As I read about the terrible movie theater tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, I thought about things from a door hardware consultant’s perspective. Could future tragedies be prevented by changing the way we think about the hardware on movie theater exits? Because the suspect allegedly propped open the exit door so he could return during the movie with guns, explosive chemicals, and a protective vest, would monitoring or alarming the emergency exit have thwarted his attack?
There has been a lot of discussion about this issue in the past two weeks (here’s a link to one article). Many say that he would have found another way to carry out his plans, and maybe they’re right. He may have targeted moviegoers in the lobby instead of the theater, or he may have found another way to get into the theater with his weapons. We will probably never know.
I read an article this morning about the lack of security guards in the Aurora theater during the first screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” which was expected to attract a large crowd. Will we see more security personnel in theaters going forward? What recommendations should the door and hardware / security industry make to help provide the necessary level of security for theaters? Delayed egress locks would not be allowed by the International Building Code for theaters, since their use is prohibited by the IBC on Assembly occupancies, however, delayed egress locks are allowed on emergency exits by NFPA 101 – The Life Safety Code. Exit alarms are code-compliant, but would they interfere with the function of these doors, which are sometimes used for regular egress at the end of a movie? Is remote monitoring via door position switches and cameras a good solution? Is exit-only hardware sufficient?
What will you say when someone asks for advice on security for your local theater?