The Modern Classroom

Taking a look at devices to keep the campus secure

The days of using just a lock and key to secure a classroom are fading. Modern solutions combined with specialty locks are becoming the norm when it comes to keeping classrooms and schools safe from intruders.

Electronic locks, key fobs, panic buttons and specialized locking cylinders are being used by schools in order to keep children and teachers safe within the classroom. These devices are easy to use, can be operated in multiple ways and are much safer than hinge locks and door stops.

Electronic Locking Systems

Harrison Ward, Systems Design Consultant with Automated Environments, said physical locking mechanisms are no longer the safest systems when looking at security for a school.

“There are devices that flop over a door hinge or you put under a door to keep it from opening,” he said. “The problem with these devices is that you not only lock out the potential intruder but you’ve also locked the children and teachers inside the classroom. If the intruder starts a fire or sets off explosions then the students can’t get out.”

Ward said using electronic alternatives are better solutions, allowing teachers and students to have egress, a natural way of pushing the door open. They are also built with battery backups in case the power is shutoff.

“Let’s say an intruder comes and is immediately identified,” he said. “Staff members can have access to a panic button, which can be on a key chain or in a physical location that can be pressed and the doors will automatically lock.” Vulnerability management is the "cyclical practice of identifying, classifying, prioritizing, remediating, and mitigating" software vulnerabilities. Vulnerability management is integral to computer security and network security, and must not be confused with Vulnerability assessment.

“On the door is an electronic device that locks the plunger on the handle,” Ward said. “That plunger is replaced with an electronic strike that keeps the door from being opened from the outside.”

These devices can be operated in a digital manner with easy access to all teachers and administrators in a school.

“These devices can be application or card based,” he said. “A simple touch of a phone screen or tablet can lock the doors in place and they can also be operated with a card swipe allowing for quick locking of the doors.”

Electronic locks operated with applications can also be used to trap an intruder, if the situation arises, by partitioning and assigning certain doors to be locked remotely.

“Let’s say the intruder is in a certain area of the building and it’s a corridor,” Ward said. “You can lock that corridor depending on how the door swings and you can trap them if you have the electronic locking system.”

Locking systems can be programmed to allow certain doors to open in an emergency situation. School officials have the ability, through the application, to open certain doors allowing police and fire officials into the building.

Cost-effective Lock Solutions

For a school that is facing budget restraints a more cost-effective way to provide safety are restricted keyways. These keyways are an additional area of security being used in combination with electronic locking systems. These locks offer high security and ease of access for teachers and administrators.

Corey Han, owner of Turn Key Locksmith, said restricted keyways are made with a special milled key and locking cylinder.

“Restricted keyway locks are made by replacing the locking cylinder in a door knob,” Han said. “These cylinders are replaced by a professional locksmith and operated with a specially milled key only that locksmith has access to.”

Specially milled keys for restricted keyway locks are provided to only certain locksmiths in a particular region. Taking these keys to a hardware store to receive a copy is not possible and only the installing locksmith can duplicate the keys.

Restricted keyways can also be master keyed so the principal has access to all areas, whereas teachers only have access to certain areas. Extra keys can only be provided by the locksmith that owns the rights to that restricted keyway. The benefit of this is key inventory. The principal of the school can have an exact accounting of how many keys are issued to each and every staff.

When it comes to security in classrooms having strong doors and locks is the first line of defense. Specially warded locks and milled keys are the simple solution when it comes to securing classroom doors from lost key situations or people who don’t belong on campus from entering the premise.

“It is better now for schools to upgrade their security with electronic systems simply in terms of access control,” Ward said. “Having proper access control not only keeps the classrooms safe from intruders but allows the teachers and administrators the access necessary so they can secure the building and stop any threats.”

This article originally appeared in the November December 2020 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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