Securing Schools During the Holidays

Posted by Tony Goldstone on

When schools shut down for the summer holiday its vitally important to make certain security precautions are robust and effective. Sadly, many schools are targeted, during the holidays, by vandals, burglars and trouble makers who know the properties are largely unoccupied.

School Vandalism and Break-Ins Increasing

Reports of serious incidents of school vandalism are increasingly common throughout the UK. One school in Lincolnshire has been experiencing repeated attacks by vandals who’ve caused a huge amount of expensive damage, causing a great deal of stress on the school’s finances.

In another school attack a group of teens smashed play equipment and destroyed the pre-school garden. The intruders had climbed onto the school rooftop where they’d melted a tarpaulin. They also damaged a shed, broke valuable tools and stole various items of sports equipment.

And burglars know that today’s schools are generally equipped with many valuable laptop computers along with sports equipment and other items. There are many reported school burglaries in which multiple laptop computers have been stolen. For example, 40 laptops were stolen from Bassingbourn Village College in Cambridgeshire and thieves targeted a school in County Durham to steal iPads and Laptops.

Arson is another major security concern for schools, especially when they are left unoccupied during the holiday periods. Burglaries and incidents of vandalism often involve arson that causes a great deal of damage. There have been reports of school buses being completely burnt out by thieves who’d smashed their way into the school property. The impact and expense involved in dealing with incidents like this can exceed what many schools can cope with.

Optimising School Security to Prevent Intruders

Protecting schools from unwelcome intruders during vacation periods is very challenging. But paying attention to school security optimisation can pay huge dividends by avoiding the costly impact of vandalism and theft.

Layering Up School Security Measures

Using a layered approach to school security helps educational establishments delay, deter and prevent intrusion incidents. A layered approach to physical property security mitigates risks and bolsters confidence in school security.

A good starting point is a thorough audit of the school premises and existing security measures. The audit should identify areas of risk along with valuable assets that should ideally be securely locked away, such as laptop computers and grounds maintenance machinery. The audit should look closely at all of the property entrances, from gateways to entrance doors and windows. The quality of the gates, doors, locks and windows should all be examined as these are often the routes taken by intruders and burglars.

Pay Attention to Perimeter Security

The perimeter around a school is a key element in the outer layer of physical security. The fences, walls and hedges around a school should ideally prevent intruders from easily gaining access. Weaknesses in the perimeter should be identified and strengthened. Anti-climb and anti-intruder protection, such as the application of anti-climb paint or the installation of Roller Barrier, are valuable, effective precautions.

People who live close to the school, along with the local police force, can also play a valuable role in keeping it secure. Neighbours can be encouraged to keep a watchful eye on the school site and report any suspicious behaviour or activity they were not warned about, such as the arrival of building contractors.

If a school is to undergo building work or maintenance during the school holidays its important to make sure neighbours are aware and ensure the building contractors keep the property safe and secure.

CCTV and Alarm Systems

CCTV systems have become increasingly affordable in recent years. They not only record intruder incidents when they occur, they can also deter would-be intruders from even trying to gain entry. And many of today’s systems will automatically send alerts if an intruder is detected.

Property alarm systems and monitoring services are also valuable security precautions that many schools now use. Like CCTV, signage that warns people that the school premises is alarmed and monitored acts as a powerful anti-intruder deterrent.

Motion Triggered Security Lighting

Another highly effective school property security enhancement is the installation of motion triggered security lighting. Burglars like to work unseen so security lighting can be enough to scare them away.

Anti Climb Protection

Anti-climb barriers around the property perimeter have already been mentioned. But its also important to protect the various school buildings from climbers and intruders. Many incidents of school vandalism involve youngsters climbing onto rooftops, putting themselves at risk and often causing a great deal of expensive damage. Anti climb protection using Roller Barrier, to protect vulnerable flat rooftops and school equipment, is a valuable school security measure that is widely deployed throughout the UK.

Secure External Doors and Windows

Unfortunately, many opportunist thieves gain entry into school buildings by aggressively smashing windows and doors. This leaves the school with not only the loss of whatever valuable assets are stolen but also the expense and impact of massive damage. 

Paying attention to door and window security is an important aspect of a rigorous layered school security approach. All of the school doors should be locked with robust, high security locks and ideally connected to an alarm system that detects when the doors are opened. Similarly, all of the school windows should be closed and locked when the school isn’t occupied.

Secure Internal Doors

Working inwards from the school perimeter, another important layer of physical school security are all of the internal doors, leading to classrooms, workshops, storage rooms etc. Like the external doors and windows, these should all be locked and secured with high quality locks. And they should ideally be connected to the school alarm system that will send alerts if these doors are opened.

Protect All Valuable Assets

As recommended, the school security audit should identify all of the valuable assets that might be targeted by thieves or vandals. These will include all of the school’s laptops, iPads, desktop computers and other valuable pieces of equipment. Its also important not to overlook the valuable data that might be stored on these devices which should ideally be backed up to a cloud storage facility.

Valuable school assets should all be security marked using a forensic marking system to deter theft and enable stolen items to be identified and returned. External grounds maintenance equipment, such as mowers and strimmers, should be security labelled and locked away safely.

Securely locking valuable computer equipment, and other school assets, in high security, impenetrable storage locations, where these items can’t be seen, is a valuable precaution. As for other school areas, these should be connected to the school alarm system that will send an alert if security is breached. And all school computer devices should be password protected and encrypted.

Maintain Tidiness

When the school closes down for the summer holiday it should ideally be left in a neat and tidy state. Many schools take advantage of the summer holiday period to carry out important maintenance and repair work. Its important to keep the premises tidy and not to leave anything lying around that might be used to cause damage or start a fire. All of the bins should be emptied and any building detritus should be completely cleared away.

Paying Attention to School Security Saves Money

Protecting school premises against unwanted intruders minimises the risk of burglaries and vandalism and therefore reduces the costly impact these incidents can have. Ideally, vacant schools should be routinely revisited throughout the summer holidays to look for signs of attempted intrusion or damage that might have been caused by vandals.