A major development in K-12 best security practices over the past 20 years has been a focus on hardening entries to campus facilities. Very often criminals, including active shooters, enter a building the same way most of us do — through the front door.
Current industry best practices call for a combination of locked doors and video intercoms at main entries as the most effective way to screen and identify visitors with minimal delays. The practice also can be easily extended to employee and vendor entries.
The most recent federal statistics (2015-16) show 94.1% of all public schools control access to buildings during school hours, an increase of nearly 20% since the 1999-2000 school year1. A locked door and a video intercom add valuable and affordable layers of security.
Visitors pushing the “Call” button on an Aiphone IX Series 2 video intercom station reach a master station typically located in the main office. From there, office staff or school resource officers can see visitors and conduct a two-way conversation before deciding to remotely open the door. If there’s any doubt about a visitor’s intentions, the door can remain closed and locked.
Aiphone network-based video intercoms can be controlled and monitored from a district’s central Security Operations Center. The IX Series 2 mobile app enables school guards or officers to remain in control of the system while patrolling the campus. These tools make video intercoms ideal for allowing access for community groups using school facilities after classes.
Embedded cameras in the IX Series 2 intercoms also helps eliminate “piggybacking” – an event where unannounced guests attempt to enter along with an approved visitor. The intercoms can also record photos of visitors for forensic review.
Fencing and gates help control pedestrian traffic patterns and funnel visitors to the main entry for campus access. Signage placed in parking lots, along pathways, and at entries help explain the access control process to visitors.
On larger high school campuses, Aiphone emergency towers with embedded IX Series 2 video intercoms add security in remote parking lots and around gymnasiums and football stadiums. With the push of a button a distressed student, teacher, or staff member can contact campus security or local first responders. Real-time video helps dispatchers determine a proper call response. It’s also easy to immediately pinpoint the exact location of each tower. Some towers offer CCTV arms for adding a surveillance camera to gain additional visual data.
Sometimes emergencies, such as a medical problem or an out-of-control student, originate in the classroom. In these cases, teachers can use Aiphone audio intercoms to call the main office for assistance. If the teacher is interrupted before speaking, office personnel will see where the call was initiated by using the master station’s caller ID feature.
By installing master stations in each classroom, individual teachers can make calls to any other classroom or broadcast an announcement to all rooms. This could be important if office personnel are unable to make announcements. And unlike a standard telephone, Aiphone audio intercom master stations are sender-oriented, meaning that if a teacher is using the system, an incoming message from the office can take priority.
Aiphone audio intercoms allow office personnel to simultaneously alert each classroom and provide specific commands such as lock-in-place or evacuate to a safer location. Or if the emergency affects a single classroom, such as an agitated non-custodial parent seeking his or her child, the notice can be shared only with that student’s teacher. Installing audio intercoms in playgrounds, cafeterias, libraries, and hallways enables teachers and administrators to immediately contact, and seek help from, the front office.
The pressure on campus administrators to protect their students has never been greater. By using both video and audio intercoms from Aiphone, administrators and security personnel can know who’s at the front entry, while communicating routine and emergency messages across the entire campus.
For more information on campus security, please download our free 31-page eBook, Best Practices For Keeping Students Safe, offering insights into current technology, policies and procedures, interactive project and partner checklists and much more.
By Dana Pruiett
1. Indicators of School Crime and Safety report, the National Center for Education Statistics, April 2019