What Can Architects Do To Design Safer Classrooms For Our Children? Part 4: Safety Guidelines For Schools

ILMA Classroom 11.pngPhoto Source: The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)

The Following is Based on the Final Report of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission

School Site Perimeter Standards

  1. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a crime prevention strategy that uses architectural design, landscape planning, security systems, and visual surveillance to create a potentially crime free environment by influencing human behavior and should be applied when appropriate.
  2. Fencing, landscaping, edge treatment, bollards, signage, exterior furnishings and exterior lighting may be used to establish territorial boundaries and clearly delineate areas of public, semi-public, semi-private, and private space.

Access Control

  1. School boundaries and property lines shall be clearly demarcated to control access to a school facility and shall clearly delineate areas of public, semi-public, semi-private, and private space.
  2. Where a school is a shared use facility that serves the community, internal boundaries shall be clearly defined to establish a distinct perimeter for both the school and the shared use facilities with separate and secure access points that are clearly defined. Boundaries may be defined by installing fencing, signage, edge treatment, landscaping, and ground surface treatment.
  3. The number of vehicle and pedestrian access points to school property shall be kept to a minimum and shall be clearly designated as such.
  4. Directional signage shall be installed at primary points of entry to control pedestrian and vehicular access and to clearly delineate vehicular and pedestrian traffic routes, loading/unloading zones, parking and delivery areas. Signage should be simple and have the necessary level of clarity. Signage should have reflective or lighted markings.
  5. A means shall be provided to achieve and enforce identity authentication and entry authorization at locations and areas established by school operations protocols.

Surveillance

  1. The design shall allow for the monitoring of points of entry/egress by natural and/or electronic surveillance during normal hours of operation and during special events.
  2. At minimum, electronic surveillance shall be used at the primary access points to the site for both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
  3. All points of vehicular entry/egress shall be adequately illuminated to enhance visibility for purposes of surveillance.
  4. Designated pedestrian and vehicular traffic routes shall be adequately illuminated to reinforce natural and or electronic surveillance during evening hours.
  5. Locate access points in areas of high visibility that can be easily observed and monitored by staff and students in the course of their normal activities. Natural surveillance may be maximized by controlling access points that clearly demarcate boundaries and spaces.
  6. Video surveillance systems may be used around the site perimeter to provide views of points of entry/egress and as a means to securely monitor an area when natural surveillance is not available.
  7. Lighting should be sufficient to illuminate potential areas of concealment, enhance observation, and to provide for the safety of individuals moving between adjacent parking areas, streets and around the school facility.
  8. Consider the design of video surveillance systems which have the ability to be used locally (on site) by emergency responders and viewed off-site at appropriate locations.

Parking Areas and Vehicular and Pedestrian Routes

  1. At the minimum, electronic surveillance shall be used at the primary access points to the site for both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
  2. Designated pedestrian and vehicular points of entry/egress and traffic routes shall be adequately illuminated to reinforce natural and or electronic surveillance.
  3. Signage shall be posted at all vehicular access points and in delivery zones, parking areas and bus loading/unloading zones with rules as to who is allowed to use parking facilities and when they are allowed to do so. Signage should be simple and have the necessary level of clarity. Signage should have reflective or lighted markings.
  4. Parking areas shall be adequately illuminated with vandal resistant lighting.
  5. Parking shall be prohibited under or within the school building.
  6. Adequate lighting shall be provided at site entry locations, roadways, parking lots, and walkways from parking to buildings.
  7. Gas service rooms, exterior meters/regulators shall be secured.
  8. External access to school facilities shall be kept to a limited number of controlled entrances. Vehicular circulation routes shall be separated and kept to a minimum of two routes per project site for purposes of separating service and delivery areas from visitors‘ entry, bus drop-off, student parking and staff parking. Circulation routes shall be separated, clearly demarcated, and easily supervised. Provide vehicle interdiction devices at building entries to preclude vehicle access into the building.
  9. A drop-off/pick-up lane shall be designated for buses only with a dedicated loading and unloading zone designed to adequately allow for natural and/or electronic surveillance and to avoid overcrowding and accidents.
  10. Design entry roads so that vehicles do not have a straight-line approach to the main building. Use speed-calming features to keep vehicles from gaining enough speed to penetrate barriers. Speed-calming features may include, but are not limited to, speed bumps, safety islands, differing pavement surfaces, landscape buffers, exterior furnishings and light fixtures.
  11. Signage text should prevent confusion over site circulation, parking, and entrance location. Unless otherwise required, signs should not identify sensitive or high risk areas. However, signs should be erected to indicate areas of restricted admittance and use of video surveillance.
  12. Parking areas should be designed in locations that promote natural surveillance. Parking should be located within view from the occupied building, while maintaining the maximum stand-off distance possible.
  13. Locate visitor parking in areas that provide the fewest security risks to school personnel. The distance at which a potentially threatening vehicle can park in relation to school grounds and buildings should be controlled.
  14. Consider illuminating areas where recreational activities and other nontraditional uses of the building occur. If video surveillance systems are installed, adequate illumination shall be designed to accommodate it.
  15. Consider blue light emergency phones with a duress alarm in all parking areas and athletic fields. If utilized, blue light emergency phones shall be clearly visible, readily accessible and adequately illuminated to accommodate electronic surveillance.
  16. Review vehicle access routes to the school and the site civil design with emergency responders to address their incident response requirements.
  17. Design walkways from all parking areas so that they can be observed from within the school by appropriate school staff.

