Keenan Briefings

Briefings

COVID-19: Securing Closed School Sites

March 19, 2020

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve on an hourly basis, California school districts face new challenges that have not come up in the past. The CDC and other public health organizations are publishing a great deal of information on controlling the spread of the virus, but no one has addressed how you should protect your brick and mortar facilities during extended closures. Currently, most school districts are shut down through May 2020. However, there is a high likelihood that those closures will be extended in the wake of this global crisis.

During the first few weeks of closures, most districts still have core administrative staff on site, but as time goes on, sites will likely end up completely shut down and unoccupied. Criminals know this, and they will likely attempt to capitalize on the situation. They know that there will be fewer eyes on the streets and fewer eyes on your sites. That creates a prime environment for them to commit crimes without being detected. What can you do to combat this problem?

Below is a list of things that schools and community colleges can do to increase security and reduce the possibility of losses during these extended site shutdowns:

  • Current shelter in place orders allow people to leave their homes for exercise, dog walking, etc. People who live near school sites will want to utilize those sites for those activities. The district should consider posting “Campus Closed- No Unauthorized Entry” signage at all ingress/egress points of closed sites. The signage should remain posted for the duration of the site closure. Signage will help law enforcement enforce your site closures and will lessen the likelihood of hard surface virus contamination at sanitized sites.
  • The district should ensure that all perimeter gates remain secured for the duration of the site closure. Service gates and vehicle gates should be closed and locked. Pedestrian gates equipped with emergency egress hardware should be locked from the outside but unlocked from the inside. If there are questions about which gates can be locked, the district should consult with the local fire department. Self-closing hardware on all gates should be inspected to ensure that it is intact and operational.
  • The district should employ an end of day lock-up procedure for all closed sites. This would include assigning specific staff to be responsible for the following:
    • Emptying all exterior trash cans and securing any combustible materials such as pallets, rolling dumpsters, or cardboard boxes away from site buildings. This reduces the potential for arson fires.
    • Locking all interior and exterior doors before leaving the site.
    • Closing all exterior facing window coverings to prevent clear visibility into rooms while the site is closed and the rooms are unoccupied.
    • Arming all intrusion alarm systems before leaving the site. (The district should ensure that all alarm system contact data, including primary and secondary contact information, is up to date).
    • Conduct a visual check of the fire alarm panel and associated equipment before leaving the site. Ensure that all systems are operational and report any malfunctions immediately.
  • The district should assign staff to clean the lenses and protective housings on all mechanical surveillance equipment. Ensure that all cameras are functioning correctly and are positioned to provide the best coverage of critical areas on campus. (The district should assign a responsible person(s) to monitor and receive alerts from mechanical surveillance systems designed to send motion alerts).
  • The district should request extra patrols of closed sites from local law enforcement agencies. Remember that this service is a low priority for law enforcement, which means extra patrols may not occur when law enforcement is inundated with other higher priority calls.
  • The district should consider contracting with a private security contractor to patrol closed district sites regularly. Private security patrols can include everything from a simple drive-by check of closed sites to foot patrol at each site and door lock checks.
  • Transients tend to congregate around access to water and power. This is especially true during site closures. The district should consider shutting off the building water supply at all closed sites. This will also reduce the possibility of flooding due to vandalism or equipment failure. Take special care to ensure that the fire suppression water supply is not affected by the water shut off.
  • When possible, the district should power down all exterior electric outlets at closed sites. This will reduce the potential for transients to congregate in those areas. The district should take special care to make sure that any power shut-offs do not affect critical infrastructure at the site such as sump pumps, alarm systems, water flow detectors, mechanical surveillance systems, exterior lighting, etc.

Taking action, no matter how small, is always better than doing nothing at all. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unique challenges faced by each individual district, not all of these recommendations may apply to your situation.

The Keenan IMReady team is here to help, and we are closely monitoring the situation as it continues to unfold. Our team of school security experts will be available to answer any questions you may have related to the security of your closed district facilities.

You can contact us anytime at imready@keenan.com or during regular business hours at 951.715.0190 ext. 1192.


Keenan & Associates is not a law firm and no opinion, suggestion, or recommendation of the firm or its employees shall constitute legal advice. Clients are advised to consult with their own attorney for a determination of their legal rights, responsibilities and liabilities, including the interpretation of any statute or regulation, or its application to the clients’ business activities.