Under lock and key

Tina Hughan from Assa Abloy offers some advice on ensuring safety within educational and residential facilities

Colleges and universities present unique security challenges, resembling as they do a mix of small city, large corporation, research centre, social scene and creative think tank all rolled into one. Current budgets within education are tight, yet it is crucial that facilities and estates managers do not compromise security by installing a system that may show a minor initial cost advantage, but which may not stand the test of time.

University campuses often have a mix of public and private spaces, meaning that estates and facilities managers must allow a level of freedom of movement while restricting access to sensitive areas. From securing personal possessions in halls of residence, to allowing the correct level of access to lecture theatres, universities present a wide spectrum of security issues and require specific solutions. 

What is security?

Essentially, security is concerned with protecting people and assets.

The ‘people’ side of this formula is a complex picture of protecting students, staff and, increasingly, the visiting general public. The ‘assets’ element ranges from the protection of the physical buildings and equipment, through to managing data or sensitive products. Indeed, some of the biggest security targets in universities are not behind locked doors: computers, networks and sensitive information all make logical security just as important as its physical equivalent. 

Specifying the right system

Often specifiers and estates managers need to go back to basics to establish their necessary security requirements.

For example, locks may have been installed some ten, 30 or even 50 years ago – and may appear to be working just as well today. However, modern-day standards and technological advances mean that any lock of that vintage is not truly secure. A simple upgrade of the lock cylinders, not even the complete lock, will bring considerable added protection at relatively low cost.

The next step is to consider introducing a master keying system. Various designs are available but, essentially, a master key will open every lock in the system, whereas other keys can be cut to open specific locks in specific zones. Cleaners or porters, for example, can have keys which will only open certain areas, whereas lecturers and staff will be able to access other zones. Furthermore, master keying systems are often protected systems, so that only an authorised locksmith, on proof of identity and authority, may cut new keys – thus preventing the casual copying of keys, possibly the biggest security risk of all.

The next stage is to consider the introduction of electromechanical locks, which add new levels of protection and identity management. Increasingly these products, such as ASSA’s all-in-one SMARTair and CLIQ, offer extremely effective and sophisticated security control for the most at-risk areas. 

What works for your facility?

The way to choose between all these different options is to consider the ‘hurdle rate’. How many hurdles or barriers do you need to erect to deter or prevent a risk to security? How long do you need each hurdle to deter? What is the likelihood of detection and what is the response time on alarm? Finally, what are the consequences of failure?

The combination of high-quality physical barriers that can be achieved through doors and hardware, alongside door controllers and software, helps buildings to operate more safely for a sustained period of time. The public and media may not celebrate good security systems within higher education – but they will show no mercy if any student accommodation or teaching facilities fail to keep students and their possessions secure and their confidential information private.

Estates and facilities managers cannot afford to comprise security around university campuses. 

Tina Hughanis Marketing Director at ASSA ABLOY UK,the global leader in door opening solutions 


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