Risk Reporter for Educational Facilities
Winter 2014 Vol. 1, Issue 3
Every school wants to create a welcoming environment for students, staff, parents and visitors, but that welcome feeling can’t come at the expense of safety. It’s critical to control access to your building and limit opportunities for unwanted intruders to gain entry.
Risk Reporter recently spoke with school safety expert Ken Trump, MPA, president of National School Safety and Security Services® in Cleveland, Ohio. Trump has 30 years of experience in the field and has worked with school and safety officials from all 50 states and throughout Canada.
Risk Reporter: What are the most common mistakes schools make?
Ken Trump: An overreliance on technology tops the list. The first and best line of defense is a well-trained, highly alert staff and student body — the best school security is only as strong as the weakest human link. The balance between humans and hardware has been out of whack recently. There’s been a rush to add equipment but not enough focus on training staff and students. The human side of school safety has largely been ignored.
Risk Reporter: Many schools now lock doors and buzz people in. Thoughts on this?
Ken Trump: Technology is only as good as the people using it. Train staff to ask people to stand where they can be seen by a camera, buzz in one person at a time and ask who a visitor is and the purpose for his or her visit. Staff must feel supported if they choose not to buzz someone in. If someone is buzzed in but doesn’t report to the office, there must be a procedure, and administrators or security need to respond.
Risk Reporter: Electronic access control is getting more popular. Thoughts on this?
Ken Trump: Most schools still use keys, but electronic access control is better. Control costs by limiting which doors have a reader. Program cards for specific staff; limit their access to certain doors, times, etc.; and get a system that can create an electronic record of when and where each card is used and deprogram a card at any time.
Risk Reporter: What are your recommendations for visitor log-in?
Ken Trump: Whether you have a computerized visitor management system or you identify visitors at the office and issue them badges, a school employee must verify who the visitor is and have a written record of the visitor, time and purpose of the visit. Human engagement helps identify the purpose and mental state of the visitor.
Risk Reporter: How can schools control access for off-hours activities?
Ken Trump: This is always a challenge. Limit activities to one area of the school and restrict access to unused areas. Determine what kind of security technology (for example, surveillance cameras) you might need to provide a record of who was in the building. You need supervision plans — not just for the event area but the whole building. This is absolutely critical. Train after-hours custodial and cleaning personnel on security and emergency response protocols and communication. You can’t leave your school open for off-hours use without an investment in additional supervision, training and, perhaps, security technology.
Risk Reporter: You place a large emphasis on supervision.
Ken Trump: It’s critical — nothing trumps the value of a proactive adult presence. Staff should have specific supervision assignments for student arrival and dismissal, and these plans should be in writing and disseminated to all staff. Staff should be trained to the plan.
- For more information on access control at schools, visit the National School Safety and Security Services website at http://www.schoolsecurity.org/resources/school_access_control.html