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How Should Schools Keep their Premises Safe and Secure?

January 8, 2019, 14:08 GMT+1
Read in 7 minutes
  • Three experts give us their take on how schools should approach the business of protecting pupils and staff from intruders...
How Should Schools Keep their Premises Safe and Secure?

Roger Halliday

Managing Director, Resilience UK

Many schools will already have bomb hoax protocols and lockdown procedures in place, and regularly use CCTV as part of their security measures. Those are important steps to take, but the fact remains that if a lockdown procedure or similar measure is invoked, the system has already failed. CCTV is great for apprehending criminals after an event, but has never successfully prevented a serious crime from taking place. All crimes, from theft of school property to acts of terrorist or child abduction, start with perpetrators carrying out a degree of advance reconnaissance. This weakness presents schools with an opportunity. Equipping staff with the information and skills needed to identify potential issues before they become a threat is the most effective way of creating a safer environment. Training staff so they know what to look out for – and crucially, what steps to then take – can prevent crimes from taking place. At Resilience-UK we provide support and training that enables schools to avoid the worst happening, via a team of police and military specialists with years of experience in countering organised crime and terrorism.


Klaus Allion

Managing Director, ANT Telecom

Before schools can initiate a dynamic lockdown procedure, the risk needs to be identified, verified and communicated – ideally without causing further escalation. Unfortunately, in the absence of official government advice, the first of those steps tends to receive the least consideration.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that identifying a potential incident and initiating action – such as triggering an alarm – is often left to a single individual. The first member of staff to spot a potential risk will typically attempt to confirm directly whether it’s valid, thus putting themselves in harm’s way, or else seek support from colleagues, leaving an intruder unmonitored and free to continue to roam.

Technology, however, can provide an effective and affordable solution. Using a simple key-fob or lone-worker device, staff that spot potential risks can press a ‘panic button’ that initiates a call via a SIM card-equipped device or their mobile phone to a manned reception, who can listen in on events whilst poised to call in help and/or assist, if needed. This type of technology is now sufficiently straightforward and inexpensive that it can be deployed among all members of a school’s teaching and support staff.


Andrew Shaw

Architectural Consultant, Allegion UK

Schools can present complex security challenges for architects, specifiers and school officials alike. Receptions, entry points, classrooms and other areas each need to be approached differently in terms of safety and security measures.

Schools must address three levels of security. The first concerns perimeter entry and exit points, the complexity of which will depend on the size and layout of the school grounds. Schools should consider incorporating some level of electronic access control, be it a combination of electronic and mechanical door hardware or a more advanced electronic solution. The second level is the administration or reception area, which will require monitoring and control of visitors’ access. A well-designed school with a single entry point will allow for such monitoring while also enabling efficient movement in and out of the building.

The third (and most vulnerable) level is the core used by staff and pupils, including hallways, corridors, stairwells, entry points and restricted areas. Solutions here include individual locks activated via proximity sensors, or an integrated centralised system where all doors in the school building can be locked remotely at the touch of a button.


Lessons from america

We look at how one school in the US was able to bolster its emergency readiness with the help of a sophisticated communications platform from FrontRow

School headteachers will be keenly aware of the the increasing need to establish effective communication channels to keep their teachers and students safe. Richgrove School District’s Superintendent, Mario Millan (pictured right), knew it was time to overhaul his district’s communication platform to better serve its 750 students.

The district, located in California, needed a better way to handle emergency communication for two primary reasons. Firstly, because the campus is situated opposite an agricultural chemical storage, which could at any moment could pose harm to the students and require a complete lockdown to lower student exposure to potentially leaked chemicals. And secondly, due to the unfortunate rise of school violence plaguing schools across the US today.

Millan identified FrontRow’s Conductor – a networked, unified communication platform – as the solution. Consulting with the implementation team from FrontRow, Milan was impressed by the three pillars of safety-related communication advocated by the company:

1. Activation – Multiple ways for staff to activate an alert

2. Notification – Redundant ways to inform responders

3. Response – A suite of effective, automated actions

These three fundamental functions support the school’s life safety systems with communication technologies that help keep staff and students aware, informed, focused, and out of harm’s way.

Where most networked communication systems will only allow schools to send an alert – usually in the form of an alarm or a flashing light – Conductor can automate critical emergency responses that effectively provide notification and response mechanisms. These include locking doors, voicing verbal instructions, sending text messages and emails, pushing evacuation maps to digital devices, updating digital signage and more. Conductor’s intuitive, user-friendly interface is easy-to-learn, which translates into empowering assigned staff to easily use the system.

“Conductor’s versatility allows us to pre-program a wide range of responses for everything from lightning and storms to fires and harmful intrusions, as well as deploy on the spot responses as needed,” Milan says. “We’re in an environment where safety is a priority, and the ability to successfully respond to any emergency is crucial.”

By joining the ranks of the more than 500 US and Canadian schools who have adopted the Conductor standard for communications, Richgrove has effectively modernised its emergency response power. It’s reducing costs, saving effort, and achieving more with FrontRow Conductor’s communication technology so that its schools can focus on learning.

Millan concludes that, “Conductor has given me peace of mind in knowing that, if an emergency were to occur, our team is equipped with a system that doesn’t only call attention to something happening, but actually activates response processes to maximise student and staff safety.”


Schools wanting to mirror Richgrove’s success can contact FrontRow for a personalised consultation by visiting GoFrontRow.com.

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