Pick a lock

Gerald Haigh

Gerald Haigh has some advice on how to improve security in your school. Last year, the head of a school in my town had his briefcase stolen. Inside was a bunch of keys which included a master that would open virtually every door in the school. Replacing the locks at short notice was difficult and therefore expensive.

We do tend to take master key systems for granted, and yet there are sensible alternatives which can be both cheaper and more secure.

External doors. For these, and very vulnerable internal areas, the best protection comes from locks made to British Standard 3621 for thief-resistant locks. The specification for this standard is impressive. There must be at least 1,000 different key patterns, the lock must have at least five levers, it must include anti-picking protection, the lock body must be protected by hardened steel anti-drilling plates, the bolt must project at least 14mm, fixing screws must be concealed and so on. In fact, if you set down a British Standard lock by the side of a cheaper, though still good-quality lock, the difference is obvious.

Internal doors. These will not normally require the same standard of protection, and may simply have cheaper locks,. Another solution is to use digital locks, which are opened by punching in a combination of numbers. Although relatively expensive, digital locks are useful where access has to be available to a handful of people.

Window locks. If external doors are to be thief-proofed, then it makes sense also to look at installing window locks. The problem is that schools have lots of windows, and checking them all, and taking care of the keys, becomes a headache. One answer is to have the windows secured by snaplocks. Instead of having to be locked with a key, these lock automatically when the window is closed, and you then need the key to open them. Thus, any teacher or child or cleaner who closes the classroom windows at the end of school is also locking them, and the caretaker's evening security check becomes much easier.

Fitting the locks. The cost of improving security inevitably includes fitting locks as well as buying them. Although many heads will want to see equipment fitted by an authority-approved locksmith, at least one manufacturer (ERA) supplies an "Easy Fit Kit" for its mortice locks. This has step-by-step instructions, templates and the necessary drill bits, and brings the job well within the reach of a caretaker or other member of staff.

Prices. Discounts are usually available to schools either individually or through local authority contracts. Approximate retail prices, however, are: British Standard five-lever mortice deadlock, suitable for external doors Pounds 30; five-lever mortice deadlock for lower-priority doors (not BS) Pounds 18 Easy Fit Kit (for mortice deadlock) Pounds 5.99; digital door lock, suitable for office or other internal doors Pounds 135 Snaplock, for windows Pounds 6.50

Suppliers. Most of the information in this article was supplied by Julian Farmer of ERA Security Products. The company is piloting a Safer Schools brochure in the West Midlands. ERA Security Products, Straight Road, Short Heath, Willenhall, West Midlands WV12 5RA

For more details contact: Chubb Locks, PO Box 197, Wednesfield Road, Wolverhampton and Yale Security Products, Wood Street, Willenhall, West Midlands, WV 13 1LA.

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