Improvements in School Safety Methods

As time goes on, school safety products continue to improve. Years ago, the only line of defense may have been a door and a basic mechanical lock. And as some of you will recall, in decades past, those doors and locks weren’t used much during the school day. The school building’s front doors and classroom doors would be unlocked – sometimes a few of these doors would be open. But times change and so do the safety needs of a classroom.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics’ Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities, “’Securing’ a facility refers to ensuring the physical security of both a facility and its occupants-and requires a comprehensive approach to planning.” In addition to many others, they say planners need to consider the following issues:

  • Police/security facilities – This includes installing surveillance cameras around the building’s entry points and in areas of the building that are difficult to watch.
  • Locking systems – This includes installing and maintaining locks on doors and windows; protecting keys and combinations; and ensuring there is no manipulation of locks or entrance points, such as doors propped open.

Surveillance cameras are vital to school safety today. Not just in schools and on campuses, but everywhere you go, cameras are positioned all around from front doors, parking lots, restaurant ceilings, retail store aisles and checkout lanes, gym corners, and so on. They have become so prevalent that most people don’t notice them at all. That’s a goal of cameras in schools – to be as unobtrusive as possible. Students need to feel safe, but not feel they are being watched. There’s still debate about cameras in classrooms for this very reason.

To elaborate on the locking systems, not only are there mechanical locks available now, but electronic locks. This allows doors to be locked automatically, without a person physically turning a key. Electronic access control systems allow schools to assign specific levels of access to individual people. So administrators or security personnel can have full access to the entire school while teachers and staff have limited access. Another example would be allowing one group of people entry during one time frame and a second group of people access during a different time frame.

Electronic locks, versus mechanical locks, give the added benefit of being able to lock doors via remote control such as from a central location when a school wants to lock all of the classroom doors at the same time. Electronic locks can also be integrated with the alarm system, so they automatically lock when the alarm sounds.

When it comes to the doors themselves, there are various options from wood, fiberglass, hollow metal and even ballistic-resistant. Schools must be aware of, and follow, compliance regulations such as fire and life safety (egress) codes while at the same time increasing security. Some door hardware options designed to impede entry into a classroom by an intruder may violate these codes and should be approved by local Fire Marshals or code officials.

According to the Door Security & Safety Foundation, “Many of these devices are not code-compliant, particularly when layered over existing hardware, and could actually prohibit egress and endanger the life safety of the school’s occupants in the event of an emergency.” Furthermore, “Storing a barricade device in a classroom makes crimes easier to carry out and increases the chance of an unintended consequence.” According to the FBI, students are more likely to commit violence in a school than an outsider, and shooters often barricade themselves inside classrooms with others to take hostages, create fear, or worse.

The better alternative are locksets that are specially designed for classroom security. These locks allow the door to be locked from either side while still meeting code requirements for fire, egress, and accessibility. In 2019, Jerry Heppes, Sr., CEO with the Door and Hardware Institute was quoted, “To date, no active shooter has violated a lock.”

DH Pace offers doors, locksets, cameras, and other security solutions to ensure a safe learning environment. Contact a DH Pace representative for assistance.