Survey Reports School Resource Officers Most Important 'Tool' for School Access Control

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A recent survey of school resource officers (SROs) and administrators has revealed almost three-fourths of respondents aren't "extremely confident" in their ability to lock down their school in case of an emergency, citing limited budgets as the primary obstacle.

The survey was conducted in August 2008 by Wren Solutions, a vendor of IP-based surveillance systems, with the help of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) and the National Association for School Safety and Law Enforcement Officers (NASSLEO).

Findings indicate that schools have key security gaps involving access control:

  • Electronic access control systems are not being used in the majority of schools that participated in the survey.
  • Only 28 percent of responding schools felt "extremely confident" in their ability to ensure perimeter doors would securely lock in case of an emergency lock down.
  • Funding remains a key obstacle for schools wanting to implement additional security technologies such as access control.

Given a limited budget for security, 70 percent of respondents said the most important tool would be the use of an SRO. Only 15 percent specified video surveillance and 10 percent chose access control mechanisms.

"School resource officers work in partnership with school administrators and other security professionals as the first line of defense in schools," said Dick Caster, executive director of NASRO. "Having access control, especially if it's integrated with other security systems to give them greater confidence in emergency preparedness, would most certainly serve to further strengthen this partnership and ultimately benefit staff and students."

The survey revealed the following:

  • Access control is underused in schools. Sixty-four percent of respondents indicated that their school did not currently use electronic access control at the time of the survey. Thirty-six percent responded that they did. Of those that currently use electronic access control systems, 93 percent are using them at main entrances. Only 28 percent are using electronic access control to protect or limit access to administrative offices, and fewer are using it for strategic purposes such as protecting server rooms, personnel and student files, computer and science labs and other areas.
  • Funding is the major challenge. Of the 64 percent of schools that currently don't have electronic access control, 72 percent cited a lack of budget dollars as the reason. When asked to identify the sources of funding, if they were to purchase and/or upgrade an electronic access control system, 69 percent said they would rely on a federal or state grant. Fifty-three percent said they would take the money from the existing school budget.
  • The ability to lock down is critical. When asked about the importance of key security concerns, 91 percent of respondents answered that it's critical to be able to "lock down" the school in case of an emergency, yet only 28 percent of responding schools felt "extremely confident" in their ability to ensure perimeter doors would securely lock in case of an emergency "lock-down." One in 10 respondents said they didn't have the capabilities to conduct a lock down at all.

For an interview with Wren security experts, read, "Where Does Access Control Fit in the K-12 Security Mix?"

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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