In much of California and other warmer regions, the climate allows school facilities to take advantage of their outdoor surroundings. Instead of linking classrooms with enclosed corridors, many classrooms have exits that lead directly to the outdoors.
“In some of these locations, the weather is so nice that building an enclosed corridor would just be sort of mean,” says Ellen Aasletten, an architect with the School Facilities Division of the California Department of Education.
But many of those facilities were constructed before security became an overriding concern for schools. Doors allow people to come in as well as let people out, and administrators need to make sure that people who aren't welcome in schools are kept out. So whether a building has just a few exterior doors or many, administrators should look for ways to make sure that their facilities' doors are as secure as possible.
KEEPING IT SIMPLE
The most effective way to prevent doors from becoming a security problem is to have as few as possible.
“The fewer doors — especially those equipped with locksets — the fewer security problems that should arise,” says a California Department of Education report.
But many schools already have been built with numerous exterior doors. Schools could consider disabling or eliminating doors, but in many cases, because of fire codes, institutions must make sure those doors are operable and provide students with a safe exit. So the type of door installed and the features with which it is equipped can make a difference in whether a door is jeopardizing security at a school.
The California report offers several suggestions:
Doors should be made of steel, aluminum alloy, or solid-core hardwood. Double doors should be secured with heavy-duty, multiple-point long flush bolts. Door hinges should have non-removable pins. Door frames should be constructed of pry-proof metal. If glass doors are necessary, they should be fully framed and equipped with burglar-resistant tempered glass.
Exterior doors do not need handles and locks on the outside. These doors should have as little exposed hardware as possible.
Avoid having recessed doorways that can conceal inappropriate activity.
Install squeeze-bar units, or “panic hardware,” which have no exposed bar to pry or bend. Panic bars should be protected by “pick plates,” door security devices that can prevent tools from releasing the bolt.
Heavy-duty metal or solid-core wooden doors should be used at entrances to areas containing expensive items. Sturdy kick plates can be used to minimize the damage to doors. Locks should be placed on all doors to high-risk areas. There should be no surface-mounted locks or locks having knob-mounted key access.
A report from the National Institute of Justice on the use of security technologies in schools also advocates limiting the number of building entry points.
“Just as with any high-security facility, restricting normal entrance to only one or two locations can greatly reduce the number of security personnel or security devices that must be supported,” the report states. “Limiting entry points can be very difficult for some schools, due to building layout, required emergency egress, property boundaries, the surrounding neighborhood and adjacent streets,” says the report.
One solution is fencing. “A robust fence defines property boundaries and forces a perpetrator to consciously trespass rather than idly wandering onto a campus,” the report states.
To enhance the security that doors provide, schools can use sign-in sheets, security guards, access-control cards, keypads or biometric devices to help control entry into a facility.