The benefits of Access Control in Schools

Have you considered Access Control within your school?

Unfortunately schools face a number of security threats including theft and vandalism and so ensuring the safety of staff, pupils and assets is a high priority. Consequently, access control plays a very important role in securing schools and helping to protect the premises against criminals. The average school has a transient population with many high value goods such as computers and IT equipment on-site, as well as the personal possessions of staff and students. Both equipment and possessions are extremely attractive to thieves so it is no surprise that these sites are becoming more of a target to criminals. Schools are advised to assess their threats and secure their premises, with an increasing number turning to access control systems for extra protection.

What is access control?

prodThumb.php.jpgAccess control provides the ability to control, monitor and restrict the movement of people, assets or vehicles in, out and around a site. It is an essential security method which protects both people and assets and has a wide range of applications from controlling a single entrance door to a large integrated security network.

To make themselves less of a target to criminals during the daytime, schools should focus on the issue of accessibility as this helps to reduce the risk of trespassers and walk-in thieves. Outside of opening hours, schools have long been a favourite target for burglars and vandals with the consequences ranging from minor theft or damage to the complete loss of the school through actions of arsonists. An access control system can therefore help to manage a school's known or anticipated threats.

Access control systems consist of three components. Firstly, there is the physical barrier, which restricts access into a building. This is achieved through methods such as doors being secured by a magnetic or strike lock and turnstiles or speedgates, which are designed to limit access to one person for one card presented. Secondly there is the identification device, which identifies users of an access control system before granting access. There are a variety of different devices including a proximity card and reader which uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), at both a short or long read range. Other methods include a smart card and reader, a swipe card and reader, PIN pads or biometric equipment such as fingerprint and iris scanning. This equipment can be used throughout a school's site, which will only grant access to staff and pupils thereby reducing the risk of intruders.

The door controller and software is another important tool in an access control system. This is used to decide who can gain access through which access point at what time of day and can vary depending on the size of the system and how many readers or sites are being controlled. There are several options when it comes to installing this technology including: a standalone door controller linked to a single door with no software; a number of door controllers all linked together to a single PC to control one site; a number of sites all interlinked together over a wide network area. All three systems are effective and depend on the school's requirements.

So what are the benefits of Access Control within Schools?

Protection during school hours is paramount but additional benefits of having an access control system within your school include visitor monitoring which proves very useful in school premises as visitors can often blend in with staff and pupils very easily. Therefore the use of PC and computer networks should be considered as these systems can print photographic ID and allow access to be restricted to certain areas. This is an easy and inexpensive solution for visitor management that is frequently used.

Access control alone provides a school with effective protection against security risks, however some sites incorporate other security measures depending on the size and layout of their premises. For example, if a school is set out over several floors or sites they may also benefit from a fully integrated access control system with CCTV, intruder alarm, fire detection and business management systems.

 As well as helping to protect a school from the likes of intruders and burglars, access control can assist with other safety aspects including emergency evacuation support and car park monitoring. If a fire occurs, fire roll-call software can be used to automatically generate a report containing crucial information in relation to who is within the building and potentially where they are. The software operates via the access control smart card or fob that staff or pupils use to gain access into a building.

Furthermore, with a large number of pupils and staff commuting by car, schools may also benefit from Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR). This technology is used to monitor the entrance of vehicles on-site and identify a vehicle's number plates through the use of CCTV cameras and computer software. This software allows any suspicious vehicles to be investigated as well as enabling critical information to be passed on to the police to assist in the pursuit, identification and capture of offenders should a crime occur. With its many benefits, an access control system proves to be an effective way of providing added protection to schools. With a high volume of valuable equipment on-site and the overriding importance of ensuring the safety of staff and pupils, no one could disagree that crime prevention in schools deserves the highest priority.

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