Recreational Areas – Playgrounds, Athletic Areas, Multipurpose Fields

  1. The design shall allow for ground level, unobstructed views, for natural and/or electronic surveillance of all outdoor athletic areas, playgrounds and recreation areas at all times.
  2. Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten play areas shall be separated from play areas designed for other students and physically secured.
  3. Athletic areas and multipurpose fields at elementary school buildings shall contain a physical protective barrier to control access and protect the area.
  4. Playgrounds and other student gathering areas shall be located away from public vehicle access areas, such as streets or parking lots by a minimum of fifty (50) feet unless prohibited by site constraints.
  5. Consider a physical protective barrier around athletic areas and multipurpose fields at secondary school buildings to control access and protect the area.
  6. Locate access points to recreational areas in areas of high visibility that can be easily observed and monitored by staff and students in the course of their normal activities. Natural surveillance may be maximized by controlling access points that clearly demarcate boundaries and spaces.
  7. Pre-K and K play areas should be designed so that they have visual sight-lines to school staff. Fencing should not diminish this visual connection.
  8. Review the design of these areas with emergency responders to address their incident response requirements.

Communication Systems

  1. All classrooms shall have two way communications with the administrative office.
  2. All communication systems shall be installed in compliance with state building and fire code requirements.
  3. Emergency Communication Systems (ECS) and/or alarm systems shall have redundant means to notify first responders, supporting agencies, public safety officials and others of an event to allow for effective response and incident management. Alarm systems must be compatible with the municipal systems in place. These systems may include radio, electronic, wireless or multimedia technology which provides real time information (such as audio, visual, mapping and relevant data) directly to first responders. Points of Broadcast input for these systems shall be reviewed with emergency responders.  A minimum of 2 shall be provided.
  4. Emergency Communication Systems (ECS) shall be installed and maintained in accordance with NFPA 72, 2010, or the most current fire code standard adopted by the local/state construction code authority. ECS may include but is not limited to public address (PA) systems, intercoms, loudspeakers, sirens, strobes, SMS text alert systems, and other emerging interoperable resource sharing communication platforms. The design of these systems shall be reviewed with emergency responders.
  5. All new buildings shall have approved radio coverage for first responders within the building based upon the existing coverage levels of communication systems at the exterior of the building. The system as installed must comply with all applicable sections of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Rules for Communication Systems and shall coordinate with the downlink and uplink pass band frequencies of the respective first responders. Perform a radio audibility and intelligibility test and modify system design accordingly.
  6. All in-building radio systems shall be compatible with systems used by local first responders at the time of installation.
  7. Call buttons with direct intercom communication to the central administrative office and/or security office should be installed at key public contact areas.
  8. Develop a strategy and “security team” and equip them with hand-held radios so they can be effective participants in the radio communications system.

School Building Exterior – Points of Entry/Egress and Accessibility

  1. Points of entry/egress shall be designed to allow for monitoring by natural and/or electronic surveillance during normal hours of operation and during special events.
  2. At minimum electronic surveillance shall be used at the primary points of entry.
  3. Lighting shall be sufficient to adequately illuminate potential areas of concealment and points of building entry, and, enhance natural and/or electronic surveillance, and discourage vandalism.
  4. Consider blue light emergency phones with a duress alarm along the building perimeter as needed to enhance security. If utilized, blue light emergency phones shall be clearly visible, readily accessible and adequately illuminated to accommodate electronic surveillance.
  5. Consider the use of forced entry resistance glazing materials for windows and glazed doors using laminated glass and/or polycarbonate to significantly improve forced entry delay time beyond standard glazing techniques. A five (5) minute forced entry solution should be the design standard.

