Key Control on Campus

April 10, 2014
Where card- or prox-based access control won't work, key management systems come into play

With hundreds or thousands of physical keys on a campus, there are many reasons to make planning for control and management of those keys a fundamental component of campus security programming. Securing and tracking physical keys not only helps to make the campus safer for students, staff and visitors, it also saves costs and protects against loss.

Students are notorious for losing dorm room keys. A key management system of one or more networked cabinets will hold a backup key for every dorm room to be provided by an authorized individual if needed. Robust key management software can require that if any key is removed from the cabinet, the transaction must be documented with regard to who has taken possession of it.

This also helps keep items like iPods and laptop computers safe in students’ dorm rooms, and helps keep schools safe from liability. Software-based alerts can notify administrators any time a key is not returned to the cabinet, and provide information on who has any key out at a given time.

In some older campus buildings it may not be possible or practical to deploy card- or prox-based access control systems. For those applications, it makes sense to deploy key control systems, as they help to maintain a higher level of security with the physical keys already in use.

In case of an incident on campus, a key management system with backup keys for every dorm room, classroom and administrative office will help ensure that police and security officers are able to open every locked door on campus as needed.

The loss of one master key can easily cost a university tens of thousands of dollars in re-keying. Securing keys in locked cabinets makes it easy to find the specific key needed and limit the use of masters to authorized individuals. Keys for specific areas can be grouped on color-coded keyrings, and an audit trail can ensure that the last person to take out any keys can be identified. If a master is taken out and lost by an authorized individual, there is accountability as the audit trail can reliably identify that person.

The school can provide contractors company-wide credentials to access a specific key cabinet to ensure that they have access only to the keys they need for specific tasks. If an item in a protected room or building is missing, school administration can use the software audit trail to identify the last person who had that key. For universities who choose to contract out custodial and other services, the savings more than cover the cost of the systems.


Fernando Pires is VP of Sales and Marketing for Morse Watchmans. To request more info about the company, please visit