How to reduce the complexity of access control in educational facilities

by FM Media
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Access control in educational buildings, from primary schools to universities, is a complex and challenging issue. However, by using the right technologies the complexity can be reduced, which will increase levels of security and improve the experiences of students and staff alike, according to ASSA ABLOY Australia.

Financial constraints do not necessarily prevent educational institutions from employing the latest access control technologies as they can be installed at low cost and actually reduce running costs.

Faced with a complex balance of competing priorities, educational bodies should address a number of key considerations if they plan to ensure adequate security within the financial and technical parameters of their premises.

Firstly, organisations should implement an up-to-date risk assessment using free services provided by many access control providers, and by engaging in a serious debate within the governing and management structure about the level of risks in different spaces/times.

The risk assessment must start with the likely level, frequency and severity of the threat to student security and safety, quickly followed by the safety and security of staff, before then considering the security of other visitors and users of the site. It is important that the risk assessment is informed by credible, relevant statistics and not by headlines, rumours, urban myths or local prejudices.

Having identified the risks, the next consideration for education organisations is the number of barriers or preventative measures that need to be implemented to provide the commensurate level of security. How long would each barrier take to be breached and how quickly would an alarm be raised and response mobilised?

Finally, take a hard look at the likely level of loss and the consequences. Whereas student security may be paramount and justify complex access control, it may not be justifiable in real terms to apply the same criteria to assets in the IT lab or sports centre, despite their value.

Factor in the quality of the student experience by considering the ease with which secure movement can be achieved. How many different credentials are you considering?

Traditionally access control systems have secured only 20 percent of the doors. However, this number is increasing rapidly with the introduction of low-cost wireless technology, which also has the effect of reducing the number of credentials in use if planned properly.

At this point it is important to select the right technologies. You may not need full access control functionality on all doors. Differentiate between the functionality you really need in different areas and cost savings are achievable. Keyless institutions are now a reality.

Where a facility already has an existing access control system, but one which now needs to be extended to include new additions and extensions, this is possible with compatible wireless technologies at a low cost.

But be sure you are extending the existing access control system rather than introducing a new one, you will avoid problems in administering the larger system and ensure the user’s experience is enhanced.

By doing this you will avoid the need for a full system replacement and hence achieve the extension of the access control system in a very cost effective manner.

This article is adapted from the ASSA ABLOY discussion paper, titled: ‘Access Control in educational premises: Can we afford to protect our young people’.

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