5 things schools should know about security

1.  It is important to prepare for all emergency situations – not just active shooters.

While preparation for active shooter situations is important and top-of-mind for many educational facilities right now, it is equally as important to be prepared for other emergency situations as well, such as fires, natural disasters and more.

In the United States, a fire or natural disaster is in fact much more likely than an active shooting. For 2018, the FBI reported 5 active shooter incidents in educational environments, with a total of 27 incidents in all facility types, while the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported an annual average of 4,859 fires in educational facilities from 2013-2017. 

The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) has a variety of free resources for school districts that want to ensure they are protecting their students and faculty from all emergency situations. The PASS guidelines focus on both physical security and life safety and make recommendations on policies, procedures, equipment and technology.

While active shootings may not be as likely as other emergency situations, security protocols should be an important part of a school’s emergency response preparedness measures. Schools should reference NFPA 3000™ (PS), the Standard for Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, for guidance on how to effectively prepare for and prevent active shooter situations. According to the NFPA 3000 Fact Sheet, this standard was created to, “identify the minimum program elements needed to organize, manage and sustain an active shooter and/or hostile event response program and to reduce or eliminate the risk, effect and impact on an organization or community affected by these events.”

2.  Having emergency plans in place isn’t enough.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) recently reported that most schools do have a written plan for various emergency scenarios. In the 2017-18 school year, 94% of schools reported having response plans for natural disasters, 92% for active shooters and 91% for bomb threats or incidents.

While having emergency response plans for all types of situations is the first step, this alone is not sufficient preparation for one of these events. As the old adage goes, “practice makes perfect.” In addition to just documenting these plans, schools also need to ensure they are regularly holding drills for each type of situation.

Currently, NFPA 101 – Life Safety Code requires schools to hold emergency egress (fire) drills once a month during the months school is in session. In addition to fire drills, other types of emergency drills, such as lockdown, tornado or active shooter drills, are increasingly important, but their frequency requirements may vary by location. It is always recommended that schools verify emergency preparedness requirements with their local jurisdictions. 

3.  Using the appropriate door hardware is a powerful security measure.

When it comes to school security, door hardware is an important component. It’s a common misconception that a door lock is not enough to protect a building or classroom from intrusion. On the contrary, door hardware such as locksets, panic hardware, and access control systems are very powerful measures of security when used properly. These devices play a critical role in controlling who can come and go from a building, or even a classroom, and when they are able to do so.

Yet, with so many different door lock solutions on the market, it can be difficult to know which type of lockset is appropriate to use on each door. Below is a list of the primary types of locks found in schools and their purposes.

  • Classroom Security Function Locks

With this function, a key on either the inside or the outside will lock the outside lever ONLY. The inside lever remains unlocked at all times, allowing students and teachers to exit at any time.

  •  Office Function Locks

In addition to a keyed outside lever, a thumb turn or push button on the inside can lock or unlock the outside lever.

  • Storeroom Function Locks

The outside lever is always locked on a storeroom function lock. A key must be used to enter. When the door is closed, it is always locked to prevent access.

  • Traditional Classroom Function Locks*

This function locks and unlocks only by key from the hallway, or outside the room. Usually, the lock is placed in “passage mode” during the day, leaving the door unlocked on both sides. 

*Note: For many years, this was the most common lock for classroom doors but is no longer the preferred function because of the need to open the door to lock it. Existing locks of this type can be kept locked at all times, or the lock function can often be changed with a conversion kit.       

For more information about each type of lock, including pros and cons on each model, check out Allegion’s “A Key to Safe Classrooms” infographic.

4.     Cutting corners on security solutions can cause more harm than good.

As the pressure to prioritize security over fire safety and accessibility has increased, some schools have considered the use of retrofit security devices. While there are certain retrofit solutions such as locksets that are code-compliant and an affordable solution to upgrade a school’s security, other retrofit solutions such as barricade devices can actually cause more harm than good.

Barricade devices are intended to turn the classroom door into a physical barricade to, theoretically, prevent an intruder from accessing the classroom. Because these devices are relatively inexpensive, it makes them all the more appealing to schools with limited budgets. With that said, many of these devices do not comply with the model code requirements for free egress, fire protection, and accessibility, and can actually be disastrous in the event that evacuation is necessary.

In addition, these devices can also make a crime easier to commit if they find their way into the hands of an unauthorized individual. As the Door Security & Safety Foundation noted in its publication on liability of classroom barricades (published in 2017 on LockDontBlock.org):

Storing a barricade device in a classroom makes crimes easier to carry out. When used by an unauthorized person, barricades have the significant potential to facilitate unintended consequences such as bullying, harassment, or physical violence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FBI, a member of the student body is most likely to commit violence on school grounds.

In some incidents, active shooters have also used these barricade devices to lock themselves in a classroom with the victims, delaying the response time for emergency responders and possibly resulting in additional loss of life. As a result, schools should stick with proven and code-compliant solutions that consider requirements for egress and accessibility to best protect their faculty and students.

5. There is no one-size-fits-all school security solution.

Deciphering school security and its many facets can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned school administrator. Each school district is unique and there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. It is of vital importance that schools work with a trusted security provider to ensure each district and school is protected for all types of emergency situations.

Allegion (NYSE: ALLE) is a global pioneer in safety and security, with leading brands like CISA®, Interflex®, LCN®, Schlage®, SimonsVoss® and Von Duprin®. Focusing on security around the door and adjacent areas, Allegion produces a range of solutions for homes, businesses, schools and other institutions. For more information on how Allegion can help protect your school, visit www.allegion.com.