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Roles of door hardware in safer schools

All education facilities are required to provide suitable premises, which are safe havens’ where students can relax and focus on their education in line with the Duty of Care Policy. A successfully designed educational facility combines security with ease of movement.

 

In this article we will identify the important factors which need to be addressed when developing a comprehensive security solution. We will also highlight the key considerations which need to be addressed in order to make educational facilities safer.

One size doesn’t fit all

Each school has a unique set of security objectives, so solutions will need to be tailored towards those requirements. Door hardware selection plays an important role not only in the functional performance throughout the facility, but also in providing the core elements of any effective security solution for a school.

 

Concept of vulnerability

In its simplest form all schools adhere to three levels of vulnerability. Level 1 being the least vulnerable and relating to perimeter entry and exit points. Level 2 is more vulnerable and is the point at which people are screened before entering the interior of the school. Level 3 is the area which is most vulnerable and refers to the core of the school which students and staff occupy.

 

Level 1: Perimeter security

The first level of security is the perimeter which includes all external gates and entry/exit doorways for the school. Perimeter security becomes most important during certain times of the day, usually outside of the periods when students, staff and visitors are permitted to come and go into this facility. The importance of selecting the optimal method of restriction will be determined by a number of elements which is a critical factor in developing the most appropriate solution for the school. Role of door hardware in safer schools.

 

The first aspect to consider is the appropriate amount of exit/entry points for each facility which is based on the physical size and layout of the grounds. The simplest method of securing these points is by utilising a mechanical lock, such as a padlock or a mortice lock. The benefits being cost saving and ease of installation. There are negatives to this solution, it requires a lot of staff intervention, and reliance on people to ensure the integrity of the perimeter is maintained.

 

There are many benefits in incorporating some level of electronic access control. School’s security can be a combination of electronic and mechanical security or a complete electronic solution. Electronic strikes are easy to install, can control access via various credentials such as keypads, cards and proximity readers. When combined with mechanical locks, they provide the benefits of unrestricted egress. This option also allows integration with central security systems which can be automatically activated and preprogramed for regular scheduled control. For a complete electronic solution, schools can install maglocks instead of mechanical locks which are centrally controlled and monitored.

 

Level 2: Front entrance

The second level of security is the administration or reception area. A well designed school will channel all visitors through this area. Effective access control requires that entry to and from a facility be regulated. A single point of entry allows for such monitoring. Having an entrance vestibule restricts visitors from having free access to the rest of the school.

 

Access-controlled egress doors are permitted in all schools. Their latches can be electronically controlled from the reception area or school office. Exit/entry doors can be readily opened by a push from the inside. Supplemented by an intercom, and by a security camera when the entry is not visible from the reception area, they are an excellent entry control device. Electronically-controlled keyless door locks are available as hard-wired (usually networked) and wireless, stand-alone models.

 

The stand-alone models are economical to install. Hard-wired models, however, are superior when it comes to instantaneously cancelling access or otherwise reprogramming doors. Wireless models have to be reprogrammed individually, either manually or by using portable electronic devices that download information at each door. In either case, their controls can be based on anything from push-button codes to proximity cards, biometric readers, or any combination of entry methods desired. In both cases, access can be time and date stamped to track who enters the building, and can be programmed to limit access to defined days and hours, customised for each access card or code.

 

Level 3: The core of the school

The third level are the internal hallways, corridors stairwells, as well as the entry points into classrooms and restricted areas (i.e.: labs, faculty lounges). A safe learning space is imperative for a quality learning environment at schools. Multiple studies have shown that if students do not feel safe in school, it impacts their ability to learn properly. Restricted areas in a school can include faculty lounges and labs. These areas, which need to be monitored usually contain sensitive information, expensive equipment or chemicals.

 

For safety reasons while selecting door hardware options for a classroom, it is important to consider that there should be free egress from the inside at all times. Classroom option allows inside key cylinder to lock the outside lever only. Classroom locking options are available in both mechanical and electronic solutions. Mechanical lockdown options are the most economical solution. Keys are used to manually lock down a room, but is time consuming and does not allow for an audit trail. Safe schools add a key cylinder to the classroom side of the door so the door can be locked without leaving the room. Electronic lockdown solution can be either via a remote control or centralised. Remote option is best suited if the budget does not allow for installation of a networked system. Lockdown can be activated by remote control within proximity of a door. Centralised lockdown requires installing an integrated access control system for the entire school. Doors throughout the school can be locked down centrally in an emergency in the least amount of time.

 

For these applications, it is advisable to use electronic locks with an audit trail feature. Audit trail gives visibility of who accessed a certain area and at what time. Electronic locks can either be locally controlled or networked for central control. These allow for ease of lockdown in an emergency.

 

More security, less risk

As mentioned in this article, there are several different solutions available for a school. Right security options will be based on the need and budget of the school. Contact an Allegion security consultant today to help assess the level of security at your school, we can assist in identifying the gaps and offer recommendations based on your needs.