Safe havens – using access control to secure schools

School desk - securing schools with access control

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SJA hears from Ed Hendricks at Keri Systems and David Kolodkin at dormakaba, who discuss the future of access control within the context of securing schools.

Can you tell me about yourselves and your roles?

Ed Hendricks (EH): I’m the Director of North American Sales for Keri Systems and I’ve been with the company since 2008 and in the security industry since 1991.

I currently manage a team of approximately 30 people throughout North America that supports our integrator channel and distributors and provide consulting services for integrators and their clients.

David Kolodkin (DK): I am a Partnership Development Manager at dormakaba Americas, which entails working with our integrated solution partners like Keri Systems and supporting them in every way I can.

I’ve been at dormakaba since 2020.

Why is it important to talk about school and campus security?

EH: Unfortunately, with the time and place that we live in currently, it’s not long until you hear of another incident at a school that either ended tragically or put lives at risk.

It’s so important to keep staff and students safe so that they can go about their day – whether it’s a city, suburban, rural, public or private school and access control is crucial for this.

DK: As a parent, I want to know that everywhere children go there’s some level of security and there’s a blanket of protection.

That means on K-12 campuses, security becomes incredibly important and is also emotionally comforting.

What kind of strategies can be applied to help enhance school security and safety?

DK: Everybody enters through a doorway or a portal of some sort, to any building.

dormakaba focuses on that entryway, on everything from security and access control to aesthetics to health, for example, with anti-bacterial finishes.

We get involved with this aspect and can supply heavy duty solutions or something more subdued to fit the needs of the specific school or facility.

EH: I think scalability and flexibility within access control are key when it comes to the school vertical market because of the different types of buildings found within this sector.

Everybody has to come through a door or gate to enter – so how do we secure those devices?

This could be through an on-premise or cloud access control solution, whichever the school prefers.

These tools manage the openings in an effective way, making sure that only those with the proper credentials can get to certain areas, increasing access control.

Mobile credentials are playing a large role in access control, with the ubiquitous nature of phones allowing authorization of people using these devices.

Also, many schools have multiple buildings within a campus, which means if they expand, they need that scalability and flexibility to deploy locking solutions and give the relevant staff and teachers access control, hence why our integration with dormakaba is so effective for these solutions.

Another important consideration is locking classroom doors; in an emergency situation, there needs to be a procedure in place where a teacher can secure the classroom, but then also unlock it once they receive a notification that it is safe to do so.

Additionally, event management might be needed for sporting events or schools that have multipurpose rooms which get hired out for use by the community.

For these situations, the group may need access on a Tuesday at 7pm when the rest of the school is already closed, so there are a lot of moving pieces that need to be thought about when building out a school’s security ecosystem. 

How is it possible to overcome some of the challenges of securing schools and campuses?

DK: Part of it is companies like Keri Systems making sure that the glove fits and not creating a solution that doesn’t work – or is too much or too little.

Also, education is so important, because once things are installed, people can then fully comprehend the capabilities of the product and how to use it.

At Keri Systems and dormakaba, we do our best to educate and we listen to what the end customer needs, wants and can afford.

EH: Frequently when we talk about schools, our minds jump to big campuses or even whole school districts – but often schools can be small and focused on early childhood development.

They might be an offset of a church or synagogue.

In these instances, they often don’t have a huge budget, but they need all the same security features that keep those little kids safe.

By providing a tailored solution, all schools can find their way to protect children, again proving the benefits of an incredibly cost-effective integration with dormakabas’ Switch Tech, and Borealis.

How do Keri Systems and dormakaba support scalability and flexibility in access control?

EH: We support schools and organizations on an individual level.

Working together, both our companies have a broad team of experts that can provide local support to the facility.

DK: We provide whatever expertise we can, to provide the right solution to an end customer.

When something might not be quite right, we are always reactive to solve the situation as quickly as possible. 

EH: Our two companies recently completed several projects in the last quarter of 2023 throughout Florida, Georgia and Texas.

When we begin a project, we allow a school district or entity to carry out a pilot test that involves a small sample system they can evaluate.

Sometimes they give us valuable feedback, where they liked certain aspects but want it slightly changed and we do our best to accommodate.

It is crucial to listen to school districts and address any hurdles they face in implementing new security measures.

How will school and campus security evolve?

DK: I think several years ago – speaking more broadly – there were many siloed systems but now everything is converging into a single platform, for example, our phones or tablets.

Security is no different. It’s becoming a way of life and what we’re trying to do is make security as unobtrusive but as powerful as we possibly can.

EH: It’s all about accessibility and being able to make mass changes or remotely control your system. If something is on-demand, then it’s so much more convenient.

We’ll continue to see a migration of systems to the cloud.

Schools want the peace of mind that the cloud offers, and while the security industry might have been a little slower to adopt the cloud, everything else that schools use, like student databases, is already there.

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