphere. When putting school safety measures in place, it’s good to have expert help. At C1C, we know physical and digital security infrastructure inside and out.
We can help your school find the right security measures for your learning environment, and we will design, plan, and install a school security system within your budget and your timeframe. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, call 855-TECH-C1C (855-832-4212) or contact us online and one of our knowledgeable representatives will be in touch.