When it comes to doors in educational facilities there is one overarching concern—safety. However, when it comes to keeping students and teachers safe, there are competing interests between keeping would-be intruders out and allowing an easy and effective exit in the event of a fire, intrusion or other hazard.
“From a security perspective, the most important function of a door is to control entry,” says a guide on door locking hardware published by California’s Division of the State Architect. “From the standpoint of fire safety, however, a door’s exit function is the ruling factor.”
In the wake of a rash of school intrusions and shootings from Columbine and Sandy Hook to Virginia Tech and the University of California Santa Barbara, security and efforts to keep intruders out have taken the center safety stage. As always, the proof is in the monetary pudding with millions of dollars in the form of bonds and referendums being approved to upgrade school security, including the overhaul and replacement of doors and the connected hardware in schools and universities.
What are some of the things that schools should consider when replacing doors and designing entryways in order to make schools more secure and to protect students, faculty and staff?
- Limit exterior doors. The fewer exterior doors there are, the less likely it is for someone to find an entrance to the school that is not being supervised by security.
- Minimize door hardware. Exterior doors should have as little exposed hardware as possible, and their hinges should have non-removable pins, according to an assessment guide for schools compiled by the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities.
- Employ access control technologies. Install automatic locks, swipe-card access systems, buzz-in intercoms, panic buttons, surveillance cameras and sally ports.
While keeping intruders out should be a major consideration in installing doors and hardware, ensuring that students and teachers can exit quickly and safely in the event of a fire or other hazard is also important. But there are measures that can be implemented that allow easy exits for those who belong in schools, but also make it difficult for those who don’t belong there to make an easy escape.
Some extra measures that can be implemented on this front:
- Exterior doors with panic push-bars should be equipped with tamper-proof deadbolt locks to prevent easy exit after school hours by criminals.
- Key-controlled exterior doors should be equipped with contacts so they can be tied into a central security monitoring and control system.
- Door alarms, delayed opening devices, or sensors or cameras should be installed and monitored/controlled from the central office.