Maintaining the Best Defense

No educational facility is safe from the hands--and feet--of vandals. Some students find pleasure in defacing school property, especially equipment found in washrooms, resulting in millions of dollars spent annually to repair and replace vandalized facilities and products.

Administrators constantly are searching for ways to eliminate, or at least discourage, the destructive acts that unfortunately do occur. There are two ways to combat the problem: -Eliminate the sources of vandalism. -Install vandal-resistant products.

Removing temptation The primary targets of destruction in a school washroom environment are toilet partitions, hand sinks and paper-towel dispensers. Removing or adapting the sources of vandalism will go a long way in decreasing malicious acts.

Toilet partitions receive abuse from graffiti, gouging, chemicals and from being torn down. Installing heavy-duty stainless-steel hardware that runs the entire length of the door will make it more difficult for vandals to destroy the partitions. It is recommended that ceiling anchor installations that run the length of the floor be used in vandal-prone areas. Recommended types of toilet compartments are solid phenolic or solid plastic. Both products should be specified at least to the minimum standards established for smoke contribution by the National Fire Protection Association Life Safety Code.

Individual sinks often are ripped away from the walls; therefore, consider installing a single-unit wash fountain that utilizes multiple faucets. Typically with this type of system, one to three students can wash their hands at the same time so as not to impede traffic flow. When properly installed, the larger configuration is more difficult to rip away from the wall when compared to single sinks.

Surface-mounted towel dispensers are a major target for vandalism and abuse. Vandals often plug up toilets and sinks with paper towels, and even start fires in washrooms by igniting trash cans. One remedy is to install cast-iron warm-air hand dryers and remove paper hand towels from washrooms. This will eliminate the major product used in many vandalism incidents. An added benefit is that warm-air hand dryers usually pay for themselves in about one year, especially when rising paper costs and increased operation costs due to repairs caused by vandals are factored in. However, if paper is the preferred hand-drying method, install stainless-steel recessed towel dispensers.

Washing away germs Washrooms also are locations administrators can target to improve sanitation conditions. One option is to remove hand-paper or cloth-rolled towels in favor of warm-air hand dryers, thereby eliminating products that are bacteria-laden after being used.

Another way is to install automatic faucets, allowing touch-free operation of valves or knobs to activate the flow of water. Besides being more sanitary to use, automatic faucets will reduce overall water consumption. Most all automatic faucets, if tampered with, will run for approximately 30 seconds and shut off automatically, thus reducing the chances of water running continuously after students leave the washroom. Utilizing vandal-resistant stainless-steel soap dispensers that dispense pre-measured doses of soap also help schools contribute to the overall personal-hygiene practices of students.

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