In schools, everyone has a role to play in the implementation of an effective security strategy. There can often be a great deal of focus placed on security strategies that are generally strong and well-rounded, but which won’t always account for unexpected situations.
Being well prepared starts with understanding your school’s building(s) and the specific needs of those using them. It’s often noted, but there really is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to school safety. Every school building requires a bespoke and meticulous security strategy that gives due consideration to the impact on pupils and teachers.
Antisocial behaviour can be the root cause of numerous issues pertaining to site security and pupil safety. Children attempting to leave school premises – or indeed succeeding – will uncover safety challenges that may not have previously been accounted for.
There may be a temptation to prevent absconsions by padlocking fire escapes or positioning push-pad emergency exit controls out of children’s reach, but this will immediately raise fire safety issues. If it’s the case that pupils can leave the premises via an unsecured emergency exit, a risk assessment should be carried out in partnership with local safety code experts to see how those unauthorized exits can be managed safely.
Possible solutions might include ensuring that reports of unauthorized exits are effectively communicated, or a system of layered security. It’s essential that every such situation is carefully evaluated and that the requirements for ensuring pupil safety are clearly understood by all.
Creating a safe and secure environment also requires careful planning of internal security from all angles. This is a complex undertaking that calls for a holistic approach and plan that’s both pragmatic and sensitive to the financial resources available.
In the case of pupils absconding, electronic access locks and PINcode hardware can provide additional security for areas needing closer supervision, which might include supply cupboards or science labs containing hazardous chemicals. It’s possible via electronic means to admit only authorised personnel, while still providing enough flexibility for multiple persons to access said areas without a physical key.
Delayed egress systems, on the other hand, are becoming increasingly common in US schools. Should a pupil (or member of staff, or visitor) attempt an authorised exit from the building, an alarm is automatically triggered on a 15-second second delay, giving staff time to respond. This hardware is typically linked to the school’s fire alarm, thus providing a useful system override during a fire emergency.
These systems are yet to be CE marked to the required standard here in the UK, where we’re still waiting on the harmonisation of standard BS EN 13637 concerning the performance and testing of electronically controlled exit systems. At the time of writing, it could be at least another year until the standard is published and exit devices become CE certified.
With all that in mind, the importance of staff training can’t be understated. To minimise risk, schools may need to have multiple security measures in place, all operating in conjunction. Above all, schools should ensure that staff possess a clear understanding of all existing security systems and procedures, and any others it plans to adopt.
Sue Corrick is EMEA Product Manager at Allegion UK and a school governor.