Guide to School Security Systems & Safety Planning

School security and safety planning

Keeping kids safe at school should be a top priority for any educational facility, from pre-K to university environments. School security planning presents a unique set of challenges, with a large number of people coming and going throughout the day, and a heightened need for physical security without infringing on the learning environment. School security systems have been on the rise in recent years, with more educational facilities investing in controlled access for school door security, and adding school security cameras around the buildings.

When creating a school security plan and choosing school door locks, it’s essential to address the more serious issues such as unlawful intrusion, vandalism, and school shootings. However, school security systems should also be in place to prevent everyday concerns such as theft, and to ensure areas like laboratories, storage facilities, and teacher’s lounges stay secure.

Access control and school security door locks

Access control is an increasingly important part of school safety plans, with more educational buildings and campuses relying on the technology to maintain security both during school hours and after. Installing school safety door locks that are access controlled is a good way to control and track who accesses certain areas, and when.

Intrusion detection at school buildings and campuses

Access control for school campuses prevents unwanted individuals from accessing school property. Because only those with authorized credentials can unlock the door, school safety door locks keep potential crime at bay, especially on nights and weekends when the school is empty. Access control is also an essential component not only in preventing intrusions, but also detecting them if they do occur. School security systems that use modern access control technology like Openpath can detect a forced entry, door left ajar, or failed unlock attempt, and automatically send an alert to security staff in real time.

School visitor access management

Whether it’s prospective students or their parents, guest speakers, vendors for events, or contract workers, schools have more visitors than you’d think. When it comes to effectively planning safety measures, a school security solution that also features visitor management is a smart investment. An access control system that’s equipped to handle visitor credentials ensures that visitors only have access to certain spaces for better security.

With a mobile and cloud-based security solution, those guest credentials can be texted or emailed directly to the visitor’s smartphone, so they won’t even need to pick up a badge or key card to unlock the door. This is especially useful for vendors setting up for events like performances, career fairs, and after-hours events. School administrators don’t need to hover over entrances to manage security, since the customized credentials will only allow the visitors access to the spaces they’ll be using for the event.

School door security improves asset protection 

Ensures faculty spaces are kept secure. Areas such as teacher’s lounges, storage spaces, and faculty offices are a prime target for misconduct. By installing school door lock systems that require authorized credentials, schools and universities can prevent students or school visitors from accessing spaces they shouldn’t.

Controlled access school door locks are great for protecting equipment in libraries, gyms, and science and computer labs. This important learning equipment can often be a target for theft and vandalism, and needs to be monitored. By using access controlled school door locks for these areas, only authorized students or faculty will be able to gain entry. Remote security management with a cloud-based access control system offers additional protection by allowing teams to monitor spaces from anywhere, at any time. In addition, a modern school security system will keep a detailed entry log of all access activity, helping audit and adjust school security measures as needed. 

School security cameras and surveillance systems

As educational facilities invest more in school security products, school security cameras are high on the priority list. Security cameras enhance safety with visual surveillance, giving security teams the ability to see what’s happening throughout the property. By installing cameras at key school security checkpoints, administrators can monitor all access areas without having to be there.

When paired with an access control system, school security cameras add visual verification to the access activity log. For example, if the school security system logs that a teacher used their credentials to access the computer lab at a strange time, administrators can check the video footage to see if it really was that teacher, or if it was a student or other personnel fraudulently using the teacher’s credentials. Auditing is quicker, allowing administrators to determine the appropriate response to a security concern in less time. 

Best practices for emergency school safety solutions

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In school environments, preparedness is key for dealing with emergencies. Most educational facilities are equipped with alarms and drills for fire safety and natural disasters, which are essential to school security plans. However, in order to protect students and faculty, the best school safety technology not only alerts officials to current problems, but also helps mitigate risk during emergencies, and acts to prevent them altogether.

Creating a proactive emergency school safety plan is the first step. School lockdown procedures and safety plans should be in place to address internal and external threats including natural disasters, rioting, active shooter, and nearby police activity. Safety and school security measures should also be ready in case the building or campus has to scale back on the number of students allowed in the school after the emergency, or if operations need to be suspended temporarily. In addition to communicating which type of emergency is occurring, leveraging technology can help schools be more prepared for emergencies.

School lockdown plans and procedures

In the event you need to lock down your school campus, it’s crucial to be able to do it quickly and efficiently. A cloud-based security system with remote access enables administrators to trigger a lockdown plan from anywhere. Creating school lockdown procedures for different situations is a proactive safety solution, taking into account different buildings and structures that might need their own plans, such as a parking garage. You should also look for technology that includes a lockdown plan that automatically contacts emergency responders in the event of a lockdown, saving time when it matters most.

Remote activation is an important feature for school lockdown door locks, as it gives administrators better control over emergency situations while they are happening. Being able to trigger emergency school door locks, either to lockdown the building to prevent people from leaving, or to unlock specific doors to let people out or emergency responders in, improves overall safety for school campuses.

The award-winning Flexible Lockdown solution from Openpath is free for 501(c)3 organizations and educational facilities.

