From Traditional Hardware to Access Control and Beyond

There has been an increase in the types of available access control solutions. There has also, unfortunately, been an increase in the number of school shootings. Therefore, more campuses are turning to new and improved safeguards.

Safety should be a top priority for everyone, everywhere, and it is especially important within educational institutions. From whom can enter campus buildings to when and how, there is much to consider.

The increase in school violence has led to the doubling down of plans and products put in place to protect students and staff. Already this year, there have been 29 school shootings that resulted in injuries or deaths.

So, what can campuses do to enhance overall security?

The Rise of Access Control
Currently, one of the top security trends is access control, which involves an overall system to secure a location. It manages access, based on specific credentials that may include key cards, PINs or biometric data like fingerprints.

When combined with traditional security measures—such as mechanical locks and security guards—access control options take overall safety to the next level.

Specific Security Measures to Implement
Many campuses have added access control in recent years. Most commonly, students and staff members have ID cards that allow them access into buildings with the use of badge readers. There are usually cameras, as well, to monitor who is coming and going.

Another modern-day solution is an alarm system and/or a notification system. For instance, if a door is opened when it should not be or by someone without proper credentials, a sound can alert the proper authorities. In the event of a disaster, a message may be sent to all involved parties (ranging from teachers and students to parents), keeping them informed on what is happening.

Conventional door locks remain an important part of the plan, and they can be upgraded. There are exterior options on timers that allow entry/exit at certain times of the day. There are those made specifically for classroom doors and that can be locked from inside. Campus leaders must look at where there are vulnerabilities and then add in the best next levels of protection.

All campus security plans must also consider visibility (ranging from cameras at front doors to windows in classroom doors), perimeters (which need to be clearly defined and completely protected), and communication (since that is the key to any successful plan).

Campus Security Challenges
While many are aware of the possibilities that exist to increase safety, there are, of course, challenges, including:

Compliance. Educational institutions must adhere to local, state, and federal guidelines and policies.

Campus size. For many, this means managing security across multiple buildings.

Accessibility. Safety features put in place must work for all types of users.

Simplicity. Along the same lines, unnecessary complexities need to be avoided. The who, what, when, where, and why and how of staying safe needs to be crystal clear.

Expenses. There will be costs associated with extra security (but it will be worth it).

While each campus will have its own goal, budget, and strategy, the overall reasoning is the same: Do whatever can be done to protect students and staff.

An Increase in Campus Security
Campus administrators are taking more and more steps to enhance security, especially as of late. During and after the COVID pandemic, faults came to light, as everyone was adjusting to a new normal. This included a review of and repair of safety precautions and access control systems.

As time goes on, convenience is more expected, as well. With the touch of a button, students can shop, learn, eat, watch and play … and they expect this flexibility when it comes to, say, entering their dorm rooms, too.

Of course, many schools have added security features since last year’s shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. New legislation was even passed, requiring schools to incorporate measures such as active-shooter protocols, silent panic alert buttons, armed officers, safety upgrades and mental health support.

Steps in the right direction are happening, but there is still a long way to go. The 2022 Campus Safety Access Control and Lockdown Survey found that 40% of K-12 campuses conduct monthly or quarterly security assessments. For higher education campuses, that number was only 25%, while 27% said they do not know if they do or not, and 11% said they never do.

The Bottom Line
Yes, it can be hard (and expensive) to look at these overall weaknesses, and the final plan will require new training, new formalities and new procedures. There is not one right answer, nor is there a one-size-fits all solution. But think about adaptability. Think about efficiency. Consider how these new technologies can decrease violence, maintain regular monitoring, and boost preparedness. And remember that all of this and more is doing one of the most important things out there: protecting our future leaders and those who teach them.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2023 issue of Campus Security Today.

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