With more than 55 million children enrolled in U.S. K-12 schools, campus security is top of mind for parents, teachers, staff and the community. Every single school has an individual layout and construction, resulting in no one-size-fits-all security solution.
As K-12 districts continue to fund both upgrade retrofits and new building expansions, installing security contractors need to present a variety of new products and solutions to help protect school campuses.
There are three general areas to keep in mind regarding a school campus: perimeter control via entry and exit points; a safe means of egress; and individual classroom security.
Starting at the perimeter of the building, there are traditional locking solutions or access management technologies to monitor and control access. This same technology can be deployed across multiple buildings but monitored under the same access control system by school personnel.
Security systems integrators should look for products that will provide a safe means of egress. Depending on the number of students or occupants, different exit hardware may be required. Also, a similar exit hardware solution can be applied for both stairwells and assembly areas, which can sometimes be overlooked.
Lastly, inside the building there are many different technologies that allow teachers or staff to quickly secure classrooms from the inside or remotely from an administrative office.
Many school districts have limited resources for security upgrades. To assist schools in responsible stewardship of these limited resources, there are a variety of products that leverage a school’s existing hardware investment and infrastructure.
If you’re looking to quickly add perimeter security, electric strikes are one solution. They’re easy to install and readily available. Surface mounted electric strikes are easy to install with no cutting to the frame. They also work with rim exit devices commonly used on perimeter doors. Look for Grade 1, outdoor rated strikes that allow school administrators to lock down the campus with the push of a button and can also be used on cafeteria and gymnasium doors for an additional layer of security.
For schools that want to add access control to interior openings without replacing door hardware or cutting the frame, look for no-cut strikes for cylindrical or mortise locksets. Common K-12 applications include classrooms, administrative offices and staff lounges. Fire-rated strikes (b) are also available if local codes require it in your application.
Besides this popular perimeter upgrade, there are a number of frequently missed opportunities to improve security and safety in schools. So as you do your assessment, consider these five commonly overlooked areas:
Gates and Fences
Don’t forget about the gates and fences surrounding the campus. Many schools choose to have a guard on duty or a fence in place to keep students, staff and even inventory, such as buses, safe, while keeping unwanted visitors out. An electromechanical gate lock (c) can work well in both electrically and manually operated gate installations to be used for swing gates, sliding gates or stock cage gates. Before purchasing a gate lock, look at the holding force, housing, mounting process and pre-load operation.
The popular quick fix for a security upgrade is the electrified lock or access control FOB. However doors can also serve as a surveillance aid and lockdown option for intruder situations. Magnetic locks (d) are now available with integrated cameras inside the lock, allowing for discreet surveillance. When choosing a maglock for outdoor use, look for models that are fully sealed and conformal-coated for weatherproof operation, with all metal surfaces plated for durability and rust resistance, conduit fitting, and no exposed electronics (e). When choosing electric strikes, make sure to look for a UL outdoor rating.
Power Transfer Devices
It is vital to protect the power path, as your access control devices are only as secure as the power that supplies it. Children are incredibly tough on hardware, so consider extra durable options (f) that can either be placed at the top or in the edge of the opening to power hardware on the door instead of door cords that are exposed and easier to break. A concealed power transfer device installed in the edges of the door and frame prevents foreign objects from reaching the wires or jamming the device. Another option is an inductive coupling power transfer device (g), which ports power contactlessly across the door gap, eliminating all points of vulnerability and wear.
Every electrified device needs a power supply to operate, and all power supplies are not created equal. New products with improved efficiency and improved features are now available. Consider a highly efficient power supply with a dedicated battery charging circuit to protect against overcurrent and reverse battery faults and to prevent overvoltage on locking devices. Choosing a highly efficient power supply not only saves energy costs, but also prolongs the life of your access control devices. A power supply with a dedicated battery charging circuit ensures that the locking device is not over powered, which voids the warranty and wears out the device prematurely. Schools today need to save every penny they can and lowering their energy bill is a great place to start. Power supplies are often overlooked as a way to lower costs, and more advanced models have the potential to do this dramatically.
Drawers and Cabinets
Doors aren’t the only opportunity for integrating access control. The need for audit trails for cabinets and drawers is a fast growing trend, as schools are being required to keep testing materials, medications, cleaning supplies, confiscated materials, and expensive electronics under lock and key. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) recommends access control methods to keep student records secure, may one day require this technology. New wireless cabinet locks used to secure these important materials can also be used with existing ID badges, so there are no keys to control or replace and no codes to secure or remember. Audit trails are more and more often becoming a requirement, but wiring cabinets and drawers to become access control ready can be cost prohibitive. However, with newer wireless options readily available, costs can be kept manageable and all codes and requirements can be met.
Keep On Top of Campus Security Trends
The needs of educational campuses are ever changing and innovative companies are developing solutions all the time to ensure that the K-12 environment is as safe and secure as possible. School administrators, security professionals and facilities personnel who stay aware of all available and upcoming solutions before approaching a security upgrade or new facility construction guarantee their students and faculty the optimal solution to meet their individual needs.
Wendy Bowman is the marketing communications director for ASSA ABLOY EMS and OEM Group.