On February 12th, the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission released the draft of their final report, presented to Connecticut State Governor Dannel P. Malloy. The report includes many recommendations to improve school security, including several related to locks / physical security:
The report does not state specifically how this locking is to be accomplished, which gives schools some flexibility. But with so many options available, it can be hard for facility personnel to make that choice. I’ve spoken to quite a few people about this lately – law enforcement, fire marshals, school security consultants, facility managers and other school personnel, and each of them made a really good case for their lock function of choice. A few things they all agreed on…the lock must be lockable from within the classroom, AND must allow authorized access by staff and first responders from the ingress side, AND must allow free egress from within the classroom.
But which lock function is best for classroom doors? There are pros and cons to each:
Classroom Security Function
Pros: The outside lever can be locked from within the classroom, only by a staff member with a key. An unauthorized person will not be able to lock the classroom door if they don’t have access to the key.
Cons: Use of the key to initiate a lockdown requires the staff member to find the key, insert it in the lock, and turn it in the right direction. This can be difficult during an emergency situation, as fine motor skills may be compromised. If school staff have not repeatedly practiced locking the door with the key, they may be confused about how to lock the door or whether the door is actually locked. An indicator can help to overcome that uncertainty.
Entrance / Office Function
Pros: It is very easy to lock the outside lever, by turning a thumbturn or pushing a button on the inside lever handle of the lock.
Cons: Anyone is able to lock the door, including someone who may want to secure a classroom to commit an assault, theft, vandalism, or sexual assault. There are hundreds of thousands of these crimes committed in schools each year.
Storeroom or Standard Classroom Function (kept locked)
Pros: Often for budgetary reasons, existing locks may be kept in the locked position at all times. If the door is closed, the door is locked.
Cons: This can be inconvenient if the door is kept closed and students need to enter the room after class begins. In the case of classroom locks which could be left unlocked, procedures must be followed to ensure that the outside lever is always kept locked.
Pros: Pressing a button on a fob worn by staff members can be used to lock the door. This removes the concern about the fine motor skills require for inserting and turning a key, but does require staff to wear the fob. Lockdown cannot be initiated by an unauthorized person who is not in possession of the fob.
Cons: The cost of replacing existing locks with an electronic product may not be feasible for all facilities.