Over the past few weeks, there have been numerous news articles from across the country referencing school security initiatives and several discussed the use of classroom barricade devices. As a door hardware manufacturer, this is concerning because these types of devices often do not meet life safety or fire codes requiring free egress, fire protection, or ADA accessibility.
In March of this year, the Bremen Public School District, located in Indiana, developed a new school safety initiative plan. Several levels of security are being added, including upgrading their card access system. Unfortunately, in the article that reported these upgrades, it stated “the safety plan also includes the addition of a classroom barricade device. The devices are magnetic and slide onto the back piece of the door to barricade the door and keep intruders from entering a classroom if they break the lock. The devices are already being distributed to classrooms.”¹
In 2018, the State of Indiana released a School Safety Recommendations document which specifically included verbiage on classroom door hardware.
Under Recommendation #11
“Replace classroom door hardware to ensure fire and building code compliance. The door must lock from the inside and not restrict exiting or egress from the classroom or building. This could reduce the number of non-compliant tactics being used (such as magnets) to allow easier re-entry access by students during class time.”²
Another recent news article described how a former lecturer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln began to discuss procedures to be followed in the event of an active shooter situation. However, before the lecturer began speaking, he noticed that the classroom doors did not have locks on the inside of the doors.
Concerned, the lecturer did reach out to the University’s Facilities Service advising them of this safety concern and suggestions on how to fix it, including the use of deadbolts. The article went on to share that the concerns were forward to the UNL’s Police Department’s Assistant Chief of Police, who in turn, did reply that deadbolts were not a viable solution as “fire code prohibits the use of deadbolts in classroom spaces.”³ Listening to officials who understand building and life safety codes is vital in having code-compliant hardware.
The 2018 edition of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) notes in Chapter 15 for Existing Education Occupancies:
126.96.36.199 Classroom Door Locking to Prevent Unwanted Entry
Classroom doors shall be permitted to be locked to prevent unwanted entry provided that the locking means is approved and all the following conditions are met:
- The locking means shall be capable of being engaged without opening the door.
- The unlocking and unlatching from the classroom side of the door can be accomplished without the use of a key, tool, or special knowledge or effort.
- The releasing mechanism for unlocking and unlatching shall be located at a height not less than 34 in. *865 mm) and not exceeding 48 in. (1220 mm) above the finished floor.
- Locks, if remotely engaged, shall be unlockable from the classroom side of the door without the use of a key, tool, or special knowledge or effort.
- The door shall be capable of being unlocked and opened from outside the room with the necessary key or other credentials.
- The locking means shall not modify the door closer, panic hardware, or fire exit hardware.
- Modifications to the fire door assemblies, including door hardware, shall be in accordance with NFPA 80.
- The emergency action plan, required by 15.7.1, shall address the use of the locking and unlocking means from within and outside the room.
- Staff shall be drilled in the engagement and release of the locking means, from within and outside the room, as part of the emergency egress drills required by 15.7.2.
The Bremen School District disregarded NFPA Life Safety Code and their own state’s recommendations. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s assistant police chief was correct in noting deadbolts would not meet code, however the article didn’t share any further information whether solutions were provided for locking the interior side of the classroom doors.
In Massachusetts, a lawsuit was recently filed by the Lenox Public School District (near Boston) against the town of Lenox, the Massachusetts Building Code Appeals Board, and the local building inspector for requiring the school to remove the barricades devices they purchased as they do not meet Life Safety or Fire codes.
With the advent of social media and the 24/7 news cycle, information and misinformation are difficult to categorize or research. Many educators and the public may not understand the challenges classroom barricade devices present.
Selecting proper security for emergency egress, while meeting building codes can be challenging. It is important to remember that building codes are in place for a reason. The NFPA gathered statistics on school fires with 10 or more deaths. The last major school fire happened in 1958 in Chicago, IL, where ninety students and three nuns lost their lives during a fire at the Our Lady of the Angels School. We all can agree that keeping our children safe is our number one priority.
After each major incident, we learn how to better improve buildings to keep people safer. Following the Columbine tragedy that happened 20 years ago on April 20th, a new lock function was introduced called the intruder classroom function, that allows mechanical control of the outside lever via a key from either the interior and exterior side of the door. A standard classroom function lock is controlled by a key in the outside cylinder, which locks or unlocks the outside lever. The intruder classroom function allows a person to lock the door with a key from inside the room rather than stepping out into the hallway. Today, there are many more code-compliant options available.
The Door Security + Safety Foundation has gathered many resources for how to combine safety and security on their Lock Don’t Block website. These include articles, white papers, and other documents from organizations such as Safe and Sound Schools, Pass – Partner Alliance for Safer Schools, The School Superintendent Association, and the National Association of State Fire Marshals, among others.
The advancement of technology has introduced several electronic access control solutions. Online locks no longer need to be hardwired making installation easier and less expensive. Obviously, we feel our HS4 electronic hardware solution is the best, but our hope is to educate school districts, parents, and facility maintenance personnel that there is cost-effective code-compliant hardware available. We do not feel barricade devices are an acceptable solution for school security, due to possible unintended consequences. We can help you design a safe school security system that meets building and life safety codes.
For more information on our HS4 Hager powered by Salto Electronic Access Control Solutions please contact your local sales representative or email [email protected] .