Recent news reports have prompted parents to pay closer attention to the security measures used at their children’s daycare centers. Centers need to make sure they are taking adequate safety precautions, but must also ensure they’re not scaring the children.
The California Department of Social Services has published a guide that can be used by any daycare center provider in any state. Here are just a few of the suggestions it put forward.
1. Video Security
One of the most effective ways to prevent an intruder is to install a security camera outside the building that alerts staff when anyone is about to enter. Although a visible camera may act as a deterrent, some intruders will attempt to dismantle or evade it.
Hidden or covert cameras can be concealed in everyday objects such as thermostats and wall clocks, and will leave intruders none the wiser that they’re being recorded.
2. Background Checks
Criminal background checks and fingerprinting should be done on all potential employees and any volunteers. Anyone failing these checks should not be given access to children in care.
3. Staff Identification
All staff should have identification badges that feature their photos and be required to wear the badges at all times when they are at the facility.
4. Maintenance Personnel Identification
Anyone who enters the facility to do maintenance, repair or other work, or is a guest on the premises for any other reason, must be given ID badges showing that they are authorized to be there.
5. Sign In Procedures
Anyone who enters the premises to pick up a child must sign in and out at the front office. The person’s name must be on record as someone who is authorized to take the child off the premises.
6. Ratio of Teachers to Children
The ratio of teachers to children must be low enough that a teacher can immediately recognize if an unauthorized person is present. If teachers have too many children to supervise, they may become distracted and not notice the presence of an intruder.
7. Child Supervision
No child should ever be left unsupervised and therefore vulnerable to a potential intruder. In case of an emergency, staff should know what action to take and how to evacuate the children in their care to a place of safety.
8. Well Maintained Grounds
The grounds of the facility should be well-maintained and free of overgrown shrubs that could provide a place to hide. Make sure that if the playground has a gate leading to a path or the street, it is secure.
9. Panic Locks
One of the newest intruder-prevention devices is an electronic, high-security lock that takes the form of a pendant for teachers to wear around their necks.
When they are alerted of a dangerous situation, they can push their pendants from anywhere in the school and the classroom doors will automatically lock, keeping out intruders who may have already entered the grounds.
10. Remote Monitoring
Modern video surveillance systems give parents the ability to observe their children throughout the day, all without leaving the office, either from a web browser or an app on their mobile device. This tool can also be used by owners, managers and security personnel to monitor any after-hours activity on the premises.
Further reading: How to make your child care center a safer place for children (PDF).
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