Main Entrance / Administrative Offices / Lobby

  1. Main entrances shall be well lit and unobstructed to allow for natural and/or electronic surveillance at all times.
  2. The design shall allow for visitors to be guided to a single control point for entry.
  3. The main entrance assembly (glazing, frame, & door) shall be forced entry resistant to the project standard, with a forced entry time rating as informed by local law enforcement response timing.
  4. Plans shall carefully address the extent to which glazing is used in primary entry ways, areas of high risk and areas of high traffic and the degree to which glazing is installed or treated to be bullet, blast, or shatter resistant to enhance the level of security. The district‘s priorities for the use of natural surveillance, electronic surveillance, natural light and other related security measures may affect this decision and the overall level of security.
  5. Main entrance doors shall be capable of being secured from a central location, such as the central administrative office and/or the school security office.
  6. Video surveillance cameras shall be installed in such a manner to show who enters and leaves the building and shall be monitored at locations which are attended whenever the school is occupied.
  7. The design shall allow for providing visitor accessibility only after proper identification.
  8. The use of vestibules with forced entry resistant doors and glazing to the project standard should be the design standard.
  9. The central administrative offices and/or security offices should have an unobstructed view of the main entrance lobby doors and hallways. If feasible, administrative offices abutting the main entrance should be on an exterior wall with windows for natural surveillance of visitor parking, drop off areas, and exterior routes leading to the main entrance.
  10. Walls, forced entry resistant to the project standard, should be hardened in foyers and public entries. Interior and exterior vestibule doors should be offset from each other in airlock configuration.
  11. Use vestibules to increase security. The entrance vestibule shall have both interior and exterior doors that are lockable and controllable from a remote location and be designed to achieved enhanced force entry performance as identified to the project forced entry standards.
  12. When possible, the design should force visitors to pass directly through a screening area prior to entering or leaving the school. The screening area should be an entrance vestibule, the administration/reception area, a lobby check in station, an entry kiosk, or some other controlled area. This controlled entrance should serve as the primary control point between the main entrance and all other areas of the school.
  13. Control visitor access through electronic surveillance with intercom audio and remote lock release capability at the visitor entrance.
  1. Restrict visitor access during normal hours of operation to the primary entrance. If school buildings require multiple entry points, regulate those entry points with no access to people without proper identity authentication and entry authorization. Consider an electronic access control system for authorized persons if multiple entry points are utilized during normal hours of operation.
  2. Install a panic/duress alarm or call button at an administrative/security desk as a protective measure.
  3. Proximity cards, keys, key fobs, coded entries, or other devices may be used for access control of students and staff during normal hours of operation. The system may be local (residing in the door hardware) or global (building or district- wide). Prior to installing a customized door access control system refer to the local authority having jurisdiction for compliance with state building and fire code.
  4. Consider sensors that alert administrative offices when exterior doors at all primary and secondary points of entry are left open.
  5. Consider radio frequency access control devices at primary points of entry to allow rapid entry by emergency responders. Review this technology with the emergency responders which serve the school facility.
  6. Where “forced entry” required construction is required, the forced entry delay time shall be based on the ERTA, and have the forced entry designs informed/validated by a licensed architect, professional engineer or qualified security consultant.
  7. Provide closers on these doors so that they automatically return to a closed, latched, and locked position to preclude unauthorized entry.

Exterior Doors

  1. The design shall allow for the points of entry/egress to be monitored by natural and/or electronic surveillance during normal hours of operation and during special events.
  2. Lighting at these entry points shall be sufficient to illuminate potential areas of concealment, enhance natural and/or electronic surveillance, discourage and protect against vandalism.
  3. Tertiary exterior doors shall be hardened to be penetration resistant and burglar resistant.
  4. All exterior doors shall be equipped with hardware capable of implementing a full perimeter lockdown by manual or electronic means and shall be numbered per the SSIC standards.
  5. All exterior doors shall be easy to lock and allow for quick release in the event of an emergency by authorized personnel and emergency responders.
  6. All exterior doors that allow access to the interior of the school shall be numbered in sequential order in a clockwise manner starting with the main entrance. All numbers shall be visible from the street or closest point of entry/egress, contrast with its background and be retro-reflective.
  7. Doors vulnerable to unauthorized access may be monitored by adding door contacts or sensors, or may be secured through the use of other protective measures, such as delayed opening devices, or video surveillance cameras that are available for viewing from a central location, such as the central administrative office and/or security office.
  8. Specify high security keys and cylinders to prove access control.
  9. Provide closers on these doors so that they automatically return to a closed, latched, and locked position to preclude unauthorized entry.