School security cameras for emergency response

Schools and universities should have top-of-the-line security cameras installed, and use a cloud-based video management system. Remote access to the video footage is crucial when empty schools may become a target for crime, and even improves response time during school hours. With remote access to real-time video footage, school security cameras can inform emergency personnel where they’re needed while en route to the building, so there’s less guesswork upon arrival. School security camera footage is also key to auditing processes, such as identifying the perpetrator after a break-in, or seeing who accessed a computer lab prior to a data breach.

Sensors for school shootings and break-ins

With new developments in safety technology, many school security solutions now include sensors that can detect gunshots or broken glass inside school buildings. When connected to the school’s access control and security camera systems, this is a powerful way to strengthen school lockdown procedures.

One of the worst security threats that can happen at a school is a shooting. By installing school shooting door stoppers on classrooms and faculty office doors, schools can increase safety in their buildings. While there are many options for classroom door lockdown devices, the best system is one that features an emergency deadbolt, quick activation from inside, as well as the ability to quickly unlock the door in order to evacuate.

An integrated school security system adds another layer of protection for students and staff in the event of a school shooting or other emergency. For example, when advanced door sensors detect a nearby gunshot or broken glass, the security system can automatically trigger the school door lockdown procedure, and send emergency alerts to administrators and first responders. Emergency personnel can use the school’s video surveillance to remotely monitor the situation, and pinpoint how and when it is safe to evacuate the premises.

COVID-19 school reopening safety & technology guide

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In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many districts enacted temporary school closures, with some programs turning to online learning or remote teaching. As a quick fix, these tactics were not designed to replace traditional learning altogether. Most schools and universities put together reopening strategies that included some continued distance learning, ramp-up procedures for returning students to campus, and mitigation plans in case of a COVID-19 infection within the facility. For university and K-12 school safety measures during COVID-19 to be both safe and effective, instructional and operational flexibility are essential.

Installing new technology to safely reopen schools can have lasting benefits and make schools more secure right now, and have a lasting impact for future students and staff. The following school safety products and solutions offer immediate impact for reopening schools during COVID-19, with future-proof flexibility.

Touchless entry and exit 

Touchless technology is quickly becoming the new standard for COVID-19 school safety. Upgrading to an access control system with touchless entry and exit capabilities ensures faculty and staff don’t have to touch communal readers, PIN pads or even door handles to enter the building or secured rooms. Openpath’s contactless access supports mobile credentials, and can also work alongside encrypted badges or keycards. This is a great solution for school campuses, where most teachers already carry a smartphone. To create a fully hands-free experience, integrate the access control with automatic door opener hardware.

Even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, touchless entry is more convenient for school faculty. Teachers can access their offices or lounges with a quick wave of their hand or an elbow to the reader, without having to take out their phone or fumble with an ID badge.

Remote access control in educational facilities

Safety at school is always important, but many educational buildings are still lagging behind in their access control systems. With the legacy systems common in schools and universities, the on-premises equipment requires in-person maintenance and management. Remote management on a cloud-based system offers clear advantages when reopening K-12 schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Administrators can manage access from anywhere, including remotely unlocking doors, changing door schedules, and checking activity logs in real-time. Plus, system maintenance and updates can be done in the cloud without a technician on-site.

Cloud-based occupancy tracking software

A cloud-based platform is the best access control system for schools, as it also gives administrators more flexibility in scheduling, credentialing, and visitor management. In accordance with social distancing guidelines to reopen during COVID-19, many schools have opted to limit capacity in classrooms and staff rooms with rotating class schedules. To eliminate administrative burden, a cloud-based access control solution allows admins to create user groups within the platform, giving access only to those who need it on their assigned days and times. The Openpath platform also features a unique occupancy management feature, with real-time activity dashboards to help pinpoint areas that are over capacity.

Building management systems for updating university and school safety systems

When making security system updates to help protect K-12 schools and college campuses, project management is key to quality control. With keeping track of each system upgrade, the necessary paperwork, as well as managing who can enter the facility, there’s a higher risk for oversight in building projects, which leads to budget overages and compromised quality. A building management system (BMS) like SiteOwl can consolidate and streamline your project and operations oversight by:

  • Centralizing project data

  • Standardizing operational procedures

  • Eliminating surprises

  • Improving quality control

A robust BMS is especially useful for college campuses with multiple buildings, sister schools or annex locations. The system keeps every project organized in a single interface, and can be managed from anywhere. The remote system allows for better collaboration, reducing errors due to miscommunication. Quality control photos help managers ensure everything is installed correctly without having to be on-premises.

As major installations are often done in phases, a BMS helps keep the project on track, minimizing downtime to make adjustments, and making it easy to pick up where the team left off when it’s time for the next phase. Plus, you’ll know who has access to your building at any given moment for enhanced security throughout the process.

Reimagining school safety in the digital age

Schools and universities present a unique challenge for security system integrators, as educational facilities need to be both flexible and secure, while adhering to government and local mandates. This is important when looking at a school security plan and choosing the right products. Updates to school security measures will probably be done in phases, focusing on the most-used spaces first where they will have the most impact on schools and campus safety.

Connecting security systems can create new opportunities to automate processes and tasks for a more efficient, sustainable school. When rethinking school safety technology and creating school safety plans, utilizing cloud-based management tools reduces administrative burden while creating a safer learning environment for everyone.

Additional resources

School solutions

Free security audit guide

Case study: UVA Research Institute

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