Retrofitting from Curb to Core

Retrofitting from Curb to Core

How to maximize your summer window

Summer break is almost here and teachers and students are counting the days until school is out. For many school administrators and facilities managers, however, summer isn’t breaktime. It’s time to take advantage of an empty campus and complete a flurry of maintenance activities, upgrades and repairs. If retrofitting or repairing access control systems is on your to-do list, taking advantage of this limited window of time is crucial because life safety and security systems must be in the best possible condition when students and staff return.

With thoughtful planning and strategy, the summer months can be productive and help you not only meet your goals for safety, but also energy efficiency, freedom of movement for students and staff, and more. Where should facilities professionals begin? These three tips can put your summer on the right track:

Start Before the Bell

Many factors affect decision-making about access control systems, from individual school size and population to district- and region-wide priorities. Completing site assessments before summer break begins will allow you to take these factors into account and see how the entire campus system works before the building is empty and upgrades are implemented. These assessments reveal systemic issues that may need to be addressed, such as choke points for foot traffic, the lock function of interior doors, and even the number of doors with exterior access. Completing site evaluations while school is in session will guide the decision-making process by illuminating problems that are only apparent when the facilities are in use.

Starting early also allows you and your facilities staff and administrators to effectively engage the various stakeholder groups involved in maintenance decisions. Meeting with school board members, parent groups and potential vendors before the school year ends ensures you have buy-in from all the necessary decision makers so that once the final bell rings, upgrades can get underway without delay.

Work From the Outside In

Despite being the first line of defense for any campus, the perimeter is too often neglected. Yet there are basic improvements to crucial perimeter infrastructure that dramatically improve a school or campus’ overall security. Examine pedestrian access points as well as those for vehicular traffic, and find places to streamline movement while keeping students, parents and staff secure. For example, if perimeter infrastructure around playgrounds or walkways isn’t robust, consider adding heavyduty gate locks with a holding force up to 2,000 pounds. For non-mechanical solutions, gates and fences can also be retrofitted with electromagnetic locks and electric strikes.

A common concern with outdoor systems is how to power them. There are now numerous ways to supply power reliably outdoors and meet the needs of varying campus layouts. Solar panels and batteryoperated sources are options, as well as traditional wired configurations. Solar and battery solutions can also help you meet energy efficiency goals as well as provide power for your perimeter infrastructure.

Most importantly, any outdoor solutions should be weatherproofed so they can withstand the elements. Locks, strikes and power sources must be able to resist wind, moisture and temperature changes to ensure your perimeter remains reliably secure.

Find the Right Balance

In any school, there must be a balance between safety and security on the one hand and fostering a comfortable learning environment on the other. This is why a holistic, system-wide perspective is required before implementing any upgrades or retrofits. For example, consider the need to implement a lockdown. There are two basic ways you can initiate that process: centralized or local. With centralized decision systems, an operator can lock all doors instantly with just one push of a button. In decentralized or local-area systems, individual lockdown decisions are made by staff based on the situation. Often a hybrid system of the two is desirable. Centralized capabilities can lock all perimeter access, for example, while decentralized interior locks allow teachers and staff to lock classroom doors when necessary without impacting other parts of the campus.

One of the most important benefits of these systems is removing the impetus for using secondary locking devices that wedge or barricade a door in an emergency. These devices may seem like viable safety solutions but in fact make openings less safe by preventing first-responder access, and often do so in violation of fire codes.

And it’s not only locks—taking a holistic view of all opening infrastructure means examining the doors as well. Bullet- and attack-resistant glass are increasingly available for doors, including as part of costconscious retrofit kits that can upgrade any and all components of the opening, from the frame to the hardware. These solutions can increase security without distracting from the learning environment—incorporating colored pulls, levers and trim can enhance safety without drawing students’ attention to the door security hardware.

When choosing retrofit options it’s also critical to consider ADA compliance and fire safety codes—for example, ensuring the removal of secondary locking devices and using the right exit devices for safe egress paths. Essentially, there are solutions for any type of system and campus layout, and addressing access control as an ecosystem will help you implement comprehensive solutions in the limited summer break window, thereby maximizing the ideal time for these repairs and retrofits.

Summer always goes by too quickly, so to make the most of the time, facilities managers and administrators must be strategic in how they approach these next few months. Conduct site assessments while school is still in session and identify roadblocks that need to be overcome. Look at access control from the curb of the property to the core of the building—as one holistic system. And, be sure to balance the need for security with the goal of creating a distraction-free environment where students and staff can focus on learning. Doing so will ensure occupants return in the new school year to the safe, secure environment that both students and staff deserve.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Campus Security Today.


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