School lockdowns – ensuring staff and students' safety
John Allen, Access Control at Axis Communications, sits down with QA Education to discuss the key principles of an effective school lockdown…
QA Education: John, our readers want to know: do all schools have to prepare for school lockdowns or is this the choice of the head or local authority?
John Allen: Preparing for a lockdown situation is a vital consideration for all schools, colleges and universities, so it will be something all head teachers are thinking about. How each school prepares for a lockdown, however, will differ as all facilities are unique. But it is a crucial measure that helps safeguard staff and students from potential outsider threats, which although rare in the United Kingdom, is becoming increasingly common worldwide.
Our schools are supposed to be safe havens that enable our children to learn and grow. Every pupil has the right to learn in a secure environment and having an effective school lockdown procedure in place is just one of the tools that can be deployed to make sure of that. When a school does look to set out its procedures, it should follow a set of core principles to defend against intrusion. These include identifying boundaries and safe zones; understanding your environment and how to best respond; developing security strategies and protocols; and increasing communication and training.
QA: Are some heads reluctant to prepare for lockdowns given the stress it could cause to pupils and staff, and does this reluctance pose a danger?
JA: It is not surprising that the thought of a school lockdown is a stressful one for both staff and students, so head teachers will be aware of potential negative implications of this. But this shouldn’t deter them, instead it should act as encouragement to ensure the procedure is well thought out and practised, so if the unexpected does happen, everybody knows what to do.
Managing the impact on staff and students is part of implementing a successful school lockdown procedure; enabling everybody to carry out the drill in a calm and timely manner can be critical to the success of both a drill, or a real-life event.
QA: How can heads ensure the lockdown drills are done in a safe, calm manner?
JA: Ensuring a lockdown drill is carried out safely and calmly requires practice, practice, and more practice. It’s clear that message is getting through, as we’ve seen a growing number of schools in the UK updating their procedures and running drills. If everybody knows what they are doing and have practiced the routine many times before, hopefully nobody will be caught off-guard should the worst happen.
QA: What equipment can schools invest in if they are worried about security?
JA: It’s a positive step that the education sector in general is looking at security planning as an essential part of its responsibility to students, staff, and property. Investing in an effective, efficient and dynamic security system will play a central role in this. The latest physical security systems, which take advantage of IoT technologies, allow users to react to events in real-time. This means that if a potential intruder is identified, a lockdown procedure can be promptly deployed
Furthermore, schools are telling us is that they want to invest in a security infrastructure that will not only serve them today, but also in the future. As trends in technology evolve and security threats increase, there is a constant need to improve system operations and ensure students are protected. In this scenario, an open solution is vital and enables schools to adapt to changing requirements.
QA: When budgets are tight, what is the most cost-effective equipment that can be used?
JA: Without doubt, the first consideration a school should make when deploying a physical security system, such as access control technology, is choosing a system that is not proprietary to one supplier. A closed system lacks flexibility, meaning a school may need to deploy an entirely new system and completely remove the old in future years to make the changes it needs.
A closed system is therefore the biggest obstacle to the protection of a school’s investment. At Axis, we always recommend asking potential suppliers for evidence that their systems and component parts are designed to be open, and able to connect with different control and software solutions. The scalability and flexibility of an open system means a school can begin with a solution they need, and then easily scale up and adapt as its requirements change. A solution for now, and in the future.