Whatever next?

Date: 10th Jun 2020   By: Peter McMullan   length: 5 Minutes   Tags: Estates  

Now the UK is beginning to emerge from the constraints of lockdown, educational establishments will need to implement measures to keep building occupants safe. Tom Clarke, Sales & Marketing Director at Reliance High-Tech (one of CPC’s Entrance and Access Control framework suppliers), explains how maximising the operational potential of existing security and access control infrastructure can help to address this challenge.

The effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on our day-to-day lives has been profound and as the lockdown measures start to be lifted, a ‘new normal’ will emerge. Given that the threat posed is unlikely to be eliminated until a vaccine is successfully developed and rolled-out, schools, academies, colleges and universities will have to develop strategies and procedures to help manage risk and keep people safe.

More than meets the eye

Technology will certainly play a key role during this period and beyond. What might not be immediately apparent is that much of the security and access control equipment that is currently in-situ across educational estates has the ability to make a considerable impact in terms of operational continuity, maintaining social distancing and ensuring that buildings do not become overcrowded.

Any required changes to an existing system can be carried out quickly and cost effectively in many cases through a simple process of repurposing and reprogramming. An example of this would be to recommission an access control system to change time profiles on doors, barriers and turnstiles, e.g. increasing the release time from 10 seconds to 20 seconds to give individuals more time to get through and restrict bottlenecking in line with social distancing guidance. Likewise, biometric fingerprint readers and push to exit buttons are now considered a means of infection transmission, so adapting an existing system to use contactless proximity readers and exit buttons or even retina and facial recognition are viable options.

In terms of new technology, some organisations are beginning to use CCTV cameras with thermal sensing to identify those people entering a building who have a high temperature – a symptom of COVID-19. As a method of providing an alert if an abnormal temperature is detected, this technology has a significant amount of potential, but is not a silver bullet on its own. It is important to remember that it is not a medical solution and should therefore be implemented as part of a suite of measures, all working together to ensure accuracy and resilience

Command and control

An access control system can be adapted to allow for safer movement and to reduce the number of touch-points throughout a building, while also maintaining its ability to do the job it is intended for. This might require some reprogramming or additional devices but could for example, enable corralling of people traffic via different, less busy routes or restrict access to areas where social distancing limits are achieved through people counting. Depending on the measures this could be a straightforward process that can even be carried out remotely.

Enabling remote support services on a more general level can solve issues quickly, thus providing greater reliance, while vastly reducing the need for engineers to attend site. This is both cost effective and sustainable, reducing the number of personnel on-site and ensuring that planned preventative maintenance, firmware updates, reconfiguration, malware prevention, encrypted password changes and other preventative safeguards are carried out as soon as they are required.

Knowing exactly how many people are in a building and where they are in it, is vital in terms of managing traffic flow and space usage. Video analytics software can assist to provide a higher level of management information, which can be used to increase safety, obtain behavioural insights and allow early intervention if a person’s behaviour or actions are considered a risk. Furthermore, collating, deciphering and presenting data that can be used to analyse building usage, traffic flow and occupancy, means that educational establishments will be able to control space utilisation, regulate energy in unoccupied spaces and plan for peak and off peak demands.

There are also less obvious elements to consider. Visitor and contractor management is often carried out using a hardcopy ‘signing in book’, however, with the sharing of pens now forbidden and the potential to transmit Coronavirus through touching paper, transferring to a digital solution that is also General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant is advisable. Visitor and contractor management software tools are an excellent way to increase safety. They allow visitors to register off-site and hosts are automatically notified when a visitor arrives, while badge printing can be automated and health and safety information issued.

Next steps

What some people thought could never happen has happened and the Coronavirus pandemic will radically change perceptions about the role of security and access control. The first step in realising the additional value of this technology is to work with an independent security integrator, as recommended under the CPC framework, which is able to conduct a comprehensive audit that will identify cost effective ways to optimise existing systems, enhance risk mitigation strategies and devise innovative ways to achieve other operational and environmental benefits.

CPC’s Entrance and Access Control framework is fully OJEU compliant. It offers a route to market for all entrance and access control needs including supply, design, installation, consumables, equipment, bureau services, maintenance and repair.

Should you have any queries relating to this framework, please contact the framework manager, Peter McMullan on 0161 974 0950 or via email to p.mcmullan@thecpc.ac.uk.