Schools are one of the main targets for criminals especially burglars, vandals and arsonists. They are most vulnerable when closed at evenings, weekends and holidays. When a school is vandalised or burgled there are many consequences, not just the financial cost but it also affects staff and pupils both physically and mentally. If equipment is damaged or taken it will considerably affect the pupils learning. Opportunistic crime makes up about 75% of all recorded crime in schools and is often carried out by pupils, parents, outsiders and shockingly staff.
There are many steps and measures which you can take to try and prevent criminals attacking your school.
The starting point would be to install a secure boundary fencing around the perimeter of the school grounds. This fence should be high to make it difficult to climb and you could also put anti climb paint around the top as long as there are signs clearly visible, warning people about the paint. Try to limit the number of pedestrian and vehicle access points around the perimeter. You could also use landscaping or planting trees on the inside of the fence to make it even more difficult. If someone did manage to get over the fence these trees would make it harder to get to the building and it would look better and more pleasing to the eye.
Next it would be a good idea to have CCTV cameras installed to monitor any movement or any suspicious activity. It is important to protect these cameras from vandalism; you could do this by fitting some sort of cage to prevent it by hit by stones or some other sort of missile. It would be better if they were installed high up so they could not be covered by anything and to stop the lenses being sprayed with paint or another liquid to block visibility.
It is also a good idea to have some security lights installed that come on when they detect any movement. Again it is important to protect these from vandalism.
If it is a new build the design and shape of the building are very important from a security point of view. Try to avoid designing it with recesses, overhangs or any other areas that would provide cover, shelter or a hiding place for anyone. Also try not to have any flat roofs on the building; these are a major weakness because they often have sky lights and ventilators on them which can be kicked through easily.
This will leave a big enough hole for someone to lower themselves down and get into the school. You should also try to avoid providing any easy climbing materials for any potential burglar or vandal to use to get on the roof; these are things like gutters, down pipes and window ledges. Also try and keep bins and skips away from the building or in a secure area as these can be used to stand on to climb up and they can also be set on fire quite easily.
If on the other hand it is not a new build and you are experiencing some of these problems there are some precautions that you can take. You could put anti climb paint on the gutters and down pipes, this would make it extremely difficult to climb as the paint is very greasy.
If someone touches the paint then their finger prints stay on it and also once it gets on your clothes it does not come off. You could also put anti climb paint and/or metal spikes around the edge of the roof. Anywhere that you put anti climb paint or spikes there must be signs warning people what is there and these signs must be clearly visible.
If you don’t put up any signs and someone tries to get on to the roof and injures them self, you are liable and likely to face criminal charges. To stop someone entering through a sky light if you have any the best way would be to install burglar bars to the inside of the sky light.
The next step for protecting your school would be to install physical security equipment to the windows, doors and any other openings. Physical security is things such as concertina grilles, steel doors, burglar bars, roller shutters and anti vandal screening. Each of these have are effective in different situations depending whether you are trying to protect against burglary, vandalism or both.
If your main problem is vandalism such as smashing glass on windows or doors, the best option for you would be anti vandal screening or roller shutters. These would be fitted on the outside so that any stones or missiles thrown at the windows would not be able to hit and damage the glass.
So they would work perfectly to stop windows being broken, however there are some bad points to these. Because they are fitted externally they may be ripped of easily, the shutters may also be ripped off easily and they can be jacked up as well. The box at the top could also be used as a platform for someone to climb up on to a roof or to break into any window that might be above. So in solving one problem you could cause yourself another one.
Another way of preventing glass being smashed is to install some anti vandal screening on the outside of the windows or doors that you want to protect. This is a steel mesh manufactured in an aluminium frame; they can be made for reveal or face fit.
These panels can be made up to up to a size of 1700mm x 2500mm, if the size you require is larger than that, two pieces would have to be joined together using a joining bar. The anti vandal screening can be fitted onto each individual panel of the window or one sheet to cover the whole window.
