Keeping schools and colleges secure

May 2010 Security Services & Risk Management, Education (Industry)

Richard McGhee, sales and marketing director for ADT Security believes the first step for a school or university to consider in developing a security plan is to have a single point of contact, as opposed to outsourcing different aspects to a number of security firms.

“An holistic approach to security helps to lead to a more integrated solution and can help to develop more of a partnership relationship with your supplier, which facilitates the sharing of information,” he says.

It is important to secure children, teachers and assets in a responsible way, and that means schools should closely examine the credentials of any potential security company. When it comes to security, low cost does not always mean good value and it is unfortunate that security is often short changed when it comes to budget time.

Security threats and solutions

The key security threats for schools are primarily kidnapping, hijacking and theft, says McGhee, and this to a large extend determines which type of security solution to implement.

“Ideally,the solution should incorporate both guarding and an electronic security system as there is a need for both. The decision on which route to take, however, is in most cases always dictated by affordability. We have the technology but it comes at a cost.”

ADT does not usually advocate armed guards in this environment but rather well-trained guards who can deal with emergency situations. These guards are backed by armed response backup. “In terms of security basics, it is essential to ensure that a security provider will be there in seconds should an incident occur. Having a panic button or several panic buttons on the property linked to an armed reaction service is recommended.”


Another major hazard in schools is the danger of fire. Alarm systems should be installed that alert students and teachers of a fire danger with enough time to allow them to exit the building in a calm and collected manner. Various fire detection systems are available, from high tech to basic, but most will include alarm reporting.

“Another advanced security option is a carbon monoxide fire detector which acts as an early warning detection service of a potential fire hazard and is less prone to false alarms than more traditional smoke detectors,” says McGhee. As soon as the system detects an indication of a fire the security control centre will receive an alarm. The control centre will then contact the client. Carbon monoxide, which is deadly if the levels are too high, can leak from a faulty boiler. A carbon monoxide fire detector picks up unhealthy levels before they can become a danger to young children.

Varying factors mean that each school will have unique security requirements, and there are a number of solutions available such as guarding services, access control, closed circuit television (CCTV), fire alarms, electric fences, etc. “The presence of a guard often acts as a deterrent for would-be criminals. Guards will be on the look out for any suspicious activity during and after school hours. The actual duties of the guard will vary depending on each school’s requirements and standard operating procedures and guards should be trained accordingly,” adds McGhee.

The use of CCTV in schools is also an option and on the increase. Currently, schools largely use CCTV for controlling the perimeter and grounds of the school. This can be monitored off site or on the premises using a static monitor. CCTV is fairly flexible. It can be programmed to alert on activations only or can be programmed to be active only during certain peak periods. Also, cameras can be installed to monitor activity as it happens in the classrooms, offering additional protection for students.

“Parents and teachers can do a lot to protect their children from criminals. Simply talking to children and students could be the first, and most important, step in keeping them safe.”

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