With the threat level in the United Kingdom remaining high, James Kelly, chief executive of the British Security Industry Association, discusses one particularly increasing trend in school security – lockdown procedures
As staff and pupils get ready to return to school from the summer holidays, ensuring that the security procedures in place are fit for purpose should be at the top of any key decision maker’s agenda.
With the threat level in the United Kingdom remaining at SEVERE, coupled with the variety of threats that schools face year round, it is absolutely essential that careful thought and planning has gone into the security measures in use within the educational establishment.
Security and safety in schools is a key subject for parents and staff alike, with school officials having a duty of care and a legal responsibility to provide a safe environment. Ofsted are also taking the matter of security seriously, having placed various schools into special measures earlier this year due to lax security measures.
According to BSIA member Controlsoft, Ofsted provide recommendations in ways schools should consider their security requirements and how to achieve it. One of those recommendations happens to be the use of lockdown procedures in order to provide robust security at a moment’s notice.
In November 2015, the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) provided some official guidance in relation to the development of dynamic lockdown procedures, which are triggered in response to a fast moving incident such as a firearms or weapons attack, either directly on site or close by.
The aim of such a lockdown is to restrict access and egress to a building – or areas of it – through physical measures. This requires identifying all access and exit points, which can be more than just doors and gates, and integrating them with access control technology in order to secure these areas as quickly as possible.
Panic hardware can be fitted to doors and windows throughout a school’s premises, with the hardware being capable of self‑locking or self-latching. If a lockdown is then required, the integration of the hardware with access control technology means the push of a panic button can send a signal to lock all doors and windows.
LOCKDOWN IN ACTION
As a result of this growing trend, members of the BSIA’s Access and Asset Protection Section are finding their own lockdown technology being used within a school environment. Controlsoft incorporate a lockdown function into their identity access software, which prohibits authorised users from accessing doors, as well as a sophisticated function that can allow for multiple levels of lockdown depending on the scenario.
For schools, they have found that there can be a number of benefits for lockdown facilities, not just in terms of emergency situations, but for providing additional protection for the children and staff at the school, or using lockdown outside of hours in order to ensure that the building is safe and on site assets are protected around the clock.
They have two key levels to their software: Level 1 – which suspends access rights except for authorised user groups (such as staff), and Level 2 – which suspends all access rights, and optionally, exit rights as well.
The operator of the software can activate a level by the simple click of a button on the screen or by pressing a physical push‑button which can be mounted on, or under, a desk. That way, if a dangerous situation unfolds, the school can be put into Level 2 lockdown immediately and the authorities notified.
BSIA member Remsdaq have seen their own lockdown technology being used internationally. After Remsdaq’s integration partner in Dubai, Leisure Secure, were awarded a contract to supply, install and commission a new integrated access control system at the Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS) in the UAE, Remsdaq’s EntroWatch access control software was selected as a key security measure.
The software itself was chosen for its comprehensive management suite, which includes the reporting of pupil attendance as well as total security management from a single software platform. Biometric technology is used to permit access, with fingerprint templates and point-of-entry controllers being used at access controlled turnstile entrances, staff rooms and classrooms.
A key feature of the EntroWatch is its global lockdown facility, which allows for the securing of a combination of doors instantly at the click of a button. Remsdaq developed this feature in response to the increase in demand for enhanced building security in schools and universities.
In order for lockdown procedures to be efficient, the establishment must have an access control system that is able to rapidly react to, and contain, a breach or threat. Remsdaq’s lockdown feature overrides any current door states – such as those that are open during school hours – and prohibits the selected doors from being released locally by either card, request to exit devices or remotely via Entrowatch control until the lockdown is completely reset.
A SAFE ENVIRONMENT
Another BSIA member, Gallagher Security, have also seen their lockdown technology being used internationally in the Harrisburg school district in South Dakota, USA, which educates almost 4,000 students across eight schools. Gallagher’s central management platform, Command Centre, was selected as the only solution that could meet the district’s security requirements. Command Centre was put to the test in October 2015 when the local high school was the target of a shooting.
The incident resulted in one staff member being injured, but luckily was prevented from escalating further due to Command Centre being activated by staff. Logs from the incident confirm that from the time the emergency button was pressed, it took just four seconds for Command Centre to lock all outside doors, notify district authorities and limit building access to emergency responders only.
Harrisburg understood their responsibility to provide a safe and secure environment, and partnering with Gallagher provided them with the flexibility to employ customised features tailored to their specific requirements. Gallagher and South Dakota based company, Integrated Technology & Security, installed a fully integrated, digitally based, user-friendly system that assisted – not replaced – their existing manual security procedures.
Key features of the security solution included an outlook calendar integration to enable scheduling of access for special events, intercom / phone integration to control doors from a desktop icon or smartphone, strobe light control to provide lockdown notifications in hearing impaired areas such as deaf education, shops and the gym, and an intercom integration for lockdown announcements. Command Centre provides enterprise level lockdown controls which limit access to buildings, control fire doors and send notifications, while providing an audit trail and video alerts.
While initially only office and administrative staff were trained in the use of lockdown systems, as the system developed, all members of staff are now able to control access in individual school buildings. If a lockdown has been activated, a notification is automatically issued to district authorities, immediately alerting emergency services if required.
CHOOSING A QUALITY PRODUCT
With effective access control and lockdown measures being of such high importance in today’s day and age, perhaps one of the most important factors of the security procurement process is that the solution is chosen from a reputable supplier that meets with the relevant British and European standards for their products and / or services.
Members of the BSIA’S Access and Asset Protection Section all offer a reputable service and have a wealth of experience in providing their products within the education sector.
In fact, the section will shortly be publishing a guide to aid key decision makers in fully understanding the capabilities and added value benefits of installing electronic and physical access control measures in schools.
The guide provides school officials with a useful summary of the options available, as well as real world examples of where access control measures have proven instrumental in schools. In addition, the guide also contains a helpful floorplan to demonstrate key areas within a school where physical and electronic access control measures can be best placed. The guide will soon be available to download free of charge on the BSIA’s website.