Access control provides the ability to control, monitor and restrict the movement of people, assets or vehicles, in, out and round a building or site. A Networked Access Control System is a system where the doors are controlled from a central point or computer via a network.
We believe that this is one of the most effective systems for a school, college or university site as it offers the flexibility of managing single or multiple doors from a central point. These systems are great for medium to large sites as they make managing large numbers of doors and users easy.
How do access control systems work?
Security systems, network access and CCTV systems have in the last few years reached very high levels of sophistication and capability.
The latest door readers are smart devices that connect to the central network and are powered using Power over Ethernet (PoE). They connect directly to the network and hold the identification codes for all the people assigned to the system. They can work even if the organisation’s network is down and the central management software is unavailable. They can operate by themselves as long as backup power is provided to the network switch that connects and powers (using PoE) all the readers. The door reader transfers the ID number it receives to the controller portion of the door access control system. The controller compares the ID number to the list in its memory. If the ID is acceptable it will unlock the door.
The door reader controls the electric lock on the door. The new readers provide the power to control the lock. They also have sensors to detect if the door is opened and Request to Exit (REX) connections to open the door using a button.
The access devices come with a unique internal number that identifies it. You can select the type of device you would like. For example, there are a thin card, thick card, or key fob format. Each device will have its own unique number for identification.
Going a step further, you could install biometric access control systems, where the readers are designed to read biometric information instead of a card or fob that you carry. There are fingerprint readers, facial readers, finger vein, and other readers that read a characteristic of the person rather than a card that they carry. Of course, whilst this is a more secure system it costs more per door, so it may not be viable for schools where budgets are tight.
In case of an emergency, these systems are usually set to open up automatically if…
- the fire alarm system goes off
- there is a loss of electrical power;
- operation of an adjacent override;
- loss of power/fault with fire alarm system.
Types of Access Control
In school settings, often a variety of access control systems are used for different parts of the school, rather than one system across the entire site. In some areas you may need greater restriction of entry and exit, whilst in other areas there may not be the need for tight access controls.
Access control systems consist of three primary components.
Firstly, there is the physical barrier, which restricts access into a building. This is achieved through methods such as doors being secured by a magnetic or strike lock and turnstiles or speed gates, which are designed to limit access to one person for one card presented. It is important to ensure that the perimeter of the school is secure. Access control should start at a site’s perimeter with remote electronic release and intercom, allowing the verification of a guest’s identity and reason for entering the site by staff before they are allowed access into the reception area.
Secondly there is the identification device, which identifies users of an access control system before granting access. This is the usually the networked area of the system. There are a variety of different devices including a proximity card and reader which uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), at both a short or long read range. Other methods include a smart card and reader, a swipe card and reader, PIN pads or biometric equipment such as fingerprint and iris scanning. This equipment can be used throughout a school’s site, which will only grant access to staff and pupils thereby reducing the risk of intruders. The door controller and software is another important tool in an access control system. This is used to decide who can gain access through which access point at what time of day and can vary depending on the size of the system and how many readers or sites are being controlled.
There are several options when it comes to access control and most schools use a combination of them, whether it’s a standalone door controller linked to a single door with no software; a number of door controllers all linked together to a single PC to control one site; a number of sites all interlinked together over a wide network area. All three systems are effective and depend on the school’s requirements.
Benefits of a networked access control system
The benefits of a networked system are obvious. From a school’s perspective, the safety and security of the students, staff and equipment are paramount. A system that not only controls entry and exit of visitors from a single point, but also provides real time imagery and information, can only be a positive.
Overall benefits include:
- Protection of site from unwanted visitors
- Control on entry and exit within different buildings on the school site
- CCTV integration
- Data on who has accessed which area and when…in case of theft or vandalism
- Emergency lockdown capabilities
- High level of flexibility
- Cost effective in the long run
- Deterrent to thieves and vandalism
If your school access control systems need an overhaul, give us a call on 01702 4767002 to find out how we can help. A member of our team will call you to discuss your needs, schedule a free site survey and share some of our recommendations on the best solutions for your site.