The problem with Health & Safety training is that whilst site support staff have to become legally compliant, the courses available are often expensive and disruptive.
Safe access and exit
With autumn upon us, and classes well under way, the education sector should be ensuring that schools, colleges and universities are as safe and secure for staff and pupils as possible. Perimeter security and access control systems are a crucial element to any building’s security plan, providing the ability to control, monitor and restrict the movement of people, assets or vehicles in, out and round an area. This is absolutely essential for the educational sector, where buildings have busy footfall and specific areas need to be secured from being accessed by non-personnel.
While the safety of students and staff is the number one priority, it is also important to ensure that other elements within the building are kept safe including valuable IT equipment and personal possessions of staff and students, not to mention confidential student and staff records. If such information falls into the wrong hands, it can be detrimental to an establishment and can compromise the reputation of the school, college or university in question.
The Benefits of Access Control
The benefits of access control are vast, but perhaps the most important benefit within the educational sector is that of visitor monitoring. In environments where visitors can easily blend in with staff and pupils – thus creating opportunities for unwanted visitors to enter restricted areas – the integration of PC and computer networks with access control systems should be a key consideration. These systems are able to print photographic ID and allow access to be restricted to certain areas of a building depending on their status.
Another key benefit of access control systems is their ability to integrate with other existing systems within a building, such as Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS). During times of economic instability when higher fuel consumption is a necessity, but higher energy bills are not, such integration can carry huge cost benefits. Keeping a building’s carbon footprint to a minimum is also of key importance within the education sector, with the need to appear socially responsible being at the forefront of most people’s agenda. However, this can prove problematic for schools that operate out of hours clubs or universities that have areas requiring 24 hour access for students, meaning that creating the balance between necessary energy supplies and cost savings can be a challenge.
So how can access control systems integrate with BEMS to create cost savings? Access control systems themselves provide a wealth of valuable information, perhaps the most useful being occupancy data for a specific area of a premises. Such data is able to highlight which areas of a building are in use – those that are regularly in use and those that have no occupants during specific times of day.
Often, educational facilities have rooms that are only in use during particular times of the week and the occupancy data provided by access control systems can draw attention to these areas, giving the crucial information needed to determine which utilities need to be maximised and those that need to be minimised, such as Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) or lighting requirements. The integration of access control systems with a BEMS also means that these decisions can be made automatically through the intelligent combination of both systems, helping to create a more streamlined energy usage within a building.
Another key benefit of access control systems within the education sector is its integration with fire roll-call software for buildings that utilize smart card readers or fobs. If there were to be a fire at a school or university, it could result in pandemonium making it difficult for officials to easily account for every single pupil. Fire roll-call software can help with this. In the event of a fire or another type of emergency, the fire roll-call software automatically generates a report providing the details of who is within the building and potentially where they are. When the fire alarm is activated, an evacuation list is printed out automatically at a safe pre-determined point, providing peace of mind for staff, pupils and parents that in the event of an emergency students can easily be accounted for.
Systems in Action
BSIA Access Control section members have much experience in providing access control systems to both schools and universities around the country. One member has supplied a number of universities in the UK with a range of infrared access control readers for over a decade. One such university is the University of the West of England (UWE). After assessing that there was no central control or coordination for access control at the campus, the company provided specified infrared readers chosen for their ability to deliver a cost effective, robust solution in an extremely high-use and demanding environment.
The technology of the readers is based on infrared light which passes directly through each student’s individual Microcard. Each card contains its own unique security code, fixed at the point of manufacture, ensuring that its identity can never be altered. The system meant that students and staff could use their microcards in order to gain entry to buildings around campus, whilst simultaneously preventing unwanted visitors from gaining access. After trialling the system in one block of the University’s campus, the success of the pilot meant that the readers were installed in multiple other buildings across campus.
It is important to install safety measures in several layers within the educational sector to facilitate: deterrence; detection; delay; and response. Physical boundaries such as security fencing and gates are therefore vital to mitigate security risks – they effectively mark out private property to deter opportunist intruders and delay entry.
Furthermore, it is easier to identify criminals or unwanted intruders within schools or universities if a person is contained within a boundary; i.e. it is more difficult for them to claim accidental entry or ignorance to the fact that they have happened upon private property.
Fences need not be overly expensive or intrusive – in fact, most of the time it is the impression of security which they give which is the strongest deterrent of criminal activity. Indeed, pre-existing fences can be enhanced with features to disable climbing and burrowing. For example, fences can be extended and buried into the ground or a concrete barrier (sill) can be constructed.
Whilst it might seem obvious to surround schools and universities with a single highly secure fence, this method can be extremely costly. Often it is easier to construct a smaller, more secure area, contained within a good fence whilst having a less secure outer boundary. Minimising the number of entrances will also make it easier and cheaper to control access.
Faced with choosing a specific height for security fencing, educational property managers should be aware that fences below two metres are considered less secure. A height of 2.4m is better, but does not rule out opportunist climbing entirely. Therefore it is advisable to have fences higher than this to ensure that they are high enough to prevent climbing. In order to ensure full compliance with the law, properties with fences that have had anti-climb features (such as spikes or barbed wire) fitted should make sure that they have adequate signage and warning measures in order to ensure full compliance with the law.
Gates and hinges designed without easy toeholds will help to prevent people scaling the gate and the fence next to it. Ideally gates should be secured by a lock conforming to BS 3621 protected by lock protection plates welded to the gate and the frame or by a close shackled padlock and padlock fittings conforming to grade 5 or 6 of BS EN 12320.
Access control software can also integrate beneficially with CCTV systems for an even more comprehensive security plan. One major benefit of this type of integration is pre and post-event video recordings initiated by the access control system. Video recordings can be linked with event information, which makes searching for a particular event on the recording much more efficient. For example, if an intruder has entered the building and attempted to breach an access controlled area by forcing a door, operators can search for ‘Door forced – laboratory 4’ allowing them to easily look at images of the intruder and react accordingly.
One particular element of CCTV that is being increasingly employed in a number of sectors is that of Video Content Analysis (VCA). VCA is the name given to the automatic analysis of CCTV images, which is then used to create meaningful information regarding the content. For example, VCA can be used to automatically detect an intruder, or to count the number of people entering or leaving an area – beneficial, for instance, for keeping track of how many people have entered or left an emergency room during a given period of time.
Another element of CCTV that can prove invaluable is BS8418, the British Standard for remotely monitored, detector-activated CCTV systems. When deployed, BS8418 compliant solutions consist of cameras and detectors placed strategically around a site, linked together by specialised transmission equipment to a Remote Video Response Centre (RVRC).
Here, operators can visually confirm what is happening; call up on-screen plans of the school and even issue verbal warnings to intruders via on-site speakers. If necessary, the RVRC operators can also alert the police. As the incident is confirmed visually and is associated with a URN (Unique Reference Number), should provide a rapid response.
The Importance of Quality
As always, when it comes to securing the education sector, the most important lesson is that corners are not cut when it comes to choosing quality products. BSIA members can provide a variety of quality access control products that are inspected to the highest standards and offer a reputable service..