Safety is a top priority for educational facilities. Children and young adults deserve to learn in an environment that is free of violence, threats and danger. And yet, over 40% of education facility managers have experienced at least one physical site or cybersecurity breach during the last 12 months, finds a report by Honeywell.
Since education facility managers are responsible for creating an environment conducive to learning, as well as protecting the safety of students, staff and campuses, it is not surprising that about 45% of education facility managers say site security (including video surveillance and campus access control), and fire and life safety systems will be their primary priority over the next year.
The 2021 Honeywell report looked at the assessments, challenges, and priorities of education facility managers in the United States, Germany, and China. It highlighted current conditions in school facilities, starting from pre-kindergarten all the way to trade schools, colleges, and universities. Facility managers spoke about their intentions to enhance site security, occupant safety, building health, and emergency response.
So, what does this mean for security guards and companies that work to protect schools? They may find that their services will become more valuable. At the same time, they may also be expected to do more as educational environments evolve.
Duties of a school security officer
The presence of any type of guard or officer in elementary and high schools is not without controversy. Nevertheless, school-based policing is considered one of the fastest-growing sectors of law enforcement.
It’s important to note that there is a difference between a general security guard and a school resource officer, or SROs. SROs are trained by the National Association of School Resource Officers, and they are generally armed. Some jurisdictions prohibit SROs from carrying firearms, though. Schools may hire SROs if they are trying to prevent serious crimes, especially those involving guns, from occurring. However, some feel that putting armed officers in schools only creates more problems.
School security officers are hired to prevent crime, theft and unsanctioned behavior, and protect students, faculty, and staff. One of the most important responsibilities of a school guard is to ensure that all doors are entrances that are supposed to be locked, remain closed. Schools may use access control systems before and after school to help prevent intruders from attempting to break into classrooms or other facilities. However, a guard can offer an added layer of security by checking to make sure a door hasn’t been propped open, or that the access system is working correctly. Guards may also have the ability to lock and unlock certain rooms or doors, for example, a janitorial closet or storage room.
Depending on the school and the security system in place, the guard may also be responsible for monitoring security camera feeds, and reporting suspicious behavior to a supervisor. Cameras become an important part of security strategy in larger schools, high schools and universities. Students may be in the building very early in the morning, or may need to stay late to participate in extracurricular activities.
Like any security professional, school guards will need to complete and file incident reports when a fight breaks out or something is stolen. Documentation is important because it serves as the information schools will use to make decisions about what happens to students acting dangerously. But reports are also used to make future decisions about how to limit certain types of activities from occurring again. For example, if the school sees that bikes are only being stolen from one area that is close to a public sidewalk, it may decide to move the bike rack closer to the school building.
School guards must also be prepared to respond to unique situations and help minors navigate fire drills or active shooter lockdown drills. Guiding students and staff through these drills will help them understand what exactly they need to do to get out of the building safely and quickly should an actual incident ever occur. Finally, guards working in educational facilities should do their best to offer safety without appearing overly intimidating. Students should feel comfortable asking a guard for help if they need it.
How technology can improve security for schools
For facility managers who are focused on augmenting security, or security companies that want to gain a competitive edge, technology can play a large role in improving security and security processes. What’s more, the technology does not have to cost a lot of money.
Security companies may want to look at mobile security apps if they aren’t already using them. Guard tour systems such as Patrol Points allow companies to set up routes in a matter of minutes, and the order of the checkpoints can be changed so that guards are not always conducting the same patrol.
Checkpoints are scanned using a smartphone, and guards don’t even need wifi connection for the entirety of their routes. If the guard loses connection, the data is stored locally in their phone. Patrol data is automatically synced to the cloud once the guard’s smartphone has access to a network. This is extremely helpful if a guard must go underground and patrol a basement, boiler room, parking lot, etc.
Security software also improves the flow of information. Incident reports can be logged and published from the guard’s phone, which means they can immediately be sent to supervisors if there is an urgent issue. In addition, management can run reports based on documented incidents, and gain a clearer understanding of the events that occur most frequently. Security and the school or facility manager can then work on finding solutions to stop the incidents from recurring.
Surveillance cameras have the potential to deter crime, but they cannot do anything to actively stop someone from vandalizing property or committing a crime. Cameras work best when they are integrated into a larger security strategy, and when someone is available to actively monitor the footage.
Finally, access control systems are an efficient and effective method for controlling who can access certain spaces. Larger schools with more resources may be able to implement a visitor management system with a person available to sign guests in and out. Turnstiles or keypads may be a more affordable option, or a better option for facilities that are open during off-hours. A lab could benefit from this type of security system. Students with a valid code can enter at any time to complete work, but a stranger could not easily sneak in after a class has cleared out.
Security has become a top priority in schools, and those in charge of keeping staff, students and property safe are looking to invest in valuable, impactful solutions. A more secure school environment enables students and staff to focus on learning. Security staff and companies can help schools achieve their security goals. Keep in mind that there is never a “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to security. That’s because each facility will have its own unique challenges and requirements. A custom, integrated approach often works best when trying to build a security plan that will address the big picture issues as well as the finer details.