When you are taking care of the younger generation there is an expectation that you will do all you can to protect those who require it. Unfortunately, due to recent events, this has gone beyond simple criminal damage.
Of course, we are confident you are doing all within your ability but we thought we would be a list of 10 security considerations that we feel all schools should investigate.
Communication is key to any crisis situation. What systems do you have in place? Staff mobile phones? A handset in every room?
Are the rooms alarmed for distress? Not just a fire alarm – but a distress alarm? Is it a silent alarm? Where will it be heard? Is it tested on a regular basis? Some staff have panic buttons but it may tell you who is being attacked but not where.
You need to think the best way for you to communicate in an emergency; sometimes it’s a combination of various communications channels. It’s also best to take various scenarios into considerations. What may be appropriate in a fire may not be in an aggressive intrusion attack.
2. Access control
Limit the flow of people by using access control. This could be a simple digital card swipe system on every entrance or area that needs to be secured.
Consider even assigning access control cards to students, not just school staff. If you were to do this, you could have your access control cards double up as I.D. so you are always aware of who is in the building.
You need to have clear signage highlighting what to do in an emergency, emergency exits and if you are monitoring by CCTV. Most of these are a legal requirement which will have specific dimensions to comply with, too.
4. Secure the perimeter
Naturally, you’d want to protect the school’s assets within the building. Ensure that the school has no easy access points. Go around the perimeter looking for any broken fence panels and get them fixed. Consider having metal fencing – it may save you money in the long run.
Ensure you have a gated entrance, perhaps a gate that requires a keypad/swipe card entry to access. Whilst we appreciate you may not be able to do this at the core arrival times, it would certainly be advantageous to those staff who need to get in early/leave late to feel secure in the building.
In the same vein, you need to ensure means of escape is not compromised. Perhaps when an alarm is triggered, it opens up all areas.
We can understand most people’s hesitation towards implementing CCTV in a school but you need to be clear as to why you want it as you will need to notify the ICO of your reason, too. (Read more on CCTV rules.) You may also want to only install CCTV in certain places within the school, such as where money is kept or computer labs.
Some reasons you may want to consider installing CCTV to gain visual evidence of:
- Safety – attacks on staff or pupils
- Drug/solvent abuse
- Deterrence as crime is on the rise in the area
It is important to think about the placement of these cameras as cameras and their cables could be prone to attack.
6. Know thy visitor
You should know at all times who is on the premises, especially visitors.
The likely route for legitimate visitors would be through the reception area where you can sign them in. Also, give them an I.D. card and ensure they are accompanied to the relevant area.
7. Security lighting
During winter, it gets darker earlier so it is always a good idea to have security lighting outside, too. Along footpaths, playgrounds and especially in car parks to ensure no falls or unsavoury characters taking advantage of students and staff alike.
Additionally, security lighting should also fall into the design considerations for CCTV implementation. E.g. Flood lights that are triggered by infra-red detectors.
8. Data access
Yes, your data needs to be secure in everyday life but what happens if you experienced an electrical fault, perhaps right in the middle of an emergency? Do you have access to all the students’ records and registers?
You can get an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) unit which means you can still work or access your records on the grounds. Alternatively, you may want to consider how to access your records externally to the building.
9. Educate staff and students on the emergency procedures
As with fire procedures, it is important to educate all who will be affected. It’s a good idea to review and remind them on a regular basis, perhaps each term as you are likely to have new staff or students.
Additionally, some schools like to give their students and staff the chance to input on these procedures.
Just like in a fire alarm practice, you may also want to practice what happens in other situations.
How to justify any security costs
Think about how much a break in could cost you.
Let’s say it was isolated to the computer lab with 30 laptops in there.
You’d have the cost of replacing those 30 laptops, fixing the window (if they used that entrance point), time and cost clearing up any other damage such as broken chairs/marks on the wall.
It could also mean a non-financial impact, especially if it happens more than once:
- Damage to your fine reputation
- A fall in enrolment
- Lower morale from staff and students
- Disruption to learning, especially if it is a loss of equipment. (Imagine if this was near deadlines in exam periods!)
A risk assessment
As a key person within your school, we appreciate you probably hear “risk assessment” on a daily basis but it really is the best place to start.