The fences and gates that surround your school are an introduction to your organization in more ways than one. In addition to being the physical gateway to your school, they are also the first thing many parents or prospective students will see.
A safe and nurturing environment can go a long way toward building the confidence of parents and students. On the other hand, a fence that has been vandalized, appears in disrepair, or seems too easy to break communicates a less positive message.
The quality of your fence is important, not only for the safety of your students and property, but also for the perception of your school. However, simply installing a secure fence is not enough. Any fence you install should be maintained on a regular basis to ensure that it continues to protect the school, but it should also be checked to ensure that it does not endanger any students or staff in close contact with it.
So far, everything is obvious, but what should you keep in mind when checking if your fence is secure?
Walk the perimeter
Many of the most obvious security risks can be identified simply by walking around the perimeter of your site. Some things to look for are:
- Loose material: there are a number of seemingly innocuous things that can cause harm. Check for sharp edges such as chipped paint and chips, knots in the wood that could trap students' fingers, and foreign objects such as cans or containers stuck in the fence.
- Additional features: Is there anything attached to the fence that could pose a hazard? For example, does any connected lighting have dangerous hanging wires? Or have the posters been wired to the fence, creating a possible arm trap?
- Climbing Aids: Kids love climbing, whether it's to retrieve lost balls or just for adventure. Therefore, make sure that containers or play equipment are stored away from the fence to prevent people from entering or leaving the school.
- Natural hazards: watch what grows near the fence. Thorny plants growing through it can pose a security risk, as can any overgrown or leaning tree that will push through the fence.
- Instability: Push the fence to check its structural integrity and look for any deviations that lean in or out. The fence may look good, but poor installation or shifting foundations could pose a hazard, especially if a student tries to climb.
The next thing to check is any access point to your site. First, do you have separate access points for vehicles and pedestrians? It is essential that vehicles entering or leaving the building do not use the same access points as children. If this is not possible, consider implementing restricted times for vehicle entry; before the school day or during school hours.
Also, the doors are worth checking. Are they clearly marked, with warnings for both students and visitors? Are the door locks secure? And, if your school uses automated gates, has a reputable professional installed them and maintained them regularly? Poorly calibrated doors can pose a great security risk.
Mental health problems
We generally think of a dangerous fence as something that could physically hurt a student. However, as awareness of mental health has increased, so have fencing designs. To give an example, a tall, rusty chain-link fence could create a prison-like atmosphere, presenting the school as a scary place rather than a safe and welcoming environment and causing unnecessary mental anguish.
Thanks to research by bodies like the World Health Organization, we now know that noise pollution is much more than an environmental hazard. Noise pollution can also affect mental health, in addition to disrupting learning and playtime. If your school is near a busy street and you have a traditional open fence, it may be worth considering replacing it with an acoustic fence to block out harmful sound.
The well-being of students is not only affected by what happens on the school grounds. If your school is on a main thoroughfare or in a densely populated area, students are also at risk of pedestrians. To avoid this, it is worth updating your fence to something that provides privacy for students and prevents outside contact. A great example of this is our own EuroGuard® Combi range, with a flat surface without hands or footrests for added security, and closely spaced slats for privacy.
Lastly, check the fences that surround your school's playgrounds. Does it include anti-cheat properties like arch fences? Do any of the doors include soft-close features to prevent injuries from slamming shut?
Keep an eye out for RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) approved designs when purchasing new fences. And remember the importance of aesthetics. Bright and inviting colors and patterns can help improve mental health and well-being.
The measures we've listed are a great place to start, but identifying and mitigating each hazard can be tricky. So if you are considering the safety of your school, why not hire a professional? Contact us today and we will explain how to improve the safety and well-being of your students and staff.