Overall, ensuring safety in schools is very similar to ensuring safety in any other environment. There are, however, some characteristics of schools that require special consideration. Probably the most important of these is that most of the time, the majority of people in them will be minors.
With that in mind, Newgate, specialists in secured access solutions share their essential four tips on how to ensure school safety.
All safety begins with an understanding of risks and hazards. These can be split into natural hazards (e.g., floods), accidents and deliberate attacks. Accidents and deliberate attacks can then be subdivided into physical issues and digital issues.
Many of these can be fairly easily predicted through a combination of brainstorming, discussions with stakeholders and research. For example, it’s usually easy to find out if your school is in an area with known environmental hazards. You can find general information on common threats to schools online. Experienced staff (and parents) may be able to add to this.
Once you’ve identified your risks and hazards, you need to plan for them. Then you need to communicate those plans as necessary. This is likely to include a combination of signage (e.g., for fire exits) and documentation for staff. Remember to ensure that your school’s policies comply with all applicable rules and your local authority’s policies.
Secure your perimeter
Keeping your perimeter as robust as possible is one of the key fundamentals of security. Unfortunately, it’s more difficult for schools than it is for private businesses. Schools, for example, can’t issue parents with access cards to get through the school security gates.
This means that a lot of schools are likely to have to rely on a combination of physical deterrents and human patrols. Some schools might need to hire proper school security guards. Others might be fine with just keeping gates closed as much as possible and having regular staff monitor them when they’re open.
Invest in CCTV and lighting
CCTV has become pretty much non-negotiable for public buildings. It’s definitely worth investing in it for schools. There are, however, some key points you need to keep in mind.
The first, and arguably most important, is the law. Not only are you (usually) only allowed to monitor school grounds, but there may also be limits on what areas you can film. You will also be required to make sure people know that CCTV is in use. Advertising the use of CCTV can, however, be a useful deterrent in itself.
Secondly, it’s important to be realistic about the limitations of CCTV. The reality is that footage captured after the event may be useful as evidence if the perpetrator happens to be caught. It is, however, likely to be of limited to no use in catching the perpetrator. The use of CCTV is now so mainstream that malicious actors often take precautions to make themselves unable to identify through it.
The real value of CCTV, therefore, is the ability to monitor locations remotely and in real-time. You then give yourself the opportunity to act while an event is in progress. As a bonus, advertising that CCTV is monitored is a much bigger deterrent than just advertising that it’s there.
Thirdly, CCTV is only of any use at all if it can actually pick up usable images. This means that there needs to be adequate lighting. It also means that the lighting needs to be able to reach all areas. In other words, you need to eliminate any items that could create shadows.
Monitor your interior
Never rely on your perimeter to protect you from malicious actors. Maintain robust access controls inside the school building (and in any outbuildings). At a minimum, secure the most sensitive areas such as places with expensive equipment and/or valuable data. If possible, use electric locks with access fobs so you have a clear audit trail of who accessed where and when.