Schools are unlike commercial buildings or other facilities in several ways, and the differences impact how they should be secured. For one thing, the inhabitants are mainly children and won’t carry card credentials. Also, schools have distinct traffic flows and are open all hours of the day for after-school activities and evening and weekend usage. “Security solutions must take into account this flexible and fluid schedule,” says Minu Youngkin, vertical marketing manager, Allegion.

Also, schools tend to have a longer selling cycle – typically an average of 18 months, Youngkin adds. The sales process is also more complex and involves multiple stakeholders. Other considerations include propped doors, multiple visitors, high staff turnover and competing budgets.

Each school presents its own unique challenges

The changing education environment is also among the unique challenges of the primary/secondary education marketplace. “I think the typical classroom setting is long gone,” says Andrew Schonzeit, CEO of Idesco, a security integrator. “Every school is unique and should be treated as such; you may have to alter your installation schedule to not interfere with the day-to-day flow of the school schedule.” For example, there are technical schools available in the 9-12 grade range, and many schools now offer co-teaching classrooms for children on the autism/Asperger’s spectrum. “Ultimately, you want to provide a solution that is driven by the needs of the client,” adds Schonzeit. Another important point is that the needs of all primary/secondary schools evolve very quickly and from one year to the other, their security requirements might change. As an integrator, it is essential to anticipate these changes and provide each school with a scalable solution that can be adapted at any time, says Schonzeit.

Primary/secondary school security is different from other types of installs, agrees Rob Mossman, CEO of Isonas, an IP access control company. The motivations in primary/secondary schools are different and more urgent. The windows of time for installation are tighter. Buildings are often older and budgets are tighter. He says IP technology provides a solution for primary/secondary schools because the flexibility and cost savings fit these unique problems.

Upgrading basic school security

Reducing costs by improving system efficiency is not a new concept, but with growing interconnectivity of formerly disparate building systems, the opportunity to leverage connected upgrades may continue to gain ground

Schools are beginning to rethink the basics, adds John Mosebar, vice president, marketing, Aiphone Corp., a manufacturer of audio and video intercoms. That trend will result in taller and stronger fencing to protect campuses, for example. More lighting will illuminate schools at night. And CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) principles will guide building design and landscaping to maximize security benefits.

From advanced video management systems integrated with access control authorisation technology to intrusion sensors linked to email and text message notification, true end-to-end solutions can be tailored to meet the unique needs of each education installation, says Bruce Montgomery, business development manager, Honeywell. Native integration between access control, video and intrusion products and services streamlines the user experience, providing one unified platform at a cost-effective price point, he adds.

The primary/secondary school market is also increasingly interested in security features combined with or complemented by automation features, says Montgomery. As schools revamp their systems to improve and integrate intrusion, access and video systems, there is an opportunity to present additional lifestyle enhancements, such as lighting and HVAC control, that improve ease-of-use while simultaneously reducing costs and easing environmental burden. Reducing costs by improving system efficiency is not a new concept, but with growing interconnectivity of formerly disparate building systems, the opportunity to leverage connected upgrades may continue to gain ground among this group of customers.

ASSA ABLOY’s smart door opening solutions

ASSA ABLOY provides all the components to create door opening solutions that meet the needs of any end user application – doors, frames, locks, hardware, gasketing, door controls, electronic access control devices and key systems. By bringing all these doorway components together, ASSA ABLOY is able to create solutions that address common security challenges. For schools, these challenges include the obvious like classroom and perimeter security, durability and reliability. Then there are the not-so-obvious factors, such as noise abatement, energy efficiency and sustainability, storm shelter requirements (depending on geography) and accessibility needs. ASSA ABLOY Group brands work together to create door opening solutions that address all these school-related issues.

New locking and access control innovations are filling the technological void that occupied the realm of medium security doors, says ASSA ABLOY. Long trapped in a vacuum between high- and low-security openings, medium security is now filled with electronic locking solutions that secure doorways without draining budgets. The void was the result of a technology gap that left facilities with a difficult choice – protect the assets behind these doorways with simple mechanical locks or over-secure the openings with costly hardwired devices. There was no continuum of technologies to bridge the gap between high- and low-security openings. Electronic locks have now evolved to the point where it’s possible to examine every opening in a facility and customize the level of security needed for each door.

The motivations in primary/secondary
schools are different and more
urgent. The windows of time for
installation are tighter. Buildings
are often older and budgets
are tighter

Wireless access control locks

Today’s wireless access control locks are making it possible to implement online access control on any facility doorway, even if it’s in a remote part of the school. This will give administrators better control over all facility doorways without having to run expensive wiring and making other infrastructure improvements.

Impact of sustainability

Sustainability is another big issue that impacts security of schools. Buildings that want to improve energy efficiency can now choose an access control solution that consumes up to 97 percent less power than previous generations of technology, says Sean McGrath, vice president of marketing and business development, ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions. Product transparency is another hot sustainability-related topic. May new construction projects will only consider products that have Health Product or Environmental Product Declarations that list material ingredients and their potential health impact.

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Larry Anderson Editor, SecurityInformed.com & SourceSecurity.com

An experienced journalist and long-time presence in the US security industry, Larry is SourceSecurity.com's eyes and ears in the fast-changing security marketplace, attending industry and corporate events, interviewing security leaders and contributing original editorial content to the site. He leads SourceSecurity.com's team of dedicated editorial and content professionals, guiding the "editorial roadmap" to ensure the site provides the most relevant content for security professionals.

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