While educational institutions remain one of the safest places for students to be, increased global trends in crime are creating a contrary opinion for parents and students. “It is important to take these concerns into consideration and develop a security plan that addresses risks and threats.
Creating a safer environment requires a comprehensive prevention and response strategy that actively involves students, parents, staff, faculty and the community. The best way to begin addressing these fears is to be prepared with a plan and create an open dialogue with the various stakeholders,” says Tim Timmins, sales director at Impro Technologies. “We suggest following these six steps to ensure that security risks are covered.”
1. Assess and plan
Developing an emergency plan that considers a variety of potential dangers to a learning environment is the first step in protecting the students. This could include assembling a security risk team, conducting the actual assessment, uncovering threats and vulnerabilities and building an emergency plan.
2. Central entry point
Limiting and monitoring entrances reduces the opportunity for criminal activity, while concurrently limiting the cost to secure educational facilities. The entry point should be manned by security or other front-office personnel and equipped with one or more CCTV cameras. Visitors should also be required to exit the same way they entered and to check out before they leave the building.
• Staff the entry point with security or front-office personnel. Visitors (anyone without a badge) should be identified, verified and badged before entering. Best practices recommend requiring a government-issued ID to be presented before a temporary visitor badge is issued.
• Where possible, create a physical barrier. Many schools use a security vestibule, hut or double entry system, which allows staff members to screen guests before granting them access to the building. Some schools are going a step further by building restrooms and small conference rooms outside the ‘firewall’ to accommodate visitor needs without impacting security protocols.
• Lock down all other potential entry and exit points. Use locks or other hardware to prevent access to the building from the roof, windows or vents. Make sure no structures or building features could allow climbing access to adjoining windows or roofs. Further, fit all exterior entries with hardware that facilitates a full perimeter lockdown in an emergency.
3. Know who is inside
An effective visitor management system and process improves the safety and security of students and staff. Identifying and badging visitors to an educational facility can be labour-intensive and time consuming. As a result, many facilities are choosing automated visitor management systems which can complete verification and badge printing in less than a minute.
Facilities can then manage who enters the building, when and for what purpose, while reducing the staff time and energy required to do this. For parents of children at schools, there is the reassurance that administrators have full knowledge of who has access to their school.
4. Develop surveillance
Together, formal and informal surveillance can provide a powerful deterrent and thwart potential threats before a crisis occurs.
• Use appropriate equipment such as HD cameras, positioned to show visitors’ faces and offer good sight lines down hallways and into stairwells.
• Monitor the entry lobby.
• Don’t forget the hard-to-see areas such as parking areas, drop-off zones and other exterior areas.
• Encourage informal surveillance. To enhance the effectiveness of informal surveillance, staff should receive regular, ongoing training regarding school policies, procedures and action plans.
5. Limit visitor access
Learning institutions can be divided into securable zones and students, staff and visitors can be given access control smartcards which allow entry only to the appropriate areas. “Going a step further and colour-coding the visitor cards will alert people to whether the visitor is supposed to be in a secured zone, or if security needs to be notified,” says Timmins.
“Training your staff is just as important as upgrading your access control system or implementing zoning principles. While things like electronic access control, smart access cards and associated door hardware are critical to keeping a campus secure, staff training and adherence to policies is equally important,” he adds.
6. Use of access control IDs
In addition to identifying students and staff, access cards/IDs can perform other functions that help streamline student and personnel management. Rolling visual identification, student enrolment, dorm rights and food service capabilities into one single badge makes it easier for students and administrators to track and manage important daily functions.
These could include:
• Time and attendance.
• Employee management software, such as various ERP systems.
• Student accommodation or transportation.
• Canteen and catering services.
• Transactions at libraries or book stores.
• Student enrolment.
“The easiest and most important action an educational facility can take to become more secure, is to drive all visitor and unbadged traffic, including students and staff, to a centrally located, easily monitored entry point. Impro has supplied access control technology for a number of educational facilities that have expressed a need for enhancements in their security profile,” says Timmins.
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