Exterior Windows/Glazing/Films

  1. Windows may serve as a secondary means of egress in case of emergency. Any “rescue window” with a window latching device shall be capable of being operated from not more than forty-eight (48) inches above the finished floor.
  2. Each classroom having exterior windows shall have the classroom number affixed to the upper right-hand corner of the first and last window of the corresponding classroom. The numbers shall be reflective, with contrasting background and shall be readable from the ground plain at a minimum distance of fifty (50) feet.
  3. Plans shall carefully address the extent to which glazing is used in primary entry ways, areas of high risk and areas of high traffic and the degree to which glazing is installed or treated to be bullet, blast, or shatter resistant to enhance the level of security. The district‘s priorities for the use of natural surveillance, electronic surveillance, natural light and other related security measures may affect this decision and the overall level of security.
  4. Design windows, framing and anchoring systems to be shatter resistant, burglar resistant, and forced entry resistant to the project forced entry standards, especially in areas of high risk. Whenever feasible, specify force entry resistant glazing on all exterior glazing.
  5. Resistance for glazing may be built into the window or applied with a film or a suitable additional forced entry resistant “storm” window.
  6. Classroom windows should be operable to allow for evacuation in an emergency. Review with the authority having jurisdiction and fire department to balance emergency evacuation, external access, and security requirements.

School Building Interior

  1. Interior physical security measures are a valuable part of a school‘s overall physical security infrastructure. Some physical measures such as doors, locks, and windows deter, prevent or delay an intruder from freely moving throughout a school and from entering areas where students and personnel may be located. Natural and electronic surveillance can assist in locating and identifying a threat and minimizing the time it takes for first responders to neutralize a threat.
  2. The design shall provide for controlled access to classrooms and other areas in the interior that are predominantly used by students during normal hours of operation to protect against intruders.
  3. All interior room numbers shall be coordinated in a uniform room numbering system format. Numbering shall be in sequential order in a clockwise manner starting with the interior door closest to the main point of entry. Interior room number signage shall be wall mounted. Additional room number signage may be ceiling or flag mounted. Interior room number signage specifications and installation shall be in compliance with ADA standards and other applicable regulations as required.
  4. Record documentation drawings shall be kept which include floor plans with the room numbering system. These drawings shall be safeguarded but available for emergency responders. Review opportunities for emergency responders agencies to have these drawings as well.
  5. Review design opportunities to create interior safe havens with forced entry resistant walls and doors. These may be libraries, auditoriums, cafeterias, gyms or portions of school wings or blocks of classrooms.
  6. Establish separate entrance and exit patterns for areas that have concentrated high- volume use, such as cafeterias and corridors, to reduce time required for movement into and out of spaces and to reduce the opportunity for personal conflict. Separation of student traffic flow can help define orderly movement and save time, and an unauthorized user will perceive a greater risk of detection.
  7. Consider intruder doors that automatically lock when an intruder alarm or lockdown is activated to limit intruder accessibility within the building. If installed, intruder doors shall automatically release in the event of an emergency or power outage and must be equipped with a means for law enforcement and other first responders to open as necessary.

Interior Surveillance

  1. An intrusion detection system shall be installed in all school facilities.
  2. If video surveillance systems are utilized, the surveillance system shall be available for viewing from a central location, such as the central administrative office and/or the school security office, and at points of emergency responder incident management. Review these locations with emergency responders in the design phase.
  3. Consider electronic surveillance in lobbies, corridors, hallways, large assembly areas, stairwells or other areas (such as areas of refuge/safe havens) as a means to securely monitor those areas when natural surveillance is not available.
  4. The design of a school facility should allow for the designation of controlled hiding spaces. A controlled hiding place should create a safe place for students and personnel to hide and protect themselves in the event of an emergency. The controlled hiding space should be lockable and readily accessible. A controlled hiding space could be a classroom or some other designated area within the building.
  5. Design interior hallways and adjacent spaces to provide situational awareness of hallway conditions from these rooms, but also provide means to eliminate vision into these rooms as activated by room occupants.

