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School’s out, security’s not

Theft, vandalism and arson attacks are common occurrences in school buildings during the holidays, but with adequate planning and security measures in place, risks can easily be minimised. It’s also a great time to check over security and safety, and indeed get security upgraded in preparation for pupils returning. Dr Steffan George, pictured, Development Director of the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) gives his advice.

Firstly, assess damage to the building and put any necessary work into action well before the end of term. Things to look out for in terms of deterioration and breakage include doors, windows, roofs (missing tiles, slates and broken roof lights), wall cladding (vertical tiling and timber boarding etc), alarms, locks and exterior skirts to the base of temporary classrooms.

Secondly, consider whether the building needs extra alarms and security, and where. It’s a good idea to place alarms within areas where expensive IT equipment is located and for additional peace of mind, secure the equipment to desks. If new equipment is being installed or delivered it should not be visible from the outside and empty packaging must be discretely disposed of so it doesn’t entice opportunist criminals. Specific secure storage can be created for high value IT equipment for example.

Site boundaries are also important. While checking that gates are fitted with suitable locks may be an obvious step, you must check the full perimeter of the site. Fencing should be fully intact with no bolts, hinges, handles or damaged sections which could work as footholds for easy access. A professional MLA-approved locksmith can carry out a security and safety assessment on all locks and access routes, advising you on suitable fittings. It’s important to ensure that they not only provide a good level of security, but also meet insurance requirements.

Planting is another aspect which is often overlooked in terms of security. Large or overgrown trees or shrubbery can provide unnecessary areas of cover for intruders and lead to blind spots on CCTV coverage. It’s especially important to check that this greenery does not cover security fencing as this would provide an easy access route for a potential intruder.

If part of the building is being used over the summer holidays by clubs, staff or community groups, it’s important to ensure this poses as minimal a risk as possible to the security of the building. A holiday access policy is a good idea, with clear security instructions covering alarms, access routes and times, and the management of keys. The use of master key systems can help ensure that only access to the designated areas is allowed with the keys provided.

The summer holidays are the ideal time for maintenance work, both to the building itself and to security installations, but having workers present unavoidably poses extra risks to security. If work is being done to security products such as alarms, it’s important to consider how long they will be out of action and put a contingency plan in place. It’s also a good idea to have these workers wear security badges as opportunist thieves could pose as contractors to gain access.

Security shutters and grilles are another great way of boosting security. If they are already installed, it’s important to ensure they are operating correctly and fitted with suitable locking devices. A lot of MLA-approved locksmiths can advise on this and recommend the most suitable grilles and shutters.

Finally, while security is an important consideration in any school, safety is the primary concern when the school reopens. Checks should include verifying the functionality of fire doors, checking emergency exit doors have the correct escape hardware, are working correctly and are not compromised, checking all signage and fire risk assessments are in place and, where necessary, updating fire risk assessments. A person within a school will be responsible for safety and an MLA approved locksmith can assist them in making sure a building is safe as well as secure in accordance with existing fire regulation wherever possible.


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