Security audits can boost school safety


Properly functioning door hardware plays a significant role in maintaining the safety and well being of students and teachers. Conducting a simple review of a school’s locking hardware can catch small glitches that could potentially jeopardize the security of the entire school.

A Guide to School Security Hardware

A review of a school’s door hardware by a security profesional can uncover opportunities to improve building safety.  The security audit will examine traffic patterns of the building occupants to see if there are bottlenecks or other tie ups that impede security. Much of this is pre-determined by building design, but door hardware solutions can help manage how the facility is utilized.  For example, a school may have several different entrances.  One suggestion might be to limit ingress to one front entrance and one near the loading dock for the maintenance personnel.  The remaining doors are used for egresst only, forcing students, staff and visitors to use one main entrance which can be easily monitored. This improves security by controlling who enters the building. 

To get the most out of the security audit, it's helpful to understand the different types of commonly used school locking devices and where they are applied. 

Mortise Locksets – These are locks that fit into a mortise in the door edge, and typically feature levers to operate a latchbolt. They can be applied to any door in a facility that requires latching or locking.  New innovations in door hardware are continuously emerging to meet school security needs.  One of these is the “security classroom” function.  A traditional classroom lockset requires the door to be locked from the outside, while the inside lever remains operable. In theory this is great, since unauthorized individuals cannot lock or unlock doors without a key. But it actually creates vulnerability by forcing the teacher to open the door, insert their key in the outside cylinder, turn their key to lock the door and then close the door.  This takes considerable time and may expose the faculty member to the very danger they are locking the door against. 

A solution exists. Imagine the same lockset with a cylinder on the inside that does the same thing as the cylinder on the outside, that is, locks the outside lever.  You now have a “security classroom function” lockset that can easily be locked from inside the room. 

Exit Devices – Also known as “panic hardware”, exit devices allow safe exiting (or “free egress” in code lingo) from a space, while restricting access.  Exit devices consist of a push pad or bar which extends across the push side of the door.  When depressed, the device retracts a latchbolt to allow the door to be pushed open. In an educational facility, exit devices are required on any door serving a space with an occupant load of fifty or more persons.  This means that most classrooms measuring over 1,000 square feet (check your local code) will be required to have an exit device on any exit door from the space.  Additional places you’ll see exit devices applied in educational facilities include locker rooms, pools, auditoriums, media centers, entrances and cross-corridor doors. 

Many types of electronic functions are available for exit devices. One of these functions routinely applied to the educational environment is the delayed egress exit device.  This device is designed so that a person wishing to exit will be detained for 15 seconds* while an audible alarm sounds.  After the 15 second delay, the door is allowed to be opened.  This is an ideal application for media centers, computer classrooms, and chemistry labs where material can be snuck out the back door.

Another electronic exit device function applied in the educational environment is the electric latch retraction exit device.  This device operates as a normal exit device, until power is applied.  When power is applied to the device, the latchbolt is retracted, and the door can be pulled (or pushed) open without depressing the push rail or operating any trim, such as a lever.  This can be applied to an entrance which may either have a card reader for access, or be remotely controlled by a time clock or other switching device.  

Automatic Operators – Automatic operators provide for the ultimate in convenience and door control.  With the simple push of a button a door can be opened, held open to allow passage and then closed.  Most schools have one entrance that is accessible in such a manner to meet handicap codes and the ADA. These entrances are not only for physically disabled persons, but for many situations when a person may not have their hands available to push or pull a door open (ever have arms full of books?).  Many automatic door operators have the ability to be interfaced with electrified hardware such as electric strikes and the aforementioned electric latch retraction exit device in order to provide a complete and secure entrance solution.

Door Position Switches – These consist of a small magnet installed in the edge of a door, with a small magnetic reed switch installed in the door frame adjacent to the magnet.  When the door is opened, the circuit created by the magnet and the switch is broken. This action sends a signal indicating the door is open. These devices have many uses, most commonly to signal a forced entry to an alarm system. Door position switches are often surface mounted by alarm companies after a building is constructed, creating aesthetically unappealing conditions and leaving the door position switch prone to vandalism. These devices can be mortised into the door and frame, rendering them invisible when the door is closed.  These should be applied at each exterior door and any interior doors protecting valuable spaces such as computer labs, media centers and data closets.

An annual review of school security hardware is a simple step to ensure you’re practicing due diligence in providing a safe, secure environment.