Philosophically, we want students to feel comfortable and at home in their classroom. A large percentage of their week is spent in this environment.
Whatever we develop to secure them should not violate this and negatively impact their learning environment. We must respect the sanctity of the classroom and the mission performed within it with conscientious design, proper use and upkeep of facilities.
Security should support, not deter.
CPTED, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, is a strategy that uses architectural design, landscape planning, physical security, and visual surveillance to create a potentially crime free environment by influencing human behavior.
- CPTED strategies rely upon the ability to influence offender decisions that precede criminal acts. It requires application of psychology as well as sound security design.
- CPTED includes common sense approaches of ensuring adequate lighting, eliminating hiding places, etc. that can improve security, reduce vulnerability, and help deter criminal activity.
To utilize CPTED effectively, we must recognize everyone’s needs and goals. Schools should include security consultants and designers, administrators, educators, law enforcement, and students as they identify and develop necessary strategies.
Let’s take a look at the Key Principles:
- Natural Surveillance: Using physical features to preclude blind spots or hiding spots to enhance visibility and keep intruders easily observable.
- Territorial Reinforcement: Using physical barriers to express ownership over an area and to distinguish public and private areas.
- Natural Access Control: Strategic placement of points of entry/egress, fencing, landscaping and lighting to create a perception of risk to potential intruders.
- Target Hardening: Use of features that prohibit entry or accessibility.
- Deterrence: Prevent unwanted visitors from gaining access to school grounds or buildings and avert the impact of threats that could result in potential harm to students, staff and property.
- Detection: Provide ability to quickly locate, identify and contain the movement of an unwanted party who has gained unauthorized entry to school grounds or buildings.
- Delay: Impede, isolate and forestall the movement of an unwanted party who has gained unauthorized entry to the school grounds or building
- Response: Ensure that coordinated, interactive and reliable protocols and communication system are in place to facilitate an immediate and effective response from public safety and medical agencies
Main entrances, auxiliary entrances, emergency exits, service doors, etc.
The castle and moat analogy holds true today. Controlling access into schools is accomplished through electric entry into schools during periods when the doors are not manned. This should be accomplished in a code-compliant manner, so the right elements must be chosen.
Remember, these same doors must provide free egress at all times, including during an emergency. Here are a few simple rules for securing entrances while allowing controlled entry:
- Use exit devices to provide single motion exiting. Rim devices are typically used on single doors and vertical rod devices on pairs of doors.
- Choose one door in the array for electric release. Electrified door handles or latch retraction exit devices can be used universally.
- Install an intercom system between the door and school office. If your entrance design includes a vestibule, it is best to secure both the outer and inner entrance doors, so that you have two chances to thwart entry by an undesirable person.
Emergency exit doors should not be blocked. Regrettably, most schools have been designed with emergency exits that face streets as opposed to enclosed courtyards. As a result, these doors are very problematic in the security scheme. Students have easy access to them, and, frequently, we find them propped open. These doors should be equipped with audible alarms and signage. Where possible, the doors should be connected to a panel in the office indicating whether they are open or closed.
While securing the perimeter is important, the reality is preventing entry to school grounds is very difficult. Our schools are not military bases and are not patrolled in such a manner. Therefore, our major concern is the student population and where they reside during the day: their classrooms.
A large percentage of their week is spent in this environment. Whatever we develop to secure them should not violate this and negatively impact their learning environment. We must respect the sanctity of the classroom and the mission performed within it. Again- Security should support, not deter.
A quick refresher: The classroom lock function was originally designed to provide a way for teachers to lock the door to prevent students from freely entering while class was in session. Teachers would open the door, use their key to lock or unlock the exterior lever. Free exiting is always possible from the interior, regardless of the locked status of the exterior.
Recently, we have seen more schools add a cylinder to the inside of the door to give the teacher control of the door from the inside. But again, regardless of whether the interior or exterior cylinder was used to lock the door, anyone inside the room could freely open the door.
Our classrooms are the new safe zone, and our classroom doors are the new first line of defense. Securing them to the same level we secure our homes is our way of providing security to “sheltering-in-place.” But this must be accomplished quickly and without impeding free-exiting from the room.
Instant Locking Classroom Locks
Replacing the existing lockset to one that provides both the traditional classroom locking function (for everyday use) and instant locking without opening the door (for emergency applications) is the preferred method to secure the classroom door.
There are both mechanical and electric methods to accomplish the instant locking goal. Use of the key to lock the door should be avoided, as locating the key, inserting it, rotating it in the correct direction to lock the door and then rotating it back to the correct position to remove it from the lock is difficult to accomplish while under duress. The primary concern of the teacher should be to relocate the children to the safe zone in the classroom. Locking the door should be an instant, thoughtless process. If a school district has an existing wireless infrastructure or a budget that allows wiring, teachers can wear a pendant around their necks (like those home emergency systems) to instantly lock the door. Practically, most schools will remain in the mechanical locking environment, which means at least one person needs to approach the door and be able to lock it quickly.
In addition, just locking the exterior lever does not provide a heightened level of protection. Deadbolt locks offer this greater resistance to forced entry. These are the type of lock we use on our homes to keep the bad guys out, so it makes sense to introduce them to classroom doors, as long as single motion exiting is maintained according to life-safety codes.
We must bear in mind that the overwhelming majority of time when students and teachers use the door hardware will be during ordinary usage, not a security situation. That is why the operator for the instant locking should be in a location where it is easily operable during an emergency, but not readily accessible while exiting the door. This requires a special design, not just a regular turnpiece on the door.
Much has been said regarding the usage of precious funds on the installation of camera systems. While they can be a component in a full security system, cameras will not provide a level of protection for students within the classroom. They provide a value in recording and, if accessed properly, aiding during law enforcement during a violent event.
However, the value in a “sheltering-in-place” scenario is negligible. Most events are of a relatively short duration, with limited communication ability of those within the school. So, even if the exact location is identified on a CCTV system, directing teachers and school staff is virtually impossible during the chaotic time frame.
Mark Berger is the President and CPO for Securitech Group, Inc.