Today, having a plan for school security is of the utmost importance, whether at a neighborhood elementary school or a sprawling college campus.
We've touched on school security before, discussing how Visitor Management helps make schools safer by keeping certain threats outside.
However, there's another way to increase safety in schools, keeping threats out and monitoring potential threats inside: installing an access control system.
How does access control lead to a safer school?
Before we get into how an access control system can help make your school safer, it's important to understand what we mean when we say "access control" system.
At its most basic level, an access control system is an electronic system that limits access to a certain place. Access control systems can be used to limit access to buildings, rooms, storage closets and even server racks.
These systems grant or deny access based on the interaction between an access credential and a reader, be it a dedicated card reader or a wireless lock system.
So basically, an access control system is a security system that allows you to electronically monitor a variety of aspects of your site, including door locks and surveillance camera feeds.
All of these elements combine to make an access control system a great way to increase school safety for the following reasons:
1. Access control systems allow you to monitor your entire building or campus from a central location.
Think of the average school. It probably has a half-dozen entrances (at least), even if only one or two are used on a regular basis.
And inside that school, there can be dozens of classrooms, offices, storage rooms, laboratories and more, all of which need to be locked to limit access.
Managing such a system with physical keys is possible, but impractical: you'd either have 100 keys to keep track of or would have to use a master key for a variety of different rooms, which is an obvious security risk.
Aside from key management, how are you going to keep an eye on all of those doors? By hiring a hundred security guards?
Enter the access control system. A good access control system allows you to secure and monitor your entire school from a central location, whether it's a two-story suburban school or a sprawling college campus spread across acres of urban land.
From this central location, you can:
- View and respond to door alarms
- View integrated surveillance video
- Lock down your facility
- Receive alerts when a certain door is opened
- Get notified if a door is propped open or is left open for longer than normal
2. Lock a door or lock down your entire building with the click of a button.
In the event of an emergency, schools will usually react in one of two ways: they'll either evacuate the building or they'll encourage faculty and students to shelter in place, remaining in their classrooms or offices until the emergency has ended.
In the event of a shelter in place order, staff members are often forced to scramble to lock the doors to their rooms while still keeping an eye on their students. If a room isn't occupied at the time of the order, no one will be there to lock it, leaving it open and complicating search efforts (in the event of an intruder).
Access control systems offer a better way: you can lock down individual doors or your entire facility with the click of a button.
Think about how powerful that is: at the first sign of a threat, you can, in just seconds, be sure that no one will be able to gain access to classrooms, offices or other rooms where your students and staff are sheltering.
3. Access control systems allow you to switch from physical keys to access cards.
Physical keys have been doing a great job of securing buildings or rooms for centuries, keeping unauthorized personnel out.
However, in a place as large as a school, physical keys are just plain impractical: they're hard to carry around, hard to track and easy to duplicate.
Limiting your school security system to physical locks and keys is taking a huge risk in terms of security.
Access control systems offer a better way through the use of access credentials, specifically smart cards or proximity cards. These cards go above and beyond standard keys in a number of ways:
- Access cards can be combined with your ID card program, giving teachers and students a multifunctional credential.
- Access cards can't be duplicated by going to a hardware store. They require expensive equipment to print and program, making duplication highly unlikely.
- An access control system can identify whose card was scanned to open a door, increasing security and providing a digital trail of evidence in case of an incident.
- If a teacher leaves your school without turning in his or her physical key, you have to worry about it falling into the wrong hands. With an access card, you can simply deactivate that card in your system.
4. Detailed reports allow you to know the "who, what, when" of your system.
Using access cards and an access control system allow you to collect a ton of data on how your system is being used.
Imagine using a physical key: if someone uses the key to open a supply closet and walks out with a bunch of camera gear, would you have any idea who did it?
Unless there were cameras or witnesses in the area, you'd be clueless.
With an access control system, there'd be no physical keys, just access cards. This would allow you to go into the system, check the reader's records and determine that one of your new janitors had been the last person to access the door prior to the equipment being taken.
Access control systems are able to run a variety of reports on card use, including the last time a card was used, where a card was used, which card was used to open a certain door and more.
5. Access control systems integrate with video for additional security.
Video surveillance remains an excellent way to keep an eye on your site. It helps you see what's going on and gives you tangible evidence in case of any incidents.
Access control systems are able to integrate with leading video surveillance providers, combining to create an even more powerful security solution.
By integrating with surveillance video, some school access control systems are able to:
- View live video from across your site
- View video associated with events, like doors being unlocked
- View video on the go with a convenient mobile app
All of the features mentioned above are available in PremiSys, our comprehensive access control software. PremiSys is perfect for school security systems, and it's compatible with Schlage® wireless locks for an easy, affordable solution.