Safeguarding Schools: Secure Emergency Lockdown Protocols

Andrew Shaw

Andrew Shaw

The Duty of Care that education officials have in terms of providing a safe environment for everyone on their premises is arguably more challenging in today’s world than at any time in days gone by. One area that should be identified for regular review is emergency lockdown. Here, Andrew Shaw calls for more schools to consider a number of security solutions to further improve their lockdown protocols.

Everyone involved in the running of schools has a duty to ensure the safety of the children in their care at all times, provide a safe and secure environment for learning and be prepared for any emergency, including lockdowns.

Schools are one of the most vulnerable targets when it comes to break-ins and even full-scale attacks. However, by preparing and planning for the worst, it’s possible to design and facilitate both a safe and inspiring space for learning.

Access control is a critical aspect of any school safety strategy. It’s all about the way in which a school manages credentials and the safe access and exit of pupils, staff and visitors on a daily basis. However, in the unfortunate event of an emergency, access control isn’t enough.

Every school should have a lockdown procedure that determines or defines the state of each opening of the building on demand or as soon as an emergency is detected.

Not only do schools need to implement a sufficient lockdown procedure for emergencies, but the appropriate lockdown needs to be in place after-hours to secure the school when everyone has gone home for the day.

The bottom line

The security of schools is of paramount importance, yet security systems and hardware are often overlooked. It’s not uncommon for necessary upgrades and replacements to be put back or even omitted entirely due to budget constraints or other challenges.

However, we believe strongly that ensuring the complete integrity of any security protocol at all times is essential, and that hardware and security systems are the defining cornerstones of any good school lockdown procedure.

Notwithstanding this, schools are under intense budget pressures. The scope of security solutions available to the UK market, however, means that schools can find systems best suited to their needs and budget. From mechanical to electronic solutions or a combination of the two, schools can implement an efficient and secure lockdown protocol, even when limited by budget.

Lockdown hardware

When it comes to choosing the right hardware, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Each school is individual and, as such, access control solutions should be tailored to and dependent on the school and its own unique security requirements.

There are a number of things to consider when it comes to selecting the right hardware solutions. For example, the severity of potential risks, the age of the building, budget and the long-term security strategy can all be influencing factors.

Based on these judgements, it’s important to consider whether you will want a manual, remote or centralised system or a combination of any of the three.

Manual lockdown

Perhaps the most recognisably traditional of the three, manual systems are the ones everyone will know and use. These are probably one of the most economical lockdown solutions, and rely on an individual having the physical key in hand to lock down a room or space.

Mechanical keys are a cost-effective option for a wide range of applications. However, it’s the least secure lockdown method as the speed of lockdown is dependent on how fast a staff member can reach the door and lock it.

Remote lockdown

These are solutions ideal for schools that want to upgrade lockdown systems, but are reluctant to step into the costs that come with networked systems.

Using this method, classrooms are locked down by remote fob within proximity of the door. However, they still rely on multiple staff members for lockdown.

Centralised lockdown

Centralised solutions can be one of the most secure lockdown types, requiring only a single point of accountability.

Centralised access control systems are activated via a computer or smart phone. With the simple push of a button, all openings can be locked throughout the building – making this the fastest lockdown solution.

Increased security, decreased risk

No matter the budget, schools are able to find effective lockdown options for their requirements. Even in older school premises, the effective use of electronic and wireless solutions, perhaps combined with the existing mechanical system, is easily achieved and cost-effective.

Whatever system is selected, the end result is an emergency lockdown protocol that helps ensure the safety of children as they learn.

Andrew Shaw is Architectural Consultant for Allegion UK

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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