Most school entrances have a series of doors and some sort of a vestibule configuration. Historically, the vestibule was meant to keep warm air in and cold air, leaves, and dirt out of the school. Today, the vestibule is integral to safety, and security.
The lobby and other main entrances are what typically come to mind but don’t forget about all of the emergency exits around the building. While administrators and staff think of those doors as emergency exits, others outside of the building may think of them as entrance points. Those entrance points can be even more dangerous than the front doors where the buses unload each morning, but we’ll detail secondary ingress/egress in a future part of this series.
Many schools are being designed or retrofitted to have a secure vestibule area. They are often reinforced with projectile resistant glass and feature vehicle bollards along the sidewalk.
Ideally, the vestibule serves as a safe-zone where a well-intended visitor can come inside and get out of the cold or rain to begin the process of entering the building. Once inside of the vestibule, they quickly find their path into the building to be blocked by another series of locked doors. With a moment of looking around, the visitor should easily find an intercom equipped with a button to press for assistance. Once pressed, a front-office administrator will receive an alert that there is a visitor and initiate a conversation through the intercom system. From the safety of the office area, video surveillance cameras transmit images to monitors so that staff can verify the visitor’s identity, demeanor, and surroundings. A camera integrated with the intercom may not provide enough situational awareness. Consider an intercom camera for a view of the person’s face, and supplement that camera with one or two overhead cameras inside and outside the vestibule. Multiple cameras will help to ensure that someone isn’t being forced to gain entry under duress. Once the visitor’s identity is verified and they appear to be well-intentioned, the second set of doors can be remotely released by the administrator for the visitor to make entry into the school.
While vetting visitors at the vestibule is a great step towards a safer learning environment, this doesn’t guarantee that those with ill-intent won’t use the same entry path during peak traffic times. Many schools leave the vestibule open for free access in the morning and afternoon to allow students into and out of the school easily. During this time, the idea of using the vestibule as a safety-net is not possible. Other policies and procedures need to go into play to mitigate the multitude of other risks to safety and security during these times.
The goal of a security assessment and site survey is to uncover potential threats at schools, buildings, and campuses of all sizes. Ultimately, these solutions can help integrate a variety of technologies as part of a plan that works in unison to help secure occupants, protect valuable assets, and assist in preventing physical access to sensitive areas.
Contact the Vision team immediately to discuss the benefits of properly and professionally securing entrances and exits.