Top 5 Proactive Access Control Security Measures for Schools

When combined, different access control security technologies can provide a holistic approach to safety and help prevent incidents on campuses.
Published: September 2, 2022

To bolster safety in schools, adding these five security technology tools will allow administrators to take a more proactive approach to prevent unauthorized access and mitigate incidents on campus.

1. Access Control

A school access control system can increase safety by allowing only authorized individuals in and preventing unwanted access to the facilities. An advanced system makes it easier to set door schedules for entry and exit at the beginning of the day and when students leave the campus. Outside of these hours, doors can be programmed to remain locked. If students or school staff need access to the campus outside of the set hours, remote unlocking capabilities in cloud-based access control systems allow an administrator to grant entry without being onsite. An access control system also ensures that access to high-security areas like staff offices and onsite religious institutions are only granted to authorized individuals.

It’s also important to consider temporary access for visitors, contractors, and guests. An access control system and visitor management software let administrators create customized check-in procedures and log the type of visit. This allows administrators to publish detailed reports and analyze access patterns. With this information easily accessible, the campus can also collaborate with law enforcement to ensure the security procedures set in place leave nothing to fall through the cracks.

2. Video Surveillance

Having school cameras in classrooms, hallways, gyms, cafeterias, sports fields, parking lots, and at every entry point can significantly enhance campus security. Features that maximize video security are high-definition cameras with the capability to pan, tilt, and zoom (PTZ). A high-definition camera can better provide visual identification, and a wide viewing angle can capture a broader view. For outdoor cameras, features like license plate recognition (LPR) and the capability to deliver clear videos at long distances can provide law enforcement with detailed footage of an activity. Some systems give administrators the ability to send live feeds to law enforcement, and on-demand video playback and motion detection help identify suspicious activities or people. To take video security to the next level, choose smart cameras that can identify people on watch lists and notify the security team if their presence is detected.

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Although video alone provides visuals of movements that take place on school grounds, combining video with access control can significantly strengthen security by providing visual verification with every door access event. For example, a system that combines these two technologies can instantly send notifications to operators the moment individuals request access, with clear visuals to confirm authorization. The unification of video and access control also streamlines procedures and gives operators the ability to easily manage two functionalities in one control center, enabling administrators to act quickly when irregular activities are detected. Some advanced systems also offer mobile capabilities, with videos of access events delivered to mobile devices. This allows verification and access to be managed remotely for added convenience.

3. Automatic Door Locks

Authorities with experience handling violent incidents in schools confirmed that some events happened due to a failure of a door lock system. Having a security system with lockdown plans that automatically activates campus door lock systems can reduce the time it takes for school staff to manually lock doors and launch the proper protocols. A system that offers mobile capabilities is highly recommended, as it allows lockdown plans to be launched instantly from mobile devices. It enables users to act quickly using a device that is accessible at almost any time, a remarkably useful tool in cases where a few seconds could make a world of a difference.

4. Threatening Noise Detection

A noise detection security system is designed to send alerts to law enforcement when acoustic sensors are triggered by sounds classified as threatening by the system. Once alerts are received and confirmed, first responders or law enforcement are immediately dispatched to the location. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the average duration of a violent incident in schools is 12.5 minutes, and the average response time for law enforcement is 18 minutes. As alerts are prioritized over 911 calls, this system can make a significant difference in shortening the response time of law enforcement and mitigating incidents. When choosing a noise detection system, look for one that can provide notifications with a precise location and detect outdoor threats.

5. Mass Notifications

With the rise of violent school incidents, laws have been passed in some states that require campuses to install emergency alert systems. Designed to provide the fastest response from law enforcement during emergencies, the systems commonly come in the form of wall-mounted buttons, and mobile app versions have been increasingly adopted for their convenience. Similar to a threatening noise detection system, this method of mass notification sends alerts instantly and helps law enforcement respond quickly and effectively when immediate response is paramount. Other than informing law enforcement, the system can also notify parents and members of the community and prepare them to take the appropriate actions in times of emergencies.

Security Systems Must Work Together

Strengthening security at schools starts with implementing the right technology and systems. Preventive technology like access control helps prevent unauthorized individuals from getting on campus, and video security can alert teams to suspicious activity by providing clear visuals of events. Other technology, like noise detection, automatic locks, and mass notification systems help first responders get to the scene quickly and efficiently triage incidents.

It is important for these technologies to work seamlessly as a unified system, so no time is wasted on technical errors when circumstances call for a quick response. Interoperable platforms, therefore, are crucial to school security systems.

Director of Operations at New Heights Charter School of Brockton, Timothy Chin rated user-friendliness, the capability to work with other systems, and reliability as the top features he looks for in a security system.

“We are planning to invest in better security systems overall, including building alarms and security cameras that will properly interface with our current access systems,” he said.

A security system with an open architecture ensures that different systems and platforms can be seamlessly integrated. In addition, cloud-based technology with remotely accessible data and controls offers cost-effective flexibility that can optimize security procedures for campuses.

Security in today’s educational facilities is a 24/7 operation. Investing in unified systems and the right technology empowers administrators to further increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their security operations, enhancing safety for students and faculty when it matters most.

Andi Krebs is the lead copywriter for Openpath Security, a leading provider of mobile and cloud-based access control solutions for business and commercial spaces.

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Strategy & Planning Series