11 Components of a Secure School Front Entrance

Fences, access control, visitor management, panic alarms and video intercoms are just a few of the solutions that can help prevent unwanted guests from accessing your campus.

6) Minimal glass

CPTED Elements: Natural Access Control and Territoriality

Large windows and vision panels, while visually attractive, are easily defeated. Minimizing glass presents a more secure image and makes forced entry more difficult.  General guidelines for the use of glass in main entrances include:

a)      Full windows should be a minimum of 72 inches off the ground.

b)      Windows/vision panels below 72 inches should be a maximum of 12 inches wide.

c)       Install security window film to reinforce glass on main entrances.

7) Electronic access control

CPTED Elements: Natural Access Control and Territoriality

In its simplest form, an electronic access control system consists of an electronic door lock and some form of electronic verification device. The verification device can be an entry pad, card reader, biometric scanner or even a video camera. Once a pre-defined criterion is met (i.e., a code is entered or a secretary looks at the screen and recognizes the person), the verification device communicates with the electronic do
or lock to allow entry.

The use of electronic access control will allow desired users, such as staff with proper access rights, to utilize the entrance without authorization from the main office. It is critical to coordinate with local public safety to ensure they have proper access rights and capabilities.

8) Video intercoms for visitor screening

CPTED Elements: Natural Access Control and Territoriality

A video intercom system allows staff to see and talk with visitors before admitting them into the secured school. By determining a visitor’s identity before unlocking the door, staff can avoid face-to-face confrontations with a possibly dangerous individual.

Staff responsible for preliminary security screening requires the backing of leadership. They need to know they are expected to ask questions and have the obligation to delay or even deny access to the visitor if they are not 100% certain the person does not pose a risk.

9) Door hardware

CPTED Elements: Natural Access Control and Territoriality

The center mullion is a vertical element between double doors. A sturdy center mullion is vital to the integrity of locked door. Door handles and push bars should be flush with the door to prevent them from being tied together to delay law enforcement or prevent emergency egress.

10) Panic button in office

Although panic buttons are reactionary and not an element of CPTED, they make it easier for school staff to notify law enforcement than call 9-1-1. This also allows for more communication efforts to be directed towards safeguarding students.

If your school is totally dependent on front office staff to provide notification of an intruder situation, consider expanding the panic button system to a full intruder alarm that broadcasts a unique warning to the entire school. 

In most cases, panic buttons communicate with 9-1-1 or an alarm company, while an intruder alarm communicates with 9-1-1 or an alarm company AND the school. 

11) Situational awareness

CPTED Elements:  Natural Surveillance

Not all elements of security rely on CPTED or hardware. Situational awareness is the ability to identify, process and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening around you. This generally provides greater opportunities to prevent or at least mitigate the threat. This hypothetical example illustrates the value of situational awareness.

A person is going to a school to carry out an attack. You cannot change that he is coming, but you can determine when you observe his intent. When would you want to make this observation? At the parking lot, or at the front door? The front door, or the hallway?  The hallway or classroom?

The sooner you are aware of the danger, the more time and options you have to respond.

Situational awareness is an attitude, not a hard skill. It is something we all have some of the time and something none of us have all of the time. Jeff Cooper pioneered the concept of levels of awareness. Cooper was a marine and innovator of tactical training. He developed a color code system to illustrate levels of alertness. This system is called “Cooper’s Color Codes,” and it has been used to train military and law enforcement for decades.

When learning to implement the color codes, try to avoid Code White. When you must decompress and relax, do so when you are not responsible for the safety of others. Try to make condition Code Yellow a habit. Throughout your day, look for signs of danger and switch to Orange as necessary. Switch back to Code Yellow if no threat exists. Repeat this exercise, and situational awareness will become habit.

Publicize Your Efforts

As security enhancements are implemented, do not be afraid to get the word out. Sharing general aspects of security upgrades can increase stakeholders’ confidence in safety while possibly discouraging potential attacks. Do not be afraid to let others know efforts are being made to make your campus even safer.

Related Content:

Brad Spicer developed the Emergency Response Information Portal (ERIP™), a cloud-based emergency preparedness application and founded SafePlans. SafePlans is a national firm with clients in over 25 states, including fortune 500 companies and two of the five largest schools systems in the U.S.  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has designated the ERIP application as a Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology.  

Security Awareness For Educators (SAFE) is an element of SafePlans’ Intruderology™ program; which is the study of violent intruders and the process of protecting people from them. For more information, visit www.safeplans.com or contact Spicer at info@safeplans.com.

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