As the steel mesh is usually black, it gives the appearance of having tinted glass from a distance, but close up it is a good visual deterrent that would usually stop people from attempting to smash the glass. The screening allows 60% of the light through. The down side to this product is that because it is fitted on the outside anyone trying to rip it off would have as much time as they needed.
What you must remember is that this screening is not for security purposes; it is only designed to prevent vandalism. There is a product which is similar to this but is designed for security and vandalism purposes. Instead of a steel mesh it is a strengthened polycarbonate sheet manufactured in an aluminium frame. This can stand up to a tremendous amount of attack from items such as stones and bricks being thrown at it and most hand tools.
If you are worried burglary and intruders entering the school, you need some physical security on the inside of the windows or doors. On the windows you could have concertina security grilles, burglar bars or roller shutters. Roller shutters have a number of bad points which were pointed out earlier up the page.
Solid steel burglar bars, when installed correctly are the strongest but are not very pleasing to look at, they are often referred to as prison bars and this is the main reason why a lot of people don’t like them. They are normally found on toilet windows and in sky lights. They work especially well in sky lights because if someone kicks the sky light through they would find it extremely difficult to get through the bars.
There are hollow bars and removable bars on the market. Hollow bars are made of steel but are a tube instead of being solid, so they can be cut through easier. Removable bars have a frame that is fixed to the reveal of the window with holes in the top and bottom for the actual bars to locate into.
There is a lock on the front so when you turn the key you are able to pull the bars out. If you do decide to have bars fitted anywhere it would be best to have the solid steel ones as they are much stronger.
Tinted glass or a dark film on the windows will make it difficult to see what is on the inside. This will benefit you because often people will not bother to break in if they cannot see what is in there to steal. On the other hand though everybody knows that schools will have computers, laptops and projectors inside. So the film or tinted glass will just make it difficult for a potential burglar to identify where in the school these items are stored.
The most common choice for window protection against burglars and intruders are concertina security grilles. These can be opened and closed as you wish so you could have them open during the day and then shut them when you leave. When open they often hide quite neatly behind the curtains or blinds.
The grilles will be custom made to your exact size; so as well as on windows you can have them on the inside of door ways and any other opening such as shelters, bike stores etc. You can have them as a pair so they open to both sides of the opening or as a one way so they open to one side or the other. They come with various options such as lift up and lift out bottom tracks to avoid a trip hazard.
Usually the grilles are supplied in a powder coated white finish, however a variety of other colours are available so you should be able to get a pretty good match to the surroundings. These other colours do add extra cost to the price of the grilles. Security grilles work well with your alarm system because the PIR sensor should be aiming at the window or door so as soon as the glass is smashed the alarm will start to sound and make the would be intruder panic and leave very little time for them to attack and attempt to break through the grill. It is even better if the alarm is linked to direct to the local police.
If your doors are a weak and vulnerable point on the building, the best way to solve this is to replace the existing doors with steel doors. There are several different types of steel door that you can get, these are fire exit doors, fire rated doors, security doors, personnel doors, communal entrance doors and substation/ventilated doors.
The doors can be fitted with additional extras and furniture such as vision panels, letter boxes, spy viewers etc. You can have single or double doors, even leaf and a half doors. Fixed panels are available for the side and top, these to can be solid or have vision panels in them.
There are different locking mechanisms available such as a multi locking system, magnetic locks, single and multi point panic bars and many more. As with the grilles, the doors can be custom made to you required sizes and specifications. They will normally come in a standard powder coat primer grey but a variety of other colours are available, this will add extra cost to the door though.
This shows you that there are many options for you to consider when trying to protect your school from vandalism and burglary when it is empty. Just make sure you choose the one that will best suit your needs. The most important thing to remember is that if someone is determined enough and has enough time, they will get through anything. The options I have talked about will slow them down and make it a lot more difficult for them.