Retrofitting from Curb to Core
How to maximize your summer window
- By David Corbin
- June 01, 2019
Summer break is almost here and
teachers and students are counting
the days until school is out. For many
school administrators and facilities
managers, however, summer isn’t
breaktime. It’s time to take advantage of an
empty campus and complete a flurry of
maintenance activities, upgrades and repairs.
If retrofitting or repairing access control systems
is on your to-do list, taking advantage
of this limited window of time is crucial
because life safety and security systems must
be in the best possible condition when students
and staff return.
With thoughtful planning and strategy, the
summer months can be productive and help
you not only meet your goals for safety, but
also energy efficiency, freedom of movement
for students and staff, and more. Where should
facilities professionals begin? These three tips
can put your summer on the right track:
Start Before the Bell
Many factors affect decision-making about
access control systems, from individual
school size and population to district- and
region-wide priorities. Completing site
assessments before summer break begins will
allow you to take these factors into account
and see how the entire campus system works
before the building is empty and upgrades are
implemented. These assessments reveal systemic
issues that may need to be addressed,
such as choke points for foot traffic, the lock
function of interior doors, and even the number
of doors with exterior access. Completing
site evaluations while school is in session will
guide the decision-making process by illuminating
problems that are only apparent when
the facilities are in use.
Starting early also allows you and your
facilities staff and administrators to effectively
engage the various stakeholder groups
involved in maintenance decisions. Meeting
with school board members, parent groups
and potential vendors before the school year
ends ensures you have buy-in from all the
necessary decision makers so that once the
final bell rings, upgrades can get underway
Work From the Outside In
Despite being the first line of defense for any
campus, the perimeter is too often neglected.
Yet there are basic improvements to crucial
perimeter infrastructure that dramatically
improve a school or campus’ overall security.
Examine pedestrian access points as well as
those for vehicular traffic, and find places to
streamline movement while keeping students,
parents and staff secure. For example, if perimeter
infrastructure around playgrounds or
walkways isn’t robust, consider adding heavyduty
gate locks with a holding force up to
2,000 pounds. For non-mechanical solutions,
gates and fences can also be retrofitted with
electromagnetic locks and electric strikes.
A common concern with outdoor systems is how to power them.
There are now numerous ways to supply power reliably outdoors and
meet the needs of varying campus layouts. Solar panels and batteryoperated
sources are options, as well as traditional wired configurations.
Solar and battery solutions can also help you meet energy efficiency
goals as well as provide power for your perimeter infrastructure.
Most importantly, any outdoor solutions should be weatherproofed
so they can withstand the elements. Locks, strikes and power
sources must be able to resist wind, moisture and temperature changes
to ensure your perimeter remains reliably secure.
Find the Right Balance
In any school, there must be a balance between safety and security on
the one hand and fostering a comfortable learning environment on
the other. This is why a holistic, system-wide perspective is required
before implementing any upgrades or retrofits. For example, consider
the need to implement a lockdown. There are two basic ways you can
initiate that process: centralized or local. With centralized decision
systems, an operator can lock all doors instantly with just one push of
a button. In decentralized or local-area systems, individual lockdown
decisions are made by staff based on the situation. Often a hybrid
system of the two is desirable. Centralized capabilities can lock all
perimeter access, for example, while decentralized interior locks
allow teachers and staff to lock classroom doors when necessary
without impacting other parts of the campus.
One of the most important benefits of these systems is removing
the impetus for using secondary locking devices that wedge or barricade
a door in an emergency. These devices may seem like viable
safety solutions but in fact make openings less safe by preventing
first-responder access, and often do so in violation of fire codes.
And it’s not only locks—taking a holistic view of all opening infrastructure
means examining the doors as well. Bullet- and attack-resistant
glass are increasingly available for doors, including as part of costconscious
retrofit kits that can upgrade any and all components of the
opening, from the frame to the hardware. These solutions can increase
security without distracting from the learning environment—incorporating
colored pulls, levers and trim can enhance safety without
drawing students’ attention to the door security hardware.
When choosing retrofit options it’s also critical to consider ADA
compliance and fire safety codes—for example, ensuring the removal
of secondary locking devices and using the right exit devices for safe
egress paths. Essentially, there are solutions for any type of system
and campus layout, and addressing access control as an ecosystem
will help you implement comprehensive solutions in the limited summer
break window, thereby maximizing the ideal time for these
repairs and retrofits.
Summer always goes by too quickly, so to make the most of the
time, facilities managers and administrators must be strategic in how
they approach these next few months. Conduct site assessments
while school is still in session and identify roadblocks that need to be
overcome. Look at access control from the curb of the property to the
core of the building—as one holistic system. And, be sure to balance
the need for security with the goal of creating a distraction-free environment
where students and staff can focus on learning. Doing so
will ensure occupants return in the new school year to the safe, secure
environment that both students and staff deserve.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.