School building access control is at a pivotal point. It is becoming imperative that school buildings are more secure due to the increase in violent activities occurring on campuses.
The Final Report of the Federal Commission on School Safety recognized the issue of school violence as a top concern requiring further work to guide school districts in ensuring such incidents do not occur. It noted specific areas for increasing security, with most of them focusing on stopping unauthorized access to the school buildings.
Luckily, many tools and resources are available to help school systems bulk up their ability to protect students and staff on campus by restricting entry into buildings. Three of the most common options include:
- Security access systems
- Visitor management systems
The most secure buildings use a combination of security methods, which may require choosing more than one of these access options to create a layer of protection for the school.
Security Access Systems
Security access systems help to regulate who has access to the building. These systems use technology-based door-locking systems that allow doors to remain locked unless someone who has authorization provides the proper credentials to unlock them.
This type of system will provide building-wide protection that requires one common operating system. They also allow customization based on the specific needs of the building, which the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency explains is the best feature of a school access security system.
The custom option within a security access system is how the locks work. Each electronic lock can use a variety of options for access, including:
- Providing biometric readings, such as fingerprints or eye scans
- Typing in school keyword access codes
- Swiping keycards
Installing this type of system may require upgrading all locks within a building, but overall, the installation is generally wireless and fairly simple.
It is also worth considering locks for every classroom and not just exterior doors. In addition, for the system to work properly and provide the best possible security, every person, including students, need to be able to work the system to enter the building. There also needs to be a way to remotely unlock all doors to avoid fire code violations.
Advantages of Security Access Systems
These systems offer benefits over other options that allow a high level of security. These advantages include:
- Quickly turn access on/off for employees
- Instant notification of breaches
- Provides a single method to gain access
- Allows customizing authorization at each door for each person
- Easily integrated into existing systems
- Dynamic mapping options to show the status of all doors
- Unauthorized access lockdown options
- Ability to cancel authorization on specific individuals
- Easily provide new criteria for visitors or new staff or students
Visitor Management Systems
A visitor management system involves providing proper identification of students and staff to identify individuals who are not supposed to be on campus. The most common implementation of this system is to provide photo identification badges to students and staff. Many school districts already use these keycards as part of their school building access control system.
Schools can use these IDs in a variety of ways, including:
- Identify those accessing school facilities instantly
- Track student attendance more easily
- Verify access to areas within the school
It is important to note that school keycard access is not a standalone security system. Districts should use them in coordination with other security features, such as a security access system.
Advantages of Visitor Management Systems
Visitor management systems are fairly popular and for good reason. They offer the following benefits:
- Improves school access control
- Makes it easy to identify students and staff
- Doubles as an electronic access card
- Allows control of school resources
- Streamlines attendance management
- Provides an easier way to track missing students
Security kiosks focus on keeping schools safe from people who are not staff or students entering the premise. The basic school ID system can help make it easier to identify visitors, but they do nothing to stop these people from entering a building. A kiosk provides this additional layer of protection.
Acting as a check-in station, the kiosk creates a stopping point where visitors must go through a screening to enter the building. If there is a problem, alerts can go out right away that triggers a lockdown. A district may implement a security vestibule or kiosk in a few ways.
A digital kiosk in the main office shuttles visitors to one location where they must check-in. The digital system allows for cross-checking lists of those who may not be allowed on school grounds either due to a ban or block by the district, being an unauthorized individual, or showing up on the sex offender registry. These systems also can ensure student releases are more secure. They can maintain a database of the approved guardians or other people who can pick up each student.
A separate security check-in is a station outside of the office, which may even be outside the school’s front doors, staffed with a security officer. Typically, the school resource officer, which Community Oriented Policing Services explains is a cop with specific training for securing a school environment, will manage this station. A benefit to this type of system is it keeps people outside the school until the officer can verify their credentials. The officer can also handle issues before they impact the school.
Another fairly popular option is turnstiles. An officer may monitor and watch over them to be sure nobody tries to jump over them without providing credentials. They are simple structures that are the old-fashioned way of monitoring access. They can use ID cards to unlock them and allow entrance, so those without an ID would have to see the officer for access.
Advantages of Security Kiosks
Kiosks address many needs when it comes to school security. The main hazard in many cases is someone entering the building who does not have authorization, which is exactly what a kiosk addresses. Some additional benefits include:
- Tracks every person entering and exiting the building
- Integrates with existing systems fairly easily
- Implements the tools schools may already have in place
- Streamlines traffic into the school
Choosing the Right Security Access System
When a school is interested in installing a security access system of any type, it is essential to find one that fits the needs of the district’s buildings. Some considerations include:
- Integration with current systems
- Ease of use
- Cost justification
- Features, such as remote access control, tracking capabilities, and use of digital storage
A district should take a good inventory of existing security measures to figure out where they have weaknesses and what type of system would best address them. It is also wise to do a full cost analysis to ensure the district has the funds available to implement the chosen system.
The Bottom Line on School Building Access Control
These options in school building access control provide districts with many choices in how to best secure their campuses. This is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and it requires figuring out what works best for each situation.
Alarm Detection Systems (ADS) is in the business of ensuring security is effective for buildings. When a district works with ADS, we can go over options, make suggestions, and provide assistance with setting up the security system that will be the most effective. We pride ourselves on offering an all-encompassing service that includes deterring those who wish to cause problems, maintaining a system to detect issues, and providing documentation that can help improve security in the future. Contact us today to learn more about how ADS can work with you to secure your school.
About Alarm Detection Systems, Inc.
Alarm Detection Systems is one of the largest alarm firms in the country. Family-owned since 1968, we provide business alarms, fire alarms, card access, security cameras, and home security systems. Proudly servicing Chicagoland, Northern Illinois, Northwest Indiana, and Southern Wisconsin in the Midwest. Call us at 630.844.6300 for more information.