An access control system being implemented in the Richland School District in Washington provides three-fold security protection — authorized individuals who enter a building after school hours must use a proximity card to unlock the door, then enter a security code inside the building within 60 seconds to disable an alarm, all while being recorded by a video surveillance system. The system not only manages access, but also guards against the use of stolen or duplicated cards and multiple trials of security codes.
The Richland School District includes three high schools, three middle schools and nine elementary schools. Total student population numbers slightly more than 10,000, including 2,000 students at Richland High School, 1,350 at Hanford High School, and 800 at each of the middle schools.
Until a few years ago, door security was minimal. John Steach, executive director of support services, says Richland was the kind of community where people didn’t lock their doors. Changing times and the need for proactive security led to the search for a long-term access control solution that would grow with the District’s needs.
According to Steach, the community had been allowed to use the school facilities for activities such as after-hours basketball games, and as a result, many residents had keys to the buildings. A proprietary key system was used as a first step, followed by magnetic stripe card access to update the system. “Even though we distributed the cards district-wide, the system was not centrally programmable and did not give us the flexibility to manage community use,” Steach says. “We still needed a custodian to lock and unlock the doors after hours.”
After hiring a consultant who performed site assessments of the District’s facilities, Steach and his team selected Ingersoll Rand’s Schlage Security Management System. The new system eliminates the need to support and maintain multiple systems and also provides the flexibility to manage both networked and standalone openings.
To meet the District’s future needs, the system is also expandable. It offers four levels of software that can manage everything from offline locks to advanced visitor management, monitoring and alarm management of networked access points — enabling the system to grow as the District’s security requirements evolve.
In addition to proximity card readers at exterior doors and intrusion alarm keypads inside, the system incorporates glass-break detectors at all ground-floor windows. In areas with where student records or high-value items such as computers are kept, motion detectors are also installed. As a final measure of protection, all critical areas are monitored by digital CCTV cameras to provide a record of any questionable incidents.
An additional feature is the use of lockdown and duress tabs in every school office. These pull tabs are located under the desks of the principal and the lead secretary. The lockdown tab overrides all exterior door controls and immediately locks them. The duress tab is similar to a bank’s silent alarm and alerts the District’s third-party monitoring service, which has instructions to call the Richland Police Department. Shortly after the system was installed, Steach recalls, a staff member accidentally hit the duress button, and the police came through the door within 93 seconds, prepared to handle an emergency.
Keys for exterior doors have been eliminated, other than for emergency overrides by police and fire personnel. The principal also carries a key for the main entrance in case of power outage. Staff and custodians no longer need keys, which makes management of access control much simpler. Because they have to enter an intrusion alarm code once they are in the building, access is protected even if the card is lost or stolen.
Several methods are used to provide access for after-hours staff or community use of school properties. On Saturdays or other days when schools are closed, the first staff member to enter a building can disarm the intrusion alarm, so other authorized users can simply enter with their cards. The last one out re-arms the system. The system also can be put into a “stay” mode if a staff member is working alone. This disables the motion detectors but leaves the glass-break and door proximity sensors in an active mode to provide greater personal security.
For some groups such as booster clubs, the District will issue cards and access codes. However, this is only done on a limited basis, and individuals must undergo the same background checks and fingerprinting as school staff members. For other community activities, the District prefers to maintain control and have a custodian present to open and close the building.