Access Control Trends

With a heightened focus on school safety, K-12 administrators are assessing innovative technologies and security-driven applications. Primarily, schools should make sure they have their basics covered, which include operating doors and locks, visitor management procedures, and a secured perimeter.

The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) Guidelines are a great resource for school officials, community stakeholders and solutions providers for school security and safety best practices. PASS recommends that schools begin with a self-assessment to evaluate their campus situation. From there, schools, integrators and solution providers can work together to find the best technologies and solutions to layer into the existing campus safety and security framework.

Technology advancements have created new ways to secure our schools. Once the fundamentals are in place, there is an opportunity to implement technology to further enhance security. Electronic access control, video and audio surveillance, object detection and classification, and license plate recognition are a few of the technologies that campuses are adopting today. Other technologies having an impact include loitering detection, analytics and vaping detection. Paul Timm, director of education safety for Allegion, and James Marcella, director of industry associations for Axis Communications, dive into some of these technologies in more detail on a recent episode of The Changing Face of School Security podcast.

For integrators helping schools evaluate innovative technologies, here are a few key areas to consider.

Strengthen Visitor Management
K-12 schools are adopting secured entry vestibules as part of their technology roadmap. This area allows administrators to better control over who enters a building, providing another layer of security. The area is typically outfitted with fire-rated glazing supports, intercom communication tools, video and surveillance monitoring and other technologies.

PASS outlines entry vestibules as a Tier One measure, a baseline layer of security that all schools should work towards. The PASS Secure Visitor Entry Center White Paper has more information about establishing a secure visitor entry center as part of a multilayered approach to school safety and security.

Embrace Electronic Access Control
Higher education campuses have embraced electronic access control technology and we are starting to see K-12 facilities follow suite due to its security offerings. Electronic access control provides increased security at both the perimeter and in the classrooms. In centralized lockdown systems, the perimeter and interior locks are connected to an access control system.

This provides the ability to remotely or centrally lockdown the school in case of an emergency. This alleviates teachers from having to lock down individual rooms, provides instant notifications to administration, and is equipped with real-time monitoring. School staff can easily identify any doors that are propped open, not latched, or not locked, which is critical in a lockdown scenario.

Balancing mechanical solutions with electronic can increase security while be sensitive to costs. In this case, we recommend starting with the perimeter and pairing it with robust visitor management procedures. It is helpful to focus on the doors that are often propped open to manage credentials so those with the right level of access can seamlessly enter and exit, reducing the probability of the door being propped open.

Electronic solutions provide costs savings as well. In comparison to traditional brass keys, access cards are cost-effective and increase security, as they can be easily removed from the access control system if lost or stolen.

Operational Planning and Compliance
It is important to integrate modern technology into operational planning and practice drills. Without the procedural aspect, technologies will not be used to their full benefit. While it is up to the school to implement the technology, security stakeholders can help by providing best practices and encouraging operational planning.

When implementing emerging technology like video and audio surveillance, and object detection, it is important to ensure it complies with local and federal privacy legislation. Integrators should collaborate closely with vendors, school and facility administration and other key stakeholders. By combining people, processes, and technology, schools can deter, detect, or delay, and respond to adversarial behavior. The security industry plays a key role in keeping students and administrators safe. As technology advances, integrators and security providers must continue to educate school administrators, facility leaders and the public, with people and processes top of mind.

This article originally appeared in the March / April 2024 issue of Campus Security Today.

About the Author

Ken Cook, BSME, MBA, CPD, is director of National School Safety and Advocacy at Allegion.


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