Schools that understand their threat environment and provide a proactive approach can achieve security within their budgets

According to the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), taxpayers in the U.S. spend an average of $700 billion each year on K-12 public school expenses, with school costs across the board predicted to rise into the near future. Of that spend, school security carves a healthy chunk, growing to more than a $2.7 billion market, which accounts mostly for the technology side including access control, video surveillance and biometrics like facial recognition, yet doesn’t account for the billions more school district layout for an armed campus police officer. Federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security are also getting into the act. In 2018 DHS awarded a $2.3 million grant to train high school students to fill the roles of first responders in a mass casualty event like a school shooting.

In states like Colorado, legislators have aggressively addressed school security and safety spending as a result of the high-profile mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS in south Florida in 2018 that killed 17 students. Spurred on by student walkouts in the state, Colorado’s senate allocated $35 million for police officers in school and security technology upgrades to school facilities. Lawmakers from around the country were so motivated following this tragedy that at least 25 other states followed Colorado’s lead and funded more than $960 million into school security and safety programs.

As Colorado state Sen. James Wilson stated after his sponsored bill passed: “School site safety is more important than roads and bridges [or expanding educational programs]. If we transport them on good roads and pay for their education but we cannot keep them safe, we have failed.”

But according to a recent HIS Markit school security systems industry market overview reveals, “despite advancements in the level of security used on school premises, the number of mass shootings at U.S. schools has remained relatively constant throughout the past 30 years. When looking specifically at secondary schools, the number of mass shootings has reached an unprecedented high in the past five years.”

The IHS research also shows that the new technologies currently being investigated to improve safety at schools include facial recognition, logical and physical security identity management integration and high-security classroom doors.

Creating a Balanced Approach to Security

Both academics and public safety administrators agree that providing a safe school environment is critical to the education process and are taking steps to improve their incident prevention and emergency response procedures. Often, the focus is on creating layers of protection using surveillance and access control systems, among other elements. This increased attention on incident prevention is certain to help – and should lead to the next logical planning question: what happens if, despite those efforts, an incident nonetheless occurs?

Integrating technology with a proactive vigilance can stretch tight school budgets to create a safe zone for students and staff. The goal should be a systematic plan that prevents school violence and criminal acts through a holistic approach between physical security technology and solutions and behavioral prevention methods. A school security plan that is not proactive and fails to respond to campus threats is a failed plan.

In formulating school security objectives, organizations like Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) and security solutions providers like Sielox have a singular focus to:

  • Prevent incidents from happening and/or unfolding
  • Control incidents to ensure the safety of those directly impacted
  • Resolve incident as quickly as possible

Having the ability to coordinate emergency situations inside the school with public safety help from outside is a key element to a safe and secure school. In addition to the standard installation of access control, video surveillance with analytics and high-security door solutions, more emphasis is being given to combining those basics with a well-conceived lockdown solution. The Sielox CLASS™ (Crisis Lockdown Alert Status System) is an award-winning Emergency Notification and Response Solution that allows teachers and administrators to report incidents and the current status at their location and receive instructions on how to react by either vacating the facility or hunkering down. This can result in a lockdown depending on what and how an access control system is deployed at the location.

What’s in Your Technology Budget?

School administrators require getting the most out of their security technology spend. So, budgets dictate taking took a comprehensive approach to security tools and technology that consists of mechanical locks, access control, visitor management, video intercom, asset protection, duress, lockdown, mass notification, fire alarm, HVAC, refrigeration, video surveillance/audio analytics and weather stations, with almost every device being connected to each school’s network.

A former security director at a major Colorado school district, addressing the growing cybersecurity threat, recommended that his facilities segregate their physical security networks from the administrative and student networks to minimize breach threats. Operating security and emergency communications systems, including access control, video surveillance and intrusion alarms on dedicated physical security networks (subnets and/or VLANs), not only provides better cyber protection for physical security systems, but it also preserves the operation of these critical systems if operational networks fail for any other reason.

Taking the Technology Deep Dive

Like any project, success is based on having an achievable goal in mind and assembling the team to get a school there. For school security projects, enlisting the counsel of knowledgeable consultants and experienced systems integrators can put the venture on solid ground. A good integrator will know your pain points and what budget constraints are in play and strive to be a trusted partner in the project from the early design stage through technology implementation and training.

Many consultants and integrators stress the importance of employing a common physical security system among multiple campus locations and doing the same when it comes to multiple buildings in the school district. A common-systems approach can lead to simplicity of operations, conformity and ease of training and help in-house staff maintaining their systems. It is also a benefit to the technology vendors who work in collaboration with the integrators when the end-user is ready for upgrades and systems expansion.

Integrated Access Control Solutions The Sielox Way

Sielox addresses the need for integrated emergency lockdown and notification capabilities by layering various systems to provide comprehensive and scalable solutions. This layered approach allows school administrators, security professionals, and first responders to react quickly and gather as much information as quickly and easily as possible. The technology at the core of the Sielox solution is CLASS™ (Crisis Lockdown Alert Status System). CLASS is an award-winning Emergency Notification and Response Solution that is accessible anywhere and anytime using a PC, tablet or smartphone over WAN, LAN, high-speed cellular network or Wi-Fi.

When CLASS is layered with Sielox Pinnacle™ Advanced Access Control Solution or AnyWare™ Browser-Based Access Control Platform, it provides a comprehensive and highly effective first line of defense that can lock down a facility at moment’s notice. The combination of CLASS with wireless lock integration from Allegion and ASSA ABLOY results in the immediate physical lockdown of any or all interior and perimeter doors.

About Sielox

Sielox Layered Security Systems, including access control systems, crisis notification, response systems, and intelligent access controllers, provide a smart way to protect people, property, and assets with the highest levels of performance, reliability, and cost-efficiency.

Since 1979, Sielox has built its expertise in working with integration partners and end-users in all types of facilities. Our “Made in USA” lockdown solutions include the AnyWare™ Browser-Based Access Control Solution, CLASS™ Crisis Lockdown Alert Status System, 1700 Intelligent Controller, and Pinnacle™ Advanced Access Control Software integrated with leading manufacturer wireless locks.

Sielox is a listed vendor with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and PEPPM which can be used for State, County, and Municipal Government purchasing.