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Safe schools over Christmas

Karen Trigg, pictured, business development manager at the physical security product manufacturer Allegion UK, discusses how to keep schools safe and secure over Christmas.

With the winter months comes poor weather, darker mornings and longer nights – a far cry from the heatwave the UK was faced with just a few months ago. Most will have Christmas preparation at the forefront of their minds, and the last thing they’ll want to be worrying about is whether they’ve left their school building secure. The colder months tend to see an unfortunate rise in crime and burglaries, which is understandbale when you consider the additional protection that the cover of darkness provides. Luckily, there are a number of simple yet effective measures that facility managers can take to ensure their buildings remain safe and secure for that extra peace of mind.

Being prepared

Facility managers and other school officials responsible have a lot to think about in the build-up to closing for Christmas. As well as festive assemblies, Christmas productions and so on, they also need to be thinking about safety and security standards and making sure they don’t slip amidst the festive antics.

One of the best ways school security can be optimised is to make sure an effective lockdown strategy is in place. According to our recent survey involving more than 250 facility managers in the education sector, a surprising 27.1 percent said they don’t currently have a lockdown procedure in place.

Implementing a lockdown procedure is critical to ensuring the protection of staff and students, as well as valuable equipment and the building, itself. There are many different types of lockdown strategies, all of which wield different benefits depending on the school’s unique requirements.

Based on these judgements, it’s important to consider whether a manual, remote or centralised system is most suitable – or a combination of the three. Allegion is happy to discuss and advise on individual requirements with site visits.

Manual lockdown

Manual systems are the most recognisable and tend to be most common in schools.
Possibly the most economical and cost-effective lockdown solution, mechanical locks rely on an individual having the physical key in hand to lock down a room or space.
With two-thirds of all burglaries being attempted through a door, there’s a tendency to attack the cylinder lock first. As a result, it’s a good idea to check whether you need to upgrade the cylinders and lockcases in your doors to heavier-duty models.

Remote lockdown

For additional security, standalone electronic and digital locks can be used to reduce the risk of intrusion. These are ideal solutions for schools that want to upgrade lockdown systems but are reluctant to step into the costs of networked systems. The great thing is many of these locks can be installed, up and running in as little as five minutes and without a huge amount of technical knowledge.

Centralised solutions can be one of the most secure lockdown types, requiring only a single point of accountability. These systems are activated through a computer or smartphone. By simply pushing a button, all openings can be locked throughout the building. Whether the school operates on mechanical, electronic or combination systems, every school should have a lockdown procedure that determines or defines the state of each opening of the building on demand. This applies not only for if an emergency were to arise, but also for securing the school adequately when everyone goes home at the end of the day. This is particularly important over the Christmas period, when the premises will be emptier for longer than usual.

Looking after doors

Often, dramatic changes in temperatures and weather conditions can cause doors to swell up or shrink down. Swollen doors may damage or hinder a door closer’s operation, or even jam the doors into place making it difficult to open or close them properly.

By the same token, shrunken doors can cause gaps between the door and its hinges. This poses concerns with security and, if the door’s a fire door, creates additional implications about their ability to sufficiently compartmentalise a fire.

If this is the case, carrying out necessary risk assessments and knowing how to check a fire door properly will identify whether action needs to be taken. An audit of the site will also determine whether doors are hindering safety, and what to do to correct the issue.

At a basic level, it’s important to know what to look for when checking fire doors, and how to spot any potential damage. Alongside this, it’s important to make sure certain things, like not propping open fire doors, is common knowledge. This can be reinforced by pinning up fire safety guides and instructions, so that small yet easy mistakes are avoided.

In our recent survey, 33.7 percent of facility managers in the education sector said that their current security measures may be compromised. What’s more, almost half of those respondents said that this is due to under-funding or budgetary constraints.

Because of this, it’s often easy to understand why facility managers of schools become reluctant to upgrade or replace systems. On top of this, if the school is an older building, facility managers may also feel like newer systems are incompatible with the building.

However, with the appropriate level of communication and the complete integrity of all safety and security aspects, schools can still adopt successful security strategies.
Ultimately, providing a solid level of safety and security during the darker months is all about preparation. The added benefit for both facility managers and the building occupants is that high-quality hardware will not only provide peace of mind during the winter months, but bring long-lasting performance that can reduce the need for future maintenance. Therefore, it’s worth considering the possibility of all safety and security threats at the time of specification as well as considering an upgrade when the longer nights arrive.


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