School security is important from kindergarten through college. Prioritizing safety can put students and staff at ease, which allows for more productive learning environments. Let’s look at the factors that affect school security and discuss the best physical security solutions for school campuses.
Schools face several security challenges that are not typical of a standard business.
Before we talk solutions, let’s discuss security challenges.
School sizes vary dramatically across the U.S., both in student population and campus size. It gets even more complicated when considering student population and campus size don’t often correlate! This means that two schools can have the same number of students—for this example, we will say 700—but their campuses differ in size. One school consists of just two or three buildings with a dozen classrooms on each floor. Meanwhile, the other school with 700 students has a much larger footprint and is far more spread out, with six or eight buildings, a gym, and playfields. These schools have the same number of students but different security considerations.
You also have to consider both outdoor and indoor security needs. Most school campuses have outdoor playgrounds, fields, gates, and quad areas. And it’s common for a school campus to have several entrances. Students, staff, and visitors may enter campus through the main office or through one of many side entrances and gates located around the campus. This fact does make entering and exiting particularly difficult, especially when it comes to keeping an eye on visitors who do not attend school or work on campus. School administrators must pay close attention to visitor intake procedures—and a security system can certainly help.
Here are three tips that can help secure a school campus.
Tip #1: Work with a local security provider when possible. A local security provider offers several advantages over a national provider. The first advantage is that a local provider is more likely to know your community—including relevant security and fire alarm codes. They will also have a reason to help (beyond just making a sale). That is, a local security provider will employ local technicians and customer service agents who might even have children that attend schools in the area. That’s an added value that you can’t find working with a large national security company.
Now in terms of practical value, working with a local security provider almost guarantees that you will receive account and tech support in person. Have a question? Call your provider and talk to a human. Security camera on the fritz? A technician can be sent directly to your campus. National security providers might even outsource customer support to a third-party service. And it will be harder to rely on their in-person tech support if they don’t have a branch near your school.
Tip #2: Prioritize visitor access. Controlling access is critical for school security. As mentioned, many schools have several entry points. It is often the case that staff members don’t patrol entrances.
Start by developing or re-examining your visitor procedure. Decide where visitors must enter the school. In most cases, it makes sense to require visitors to enter through the main office. Place signs around the exterior of the school pointing visitors toward the office. Once there, you can have visitors record their names. Consider handing out guest passes that a visitor must display. These strategies can help you track who enters and exits the campus.
Controlling the flow of visitors is one thing, but you also must consider how students and staff move through the campus. You can tighten up security by installing an access control system. Access control allows you to grant authorized individuals access to a building or room. The system keeps detailed records that show who entered a building and when, giving you greater insight than ever before. In addition, you can place all doors equipped with access control on lockdown with a single click, which can help during an emergency.
To be clear, access control is not feasible for every door on campus. But it can help you better secure spaces like the main office, archive rooms, and storage buildings.
Tip #3: Revisit your emergency safety plan. An emergency safety plan is key. It informs staff, faculty, and students on what to do during an emergency. These plans are often developed at the district level with input from safety experts. Reinforce these plans with regular trainings. Written policies can only do so much—by training students and staff, you can improve awareness during a real emergency.
Additionally, your emergency safety plans should not be set in stone. They should evolve with new industry standards and real-world experiences. Let’s say you hold an active shooter training where staff and students practice what they would do during a real emergency. You can take what you learn during these training exercises and revise the safety plan as needed.
When developing or revising an emergency safety plan, focus on the following:
- Preemptive Response. Have plans that allow your school to identify threats before they happen. Pay close attention to social media. Make it mandatory that students, staff, and parents report suspicious activity. Start outreach programs that educate students about common safety threats.
- Secure Classrooms. Teachers should know how to secure their classrooms. Make sure the doors lock from the inside and give teachers plenty of options to cover windows. Consider creating safe spaces inside each classroom that students and teachers can utilize for protection during an emergency.
- Emergency Response. Be sure to plan who, how, and when emergency services respond to your campus during an emergency.
School campuses across the country face serious security challenges. If you are in the market for a school security or fire alarm system, get in touch with Bay Alarm today. For more information on school safety, be sure to visit schoolsafety.gov.