Classroom Security

  1. All classrooms shall be equipped with a communications system to alert administrators in case of emergency. Such communication systems may consist of a push-to-talk button system, an identifiable telephone system, or other means.
  2. Door hardware, handles, locks and thresholds shall be ANSI/BHMA Grade 1.
  3. All classroom doors shall be lockable from the inside without requiring lock activation from the hallway, and door locks shall be tamper resistant.
  4. Classroom door locks shall be easy to lock and allow for quick release in the event of an emergency.
  5. Classroom doors with interior locks shall have the capability of being unlocked/ released from the interior with one motion.
  6. All door locking systems must comply with life safety and state building and fire codes to allow emergency evacuation.
  7. Provide doors between adjacent classrooms to provide means of moving classroom occupants from one classroom to the next as a means to relocate students and teachers from an impending hallway threat. Provide such doors with suitable locking hardware to preclude unauthorized tailgating.
  8. Provide closers on these doors so that they automatically return to a closed, latched, and locked position to preclude unauthorized entry.
  9. If classroom doors are equipped with a sidelight, the glazing should be penetration/forced entry resistant to the project forced entry standard.
  10. If interior windows are installed to provide lines of sight into/out of classrooms or other populated areas, certain factors should be taken into consideration relating to the size, placement and material used for those windows, including:
  11. Minimizing the size of windows or the installation of multiple interspersed smaller windows with barriers in a larger window area to deter intruder accessibility.
  12. Placing windows at a sufficient distance from the interior locking mechanism to prevent or make difficult the opening of a door or lock from outside.
  13. Concealing or obstructing window views to prevent an assailant‘s ability to ascertain the status or presence of persons inside of a classroom during lockdown.
  14. Hardening window frames and glazing to the project forced entry standards to lessen window vulnerability.

Large Assembly Areas (gym, auditorium, cafeteria, or other areas of large assembly)

  1. Points of entrance and egress shall be clearly demarcated and designed to meet the project forced entry standards.
  2. Lighting shall be sufficient to illuminate potential areas of concealment, enhance natural and/or electronic surveillance, discourage vandalism and protect against vandalism.
  3. Electronic surveillance should be used in large assembly areas and at all exit doors to securely monitor those areas when natural surveillance is not available.

Shared Space or Mixed Occupancy (library, BOE, mixed use or other community service)

  1. Shared space shall have separate, secure and controllable entrances.
  2. The design of shared space should prevent unauthorized access to the rest of the school.
  3. The design of shared space shall allow for the monitoring of points of entry/egress by natural and/or electronic surveillance during normal hours of operation.

Roofs

  1. The design shall allow for roof accessibility to authorized personnel only.
  2. Access to the roof should be internal to the building. Roof access hatches shall be locked from the inside.
  3. If external access exists, roof ladders should be removable, retractable, or lockable. Screen walls around equipment or service yards should not provide easy access to the roof or upper windows.
  4. Provide adequate lighting and controls for roof access means and roof access points into the school.

Critical Assets/Utilities

  1. Screens at utilities, such as transformers, gas meters, generators, trash dumpsters, or other equipment shall be designed to minimize concealment opportunities and adequate to preclude unauthorized access. Installation of screens at utilities shall be compliant with utility company requirements.
  2. Access to building operations systems shall be restricted to designated users with locks, keys and/or electronic access controls. Secure all mechanical rooms with intruder detection sensors.
  3. Loading docks shall be designed to keep vehicles from driving into or parking under the facility.
  4. Spaces with critical systems shall be provided appropriate graphics to be recognizable to emergency responders.
  5. Gas meter/regulator rooms shall be provided with forced entry resistant doors and to the project standards.
  6. Gas leak detection systems/sensors shall be installed wherever gas metering or appliances are installed.
  7. Shipping and receiving areas shall be separated from all utility rooms by at least fifty (50) feet unless prohibited by site constraints. If a site is determined to be physically constrained from reasonably meeting the fifty (50) foot separation requirement, maximize the separation distance between the receiving area and the utility room to the greatest extent possible. Utility rooms and service areas include electrical, telephone, data, fire alarm, fire suppression rooms, and mechanical rooms.
  8. Critical building components should be located away from vulnerable areas. Critical building components may include, but are not limited to:
    1. Emergency generator;
    2. Normal fuel storage;
    3. Main switchgear;
    4. Telephone distribution;
    5. Fire pumps;
    6. Building control centers;
    7. Main ventilation systems if critical to building operation.
    8. Elevator machinery and controls.
    9. Shafts for stairs, elevators, and utilities.

Security Infrastructure and Design Strategies

  1. The design shall include special rooms for hazardous supplies that can be locked.
  2. The design shall include secured spaces, closets, cabinets or means of protection to minimize the use of dangerous objects from shop, cooking or other similar occupancies.
  3. Egress stairwells should be located remotely and should not discharge into lobbies, parking or loading areas.
  4. Trash receptacles, dumpsters, mailboxes and other large containers shall be kept at least thirty (30) feet from the building unless prohibited by site constraints. If a site is determined to be physically constrained from reasonably meeting the thirty (30) foot separation requirement, maximize the separation distance to the greatest extent possible.

(Source: Final Report Of The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission)

Look out for our next post about “What Architects Can Do to Design Safer Classrooms for Our Children.”

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

 



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