Salt Lake Community College is in the process of adding state-of-the-art proximity locks designed to protect students in unsafe situations.
By this spring, the Key Office will have completed installation of an electronic lock system that includes around 2,000 proxy locks in an almost decade-long project at a total cost of approximately $3.3 million.
The locks have been, or soon will be, added to classrooms, mechanical rooms and offices that lead to hallways in all of the SLCC campuses. These proxy locks utilize a toggle function that gives an instructor the ability to lock a classroom door from the inside if they feel there is a threat to their student’s safety.
“When it comes to the toggle feature, we have pushed the lock manufacturer a little bit, because they didn’t even know how to use the toggle function at this scale. This function makes our campuses really safe,” says Steve Hamann, a locksmith for the Key Office. Hamann is one of the individuals who installed and maintains the locks.
Other institutions may have up to a dozen total proxy locks in strategic places, compared to SLCC’s almost universal coverage.
“In my humble opinion, we are probably the best in the nation,” Hamann says.
In the past, SLCC’s emergency plan included the distribution of a special safety key to faculty. This process had its limitations, including professors that did not collect the safety key, professors who did not carry the safety key with them at all times, and classrooms with multiple locking doors.
With SLCC’s toggle function, a professor will normally have the key fob with them, because they use it to open the door. Professors will also be able to lock down all doors to their classroom with one swipe.
These locks keep intruders out, but never lock people in. Egress standards dictate that a door cannot be barred from exiting, to avoid the risk of being trapped in the event of a fire.
The electronic system also supports a global shutdown, which authorizes security officers and staff members in the President’s Office to lock all of the doors of a building or campus when in danger.
This is an important function, but allowing individual instructors to toggle the locks on their classroom doors can be essential during a time-sensitive emergency.
Hamann explains that the industry average for global shutdowns is eight minutes, and the average school shooting takes around two to two-and-a half minutes.
“We have it so the instructor can lock the door from the inside. It doesn’t fire off any warning to us, but it makes them safer immediately,” Hamann says.
The final report of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission says “there has never been an event in which an active shooter breached a locked classroom door.”
“[Gunmen] don’t take time to open a door, even if there is glass in the door,” Hamann says.
Theft protection is another reason this electric lock system is superior. Faculty is asked to use their key fobs to unlock the classroom as they enter and lock it when they exit.
“With all of the expensive equipment we have added to these rooms, we want them locked if an instructor isn’t in them,” Hamann says.
Even when an instructor is waiting to use the room, they should scan out.
“We have a record of everyone who has had access to that room. We can provide audits to police and audits to departments. It is in the professor’s best interest to lock the door and have the next professor scan in,” says Kathy Shipley, access and resource manager for the Key Office.
To protect in the cases where a room is inadvertently left open, all classrooms are scheduled to lock as a backup four times daily.
The Key Office has done their own installation and maintenance, saving upwards of 30 to 50 percent, Hamann estimates. Although the initial cost is high, the maintenance of using it year-to-year becomes cost effective.
“If someone loses their proxy card then it is nominal cost to replace,” says Barton Mace, director of construction and crafts at SLCC. “But with the traditional key system, if someone lost their key then they would have to go through and re-key all of the cylinders that the lost key had access to. A loss of a master key would have cost up to $50,000 to protect the school.”
SLCC has trained staff and faculty on how to use these locks and what to do in an emergency. At the time of this writing, the system has been used on two occasions.
One incident was a false alarm. The second incident occurred at South City Campus, where a person was seen carrying a gun. It was a prop gun for a production, but it prompted a trial-run. Calls were made to South City Campus offices, not 911, showing that more training was needed.
In the event of an attack, the correct procedure is to call 911. The police will alert the school for a global shutdown.
It is the faculty member’s responsibility to go through the proper channels and gain access to their classrooms.
“We have forms set up online so they can request the rooms they will be teaching in that semester,” says Ali Hardy, a specialist in the Key Office.
When asked how many faculty members take this step to have correct access, Shipley says only 75 percent of faculty correctly get access to their classrooms each semester. Shipley mentions that this number is a great improvement from previous years using the safety keys, but the Key Office hopes to get all faculty to gain their online access.
Students can also help by paying attention to how their professors are accessing the classroom, respectfully asking about it when a key fob is not used. In this way, students could take an active role in protecting themselves.
For more information regarding the electronic key system at SLCC, contact the Key Office at 801-957-4102 or firstname.lastname@example.org.