Access control and video monitoring for schools

School safety is important to all of us, and anything we can do to protect our children is worth the effort.

From a security door hardware point of view, securing a school begins at the front doors. Unlocked entrance doors are a thing of the past. A staff member can now be found at each entrance to ensure the orderly and safe passage to and from the outside while students are arriving or departing the school and during outdoor break times. While school is in session exterior doors should be locked from outside access.

Locking exterior doors manually increases the possibility that one or more openings could be left mistakenly unlocked. Adding electrified security door hardware can improve the security of the doors with automated and scheduled control while still allowing free exiting at all times. Door locking schedules can be set through the card access system or by independent programmable timers.

Todays integrated school entrance systems will often include such products as video intercoms, security cameras, card readers, electric locking and automatic door operators.

Essential components of a Secure School System

Video intercoms allow visitors to speak with a staff member, and allow the staff member to see the visitor before granting them access. Security cameras provide high resolution, recorded images of every person who comes or goes through the opening. High quality recorded images are very important in a school environment so that visitors and students can accurately be identified when the need arises. Simple and intuitive video recording devices allow staff to quickly locate important video clips for internal use or to be provided to law enforcement.

Staff keys to the exterior doors should be replaced with access cards or key fobs, and traditional metal keys should be limited to maintenance and administration staff. This reduces the likelihood of security breaches due to lost or unreturned keys. When a card or key fob is lost they can be quickly removed from the access system.

Electric locking options will vary from one opening to the next and there are solutions for each one. While the most common electric locking choice is electric strikes, latch retraction exit devices offer some advantages. Latch retraction exit devices have concealed electronics which means there is one less thing for curious students to tamper with. In many cases, when the exit device is electrically unlocked the push bar is held depressed which reduces wear and tear on the door hardware and operates more quietly. Lastly, latch retraction exit devices are inherently fail secure, so when power is removed the door is secure.

All entrances to the school that are regularly used by staff and students should have electrified locking door hardware installed on them. Since most, if not all, of these openings have exit devices, latch retraction is also the best choice for the secondary entrances. Retrofit kit options are available to add electric latch retraction to most brands of exit devices. An added benefit of latch retraction exit devices is that staff can see that when the doors are unlocked.

Electric locking simplifies lockdown

When there is a security emergency every exterior door needs to be locked quickly. The term “Lockdown” is commonly used to describe this scenario. Incorporating electrified locking hardware on the exterior entrances makes locking them quickly a much easier task. Since fail secure hardware is used, removing power to the devices causes them to lock. The signal to lock the doors can come from a push button in the office, a signal from the card access system or remotely through the buildings or school boards computer network.

Independent Lockdown systems are available which can be added to schools that already have electrified locks. These systems include an activation device such as a push button or keypad located in the office. When the button is pushed or the correct code is entered a signal is sent through the schools computer network to controllers at each door with an electric lock, signalling them to lock.

This type of system takes advantage of the communication infrastructure already in place and can be used as a redundant solution to a card access or independently time scheduled system. Some of the added benefits of this type of lockdown solution include the ability to send email alerts to security or administration personnel. Some systems can even be monitored and controlled through standard web browsers or by smart phone app.

When it comes to securing educational facilities and the people within them, planning and discussion are the keys to safety and success. Please contact us for more information, or for help designing a safe and secure school locking system.

John Kalnay, EHC
K.M. Thomas Company Ltd.
Toll Free: 1-888-383-4105