K-12 schools all have unique layouts and settings within buildings that are characteristic landmarks in every city and town across the United States. With lengthy hallways and numerous classrooms and functional space, school buildings have a variety of security needs, and hundreds of mechanical keys that need to be secured.
Losing a grandmaster key to a school building involves expensive refitting of all locks and the replacement of master and submaster keys that can cost thousands of dollars. Ensuring that all the school keys are being used only by authorized personnel and are properly secured when not in use creates safer and more secure schools.
So how can a school manage all those keys? Key control policies and procedures are an essential foundation of a school district master security plan, yet key control can often be vague or inadequately defined.
Let’s examine ten tips to include in a comprehensive key control policy that will add greater efficiency and accountability with enhanced security for K-12 schools.
#1 Include a Key Control Policy in the Master Security Plan – Define the purpose and objectives, which is primarily to prevent the misuse of keys that can lead to security breaches. Next, define the rules related to key control, including proper usage, not loaning, duplicating them, letting anyone borrow them, or removing them from school property.
#2 Implement a Key Control System – Consider an electronic key control system to manage keys if keys are currently manually signed out, where anyone can potentially gain access to them for nefarious reasons. An electronic key control system secures, tracks, and accounts for all keys and identifies who is using them and provides an audit trail.
#3 Appoint School Key Control Administrators – Appointed key control administrators manage campus key control systems and enforce related key control policies. Select a key administrator for overall management of the school’s key control policy, such as a security or maintenance manager, or an administrative staff member, or both.
#4 Define Who Needs Access to Keys and When and Why – First, arrange sub-master keys by department. Next, arrange them by staff members who need them. Then, arrange them by schedule. Include plans for substitute teachers and contractors to obtain and return them as needed. Keep keys in the hands of staff members only when they need them. An electronic key control system can be programmed to release keys on scheduled times, dates, days of the week, and other criteria.
#5 Choose an Easy-to-Access Location for the Key Control Cabinets – Select convenient locations for key control cabinets. The centralized key control system. gathers data from multiple cabinet locations.
#6 Color Code Key Rings – Color coding key rings for different tasks help to keep keys organized and identifiable. This saves time and streamlines processes.
#7 Train and Educate Campus Employees – Train all staff who will use the key control system. All keys will be returned to the key control system at the end of the day to prevent them from becoming missing or lost. Provide training sessions for newly onboarded staff and be sure to remove permissions for anyone who is no longer employed at the school.
#8 Make Master Keys Available for Emergency Responders – Provide a known location for a key control cabinet that contains the master keys that first responders need to access in the event of an emergency or disaster. Share the key control plan and the location of a special key ring containing all school master keys for first responders so that they can access any part of all buildings in the event of an emergency or disaster.
#9 Manage Those Important Assets – Key control cabinets can be configured to control access to important assets with locker modules as well as keys modules. Locker modules secure data ports, laptops, mobile phones, handheld radios, panic button fobs, personal belongings and more.
#10 Conduct Key Audits Regularly – Audit reports are available at any time with an electronic key control system because every key transaction is recorded by the system’s software. Review the key control plan annually and make amendments as needed. Account for any new keys and locks that need to be added into the system that were overlooked.
Key control policies and procedures that are complete and reviewed regularly ensure that school campuses are optimized for security so that keys do not become lost or missing or end up in the wrong hands. Integrate an electronic key control system with other security systems for more comprehensive data between the key control system, access control system, and video surveillance system for safer and more secure K-12 schools.