Printed from the blog of Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI
Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies
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Apr 16 2014

WW: Western Store Emergency Exit

Category: Egress,Wordless WednesdayLori @ 10:58 am Comments (5)

These Wordless Wednesday photos came from an anonymous fire inspector pal of mine (hopefully nobody recognizes him from the reflection of his legs in the mirror! :D ).  This is very common in retail stores – the merchandise displays creep in and encroach upon the egress route, or inhibit the operation of fire doors (like this store in Maine).

The egress side of the emergency exit:

Western Store Exit - Interior

The exterior side of the outer vestibule doors:

Western Store Exit - Exterior Side

Apr 15 2014

WWYD? Elopement in Schools

Thank you to all who commented on my previous post about school seclusion rooms…please continue the conversation by adding your thoughts.  Here is the second school-related issue I mentioned yesterday.

Most schools include classrooms for students with special needs - in our elementary school there are inclusion classrooms accommodating a mix of children, and separate classrooms which primarily serve children with disabilities.  I’ve been asked several times lately how to address the possibility of students “running” or “wandering”…leaving the safety of the school building unsupervised.

In October of 2013, a 14-year-old boy with autism left his school in Long Island City, and was found months later, deceased.  His story is detailed in the New York Magazine article: The Boy Who Ran: The Life and Death of Avonte Oquendo.  In this case, the child left the school through the main entrance, passing the school security officer who was distracted with another student and parent.  When the child was discovered missing, the school was locked down and searched, and an intensive exterior search was not immediately conducted.  Based on this evidence, the issues here seem to be more procedural rather than related to physical security.  But this case, and the increased accommodation of students with special needs, have led to recent discussions about how to keep these children safe in school.

ClassroomWhen considering the possible solutions for containing a student who might be at risk of “eloping”, there are different considerations based on the areas of the school the student might be using – the individual classroom, an assembly space like the cafeteria or gym, the main entrance, and emergency exits.  I have no doubt that a child could leave our elementary school unnoticed.  It’s easy to point fingers at staff and question the lack of supervision, but I spend a fair amount of time in our school and with 600+ kids it is very difficult to keep tabs on each one at all times.

Even if we only consider the space with the smallest occupant load – the classroom, the codes do not give us many options for preventing a student from eloping.  If the classroom has an exterior door that is required for egress, it can not be locked in the direction of egress.  Delayed egress is an option that is allowed by NFPA 101 – The Life Safety Code, but delayed egress locks are NOT allowed by the International Building Code (IBC) on doors serving Educational occupancies.  Alarms would be acceptable by code, but may not be effective considering the potential for false alarms which could affect staff response.

Each time this question has come up, we’ve explored many ideas from audible or visible alarms, to requesting approval for delayed egress locks, to the possibility of a wander prevention system.  For younger children, we’ve talked about hardware mounted higher on the door (48 inches is the maximum allowed by code) or increased opening force for the door closer (15 pounds is typically the maximum for exterior doors in most states).  Many of these alternative measures would require approval from the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).  I would really appreciate some insight from all of you into what has been done in your jurisdiction, or ideas you may have that would help keep kids safe.

  • How do we keep kids from leaving school, in a manner that is acceptable to the AHJ?

  • Does the proposed solution vary for classrooms vs. other spaces in the school? 

  • How do we balance the need for life safety and egress for all of the building occupants, with the need to prevent student elopement?

Photo: Lost and Tired

Apr 14 2014

WWYD? School Seclusion Room

We discuss school security quite often on this site, but there are a couple of other school-related issues that I’d love your feedback on (I’ll post the second one tomorrow).

Seclusion RoomSome schools include seclusion rooms, where a child may be placed if he/she needs time to calm down without endangering themselves or others.  Without getting into the discussion of whether or not a child should be contained in such a room (it’s quite a hot topic right now), let’s talk about the egress requirements.  The codes require free egress from each room or space (with limited exceptions), so locking someone in a room is not an option.  I have seen a couple of different methods used to secure these rooms in a way that is acceptable to the local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ):

a) A mechanical lock which requires someone to hold the outside lever up or down in order for the latchbolt to be projected.  If the adult who is supervising the child walks away, the latch is retracted and the door is no longer locked.

b) An electronic solution - often an electromagnetic lock, which requires someone to push a palm button outside of the seclusion room door to keep the door locked.  Again, if the person stops holding the button, the door unlocks.  This application would also typically unlock on fire alarm or power failure.

These methods are not addressed by the International Building Code or NFPA 101 – The Life Safety Code, but there are some state Board of Education requirements addressing these rooms, including requirements for the door hardware.  For example, the Connecticut Board of Education requirements state the following:

Any room used for the seclusion of a person at risk shall:

Have a door with a lock only if that lock is equipped with a device that automatically disengages the lock in case of an emergency. Not later than January 1, 2014, the locking mechanism of any room in a public school specifically designated for use as a seclusion room shall be a pressure sensitive plate. Any latching or securing of the door, whether by mechanical means or by a provider or assistant holding the door in place to prevent the person at risk from leaving the room, shall be able to be removed in the case of any emergency.

An “emergency” for purposes of this subdivision includes, but is not limited to,

(A) the need to provide direct and immediate medical attention to the person at risk,

(B) fire,

(C) the need to remove the person at risk to a safe location during a building lockdown, or

(D) other critical situations that may require immediate removal of the person at risk from seclusion to a safe location; and

Have an unbreakable observation window located in a wall or door to permit frequent visual monitoring of the person at risk and any provider or assistant in such room. The requirement for an unbreakable observation window does not apply if it is necessary to clear and use a classroom or other room in the school building as a seclusion room for a person at risk.

This web page from the US Department of Education includes a downloadable document detailing the seclusion room requirements for each state.  Here is another report from the Congressional Research Service – The Use of Seclusion and Restraint in Public Schools: The Legal Issues.

WWYD for a seclusion room?  Are seclusion rooms used in your state?  If yes, what has the AHJ approved as an acceptable solution for the door and hardware?

Photo:  Courtney Hergesheimer

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