Collaboration Is Key: How Schools and Law Enforcement Should Address Potential Threats

Scene from college campus

Collin Sharp, Traka Americas’ Regional Manager

Security is one of the most discussed topics in education right now, as school districts across the country are evaluating their systems in light of ongoing violent incidents which all too often show up in the news. Even though these events are statistically rare, schools are responding by taking every precaution to make sure another one doesn’t occur. Unfortunately, many districts are failing to consider keys as the foundational element of security and are operating in dangerous “silos” which don’t incorporate the necessary resources to effectively protect against violent threats.

At its core, school security needs to start with access control and, for many districts, that involves keys. Consider how many keys are in circulation for one school by faculty, staff and contractors. Multiply that number by how many schools are in a district and you have hundreds, if not thousands, of individual security risks which need to be efficiently managed. If schools are still using archaic logbook or pegboard systems, there’s no insight as to who has which keys. That can not only be costly if a facility needs to be rekeyed due to a lost key, but can ultimately leave a facility vulnerable if that key falls into the wrong hands.

Thankfully, modern key cabinets give schools the ability to monitor and track keys more efficiently from a central location. Access can be assigned or restricted to specific personnel and, if a school operates with fobs, access can be deactivated immediately if a fob is lost or stolen. Along those lines, curfews can be implemented so that, if a key isn’t returned by a specific time, an alarm will go off to alert managers to take action. Also, if unauthorized personnel are trying to access the key cabinet, many school districts have strategically installed cameras above their cabinets so they can visually monitor access remotely.

Setting up comprehensive auditing and monitoring through key cabinets or asset management lockers is just the first step in ensuring the highest level of secure operations within a facility or district. Schools need to be proactive in integrating their operations with local law enforcement to make sure responders have quick and easy access should an emergency arise.

In working with some of the biggest school districts in the country, including in Texas, Arizona and Colorado, we’ve seen a central theme of collaboration with local law enforcement. Some of the cabinets schools use are located on the outside of the building so first responders can gain access to a school quickly in the event of an active shooter or potentially violent situation. That requires the school district to equip responders with the right access credentials which can be used at any school within a district, so they don’t have to maintain or remember different keys for different buildings. It also highlights the importance of first responders being familiar with the landscape of the facilities so they can address emergent needs quickly and effectively. Additionally, many schools require an administrator or law enforcement officer be present to lift a lockdown and having familiarity between first responders and school faculty, staff and students can go a long way toward restoring safe operations.

These measures are anchored in a school district identifying vulnerabilities in their security operations and implementing efficient measures to reduce potential violent threats. To do that, districts have to start at the foundation of security – keys – and work with local law enforcement to collectively provide safe environments for the ever-changing ecosystems which are today’s school districts.

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