Selling Schools on Access Control

Aug. 12, 2015
How to pitch administrators on the benefits, from the front door to the classroom

Schools are a major sales target for most security integrators. Of course, the first thing we think about when approaching a school are protecting the doors on the outside; however, there is as much or more business to be derived from the classrooms themselves. To find out what makes schools buy and what they should know, we contacted some of the leading electronic access control companies that sell to schools. Here’s what they say about maximizing your opportunity.

“We often see school systems react or overreact to violent events such as school shootings by quickly responding with installation of CCTV and access control systems largely with little thought of design,” says Rick Caruthers, executive vice president of Galaxy Control Systems. “It seems that, in an attempt to ease public concerns, systems are installed and later found to be deficient and, in some cases, lacking the basic security fundamentals needed to create a safe school campus.

“The main concerns we find are controlling visitors, securing perimeter doors and creating emergency lockdown,” Caruthers continues. “We also find that the emergence of the wireless locks are making it more affordable for schools systems to consider devices for each classroom door where, in the past, typical locking hardware proved to be too costly. We feel that the introduction of even newer technology, such as NFC and Bluetooth, will open more options for school deployments in the years to come.”

Steve Dentinger, vice president sales and marketing/site manager-Toronto for Keyscan, a member of the Kaba Group, agrees. “Wireless locksets with tight integration to the electronic access control system presents schools with a greater ability to extend their security envelope throughout the entire school environment and not just the perimeter. This is due to lower overall costs of not cutting in an electronic strike and cabling. This permits the installation of access control throughout the entire school, creating significantly more safe havens for staff and students should a threat arise. Combine this expanded footprint with a fully online access control system and the schools are extremely well equipped to quickly respond when lockdowns are necessary.”

Gary Staley, national sales manager of RS2 likes to start selling from the very beginning. “Show them how your system can be integrated with other campus systems, such as HVAC, food operations, residence halls, event coordination and others. Let them know that the system is completely scalable, with the capacity for frequent expansion to meet future needs, including classroom doors, as their campus undergoes growth and construction. For schools and colleges especially, emphasize that work will be completed during periods when students are absent such as during spring break or summer vacation.”


Be Prepared to Cover Lockdowns

“One subject which always comes up when discussing access control at schools is the issue of emergency lockdown,” emphasizes Fred Dawber, president of Cansec Systems Ltd. “This sounds simple, but it is anything but simple to implement. We stress that our access control systems (and most others) are capable of performing the function of locking the strike- or magnetic lock-equipped doors based on a trigger event. This can be something simple such as operation of a big red button or something more sophisticated such as concurrent operation of more than one pushbutton, a pushbutton operation which only locks selected doors based on the time of day, or what the lock state is of selected doors. Your imagination can have a field day.

“Remember, an emergency lockdown is a serious event with potentially life and death consequences,” Dawber adds. “It has to work — period. If the access control host computer is down, it has to work; if the access control panel is down, it has to work; if the power fails, it has to work. Simply stated, it has to be just as reliable as the release of controlled doors in the event of a fire.

Unfortunately, this is being overlooked in almost all emergency lockdown systems being sold in facilities with an access control system, Dawber says. “Everyone gets swept away by the sophisticated lockdown options which can be implemented by using the capabilities of the access control system,” he says. “It is only a matter of time before an access control-dependent lockdown system fails resulting in a loss of life or lives. Once that occurs, standards for the design of emergency lockdown systems will follow.”


Ease of Use is Key

Chad Gordon, vice president of security and industrial automation for two-time SD&I Fast50 integrator Blue Violet Networks, concurs but with a twist. “Wanting to perform fast lockdowns is the primary reason most schools are looking for an access control system,” he says. “The first thing we emphasize is that they must assure that the chosen software is very easy to use. “Remember, in the average school, there is no administrator sitting in front of the computer, on the outlook for something out of the ordinary,” Gordon stresses.”Therefore, when there is a threat at the school, it is not easy for the administrator to quickly perform a remote lockdown. That’s why we recommend a system that closes down all doors into the school by toggling at any one of the doors. If there is integration of video with the access control system, administrators will have much better visibility on what is happening. For instance, during a lockdown, administrators can visually verify if students are mustered in the right place.”

Adrian Gonzalez, western regional sales manager, Keri Systems brings up yet another point. “Emergency lockdowns are a major consideration at any school or college. We emphasize that the school needs to avoid any and all semi-off line or fully off-line locks on the perimeter of their buildings. Whether the lockdown is at one school, regional or district-wide, a local or national threat, the safety administrator cannot provide instantaneous lockdown with an offline lock.

“To put it another way,” Gonzalez continues, “ if the lock is battery-powered, there is no way to send a command for immediate lockdown — such commands can take up to 10 seconds to execute on certain locksets. On other battery-powered locks, such a lockdown command will not execute for up to 24 hours or not at all. Although such locks can be cost-effective on classroom doors, exterior doors need to be hardwired so that one command locks them down immediately, keeping the threat outside.”


Putting it All Together

To all of this, I would add to remember to also sell the school on the basic benefits of an Electronic Access Control system and how it can provide security throughout the school — not just at entrances. Explain how the new access control system, using contactless credentials, such as proximity cards and fobs, will reduce the manual labor of managing and replacing keys as well as re-keying door locks.

Show how the new system lets them assign access privileges to certain areas only, including classrooms, revoking access privileges when an employee is reassigned or leaves the school. And clarify how the computerization of the new electronic access control system will let the school provide the benefit of increased security for its students and staff.


Scott Lindley is President of Farpointe Data Inc., a DORMA Group Company. Request more info about Farpointe by visiting