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Access control for schools: the ‘5Ps’ to consider

Access control for schools: the ‘5Ps’ to consider
While each school might be better suited to a particular security system, there is a set of '5P’s' that is universally applicable when it comes to security: Planning, Process, Protocol, Practice, and Prevention.
Modern access control systems are a crucial component of a comprehensive strategy for school, college, and university security – especially for life-threatening situations that call for emergency lockdown. Ask yourself these important questions when considering an access solution for education.
In the wake of an unforeseen security crisis, many educational facilities and institutions around the world are reexamining lockdown procedures and are conducting a thorough review of the capabilities of their school’s access control systems. And for good reason: investigations into recent tragedies have found that miscommunication, a lack of clear responsibilities and procedures, and insufficient building access for first responders were serious problems during these horrific events.
School safety experts have been warned about the vulnerability of ineffective crisis management for decades. In recent years, billions of dollars have been spent on modernizing school infrastructure and building security, yet, today, an estimated one in four public schools in the United States lacks classroom doors that can be locked from the inside.
Security measures in universities, colleges, and K-12 schools need to be robust and effective, yet unobtrusive. This can be a challenge for schools which have to be prepared for a variety of threats. Parents need to trust educational institutions to look after their children, so it is vital that they provide effective 24/7 security to ensure both students and staff are safe and protected at all times.
If your school district or organization is evaluating security, you should consider the following key questions when developing comprehensive lockdown procedures for any school or district.

What are the best practices for schools instituting or upgrading their lockdown capabilities?

Because the size and characteristics of schools and districts vary widely across the country, a universal school safety plan or lockdown procedure does not exist. While each school might be better suited to a particular security system, require different hardware, or have specific vendor commitments, there is a set of “5P’s” that is universally applicable when it comes to security: Planning, Process, Protocol, Practice, and Prevention.

What are your procedures for conducting a school lockdown?

It sounds simple, but it’s vital to review your security procedures and protocols and develop a thorough understanding of every step. School administrators often want to focus on the capabilities of their access control systems and other security technologies first. But the first step should be planning and defining the process. Then, you should establish specific lockdown protocols–identifying exactly what happens (and doesn’t happen) during a live lockdown scenario. Access control systems are very important, but they are one component of an overall lockdown strategy.

Who has the responsibility for instituting a lockdown and giving the all-clear?

Another crucial step is to identify not only who has lockdown responsibility and capabilities, but who is responsible for giving the “all clear” when the situation has been resolved. In addition, think about accountability: How do you measure the effectiveness of drills? This brings us to another of the 5P principles – practice. Did everyone do what they were supposed to do and at the right time? How do you know? Some access control systems give you auditing capabilities so you can objectively answer these questions.

How will first responders access your buildings?

If all the doors to your building are locked in an emergency, how will first responders get into the school? This question is too often overlooked. Do your local first responders have physical keys to your schools? Modern access control systems offer the advanced capability of delivering mobile credentials that grant first responders immediate access for a specific amount of time, such as during a lockdown.

What are the capabilities of your access control systems?

It is also very important to understand what your access control systems are capable of as well as what they are not capable of. Can one person lock down the exterior and interior doors of an entire school from one location? Can they do so from their mobile device, or do they have to be in an office or a certain room? Will your access control system function even if your network is down, or if the school has lost electrical power? Try to envision as many scenarios as possible.

Do you also focus on Prevention?

Finally, the last of the 5P’s is prevention. As part of that, your access control system should restrict – or prevent – entry to school property by any unauthorized users.
Education facilities have many areas to protect: building entrances, classrooms, lecture rooms, libraries, laboratories, staff rooms, sports centers, etc. An entire campus – or campuses – can be protected by smart access control that allows access to specific rooms or specific areas for selected periods only, with doors auto-locking at prespecified times, as necessary. This system can be used to supply credentialed access to faculty, staff, and even students. If required, an education solution can also incorporate special features such as an Amok smart door-locking function that enables classrooms and facilities to be quickly locked down during a security or other emergency event.
SALTO access control can provide educational institutions with a secure and flexible solution that meets all of these requirements and more.
Contact us if you have any questions on the SALTO product range or visit our education website for information on all things SALTO. We look forward to helping you!

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