Printed from the blog of Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI
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Sep 18 2015

FF: School Safety “Sew-cials”

Ideally, a classroom door can be locked from within the classroom without opening the door and potentially exposing the teacher to an intruder in the hallway.  Many schools have existing classroom function locksets, which have to be locked by inserting a key in the outside cylinder.  When a district doesn’t have the funding to replace the locks with a function that can be locked from within the classroom without opening the door, one option is to keep the outside lever locked at all times.

The disadvantage of a door that is always locked is the inconvenience of opening the door to allow students to enter during class time.  Several products have been developed that will prevent the door from latching, so students can enter even when the door is locked.  If there is an emergency that requires lockdown, the device can be removed to allow the door to latch, and automatically lock.

A school district in Iowa found a low-tech solution that doesn’t create any code issues as long as the doors are not fire-rated (from the video they don’t seem to be); fire doors need to have positive latching so it would not be code-compliant to block the latch on a fire door assembly.  Of course I would rather see a classroom security lock or an electrified lockset, but for some schools it’s not feasible to replace their existing locks immediately.  My main concern with setting a precedent for blocking the latch would be that the people utilizing this method may not be familiar with the fire door requirements and could inadvertently implement it on a fire door assembly.

What do you think? 

Some of you may be thinking that this is a lame idea (I know you’re out there!), but I read an article yesterday about American schools’ obsession with security, and I have to say that I agree with most of the points in the article. While I feel strongly that it’s important to maintain a certain level of security and vigilance in schools, I also think we need to maintain a balance between safety, security, convenience, cost, and the educational environment. I’ve seen many examples of how fear can cause schools to lose sight of safety while focusing solely on security, and how some companies are capitalizing on these fears by inflating the dangers and downplaying the need for egress, accessibility, and fire protection.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article:  Ahmed Mohamed is a victim of American schools’ harmful obsession with security.


Speaking of safety & security…

Dawn Gaskill SMA

15 Responses to “FF: School Safety “Sew-cials””

  1. Jack Ostergaard says:

    These type of devices are becoming more and more common. The sheet magnetic ones come to mind. Several thoughts come to me.
    -Can the ladies embroider “Not for use on Fire Door” on the pad. This could be stenciled on the magnet device.
    -The pulled down device is a signal to the intruder that someone is in the room. Hopefully they are all behind the “red line” we saw in the Safest Classroom video a few days ago.
    -And if the elastic burns off to release the latch would it qualify as a “fusible link” type device. I know those are rarely used any more but perhaps something works there.

    • Lori says:

      I think I like these better than the magnetic ones. I bet I could get some iDigHardware lock-blockers made up pretty inexpensively here and print the fire door caution on them. 🙂

  2. Cda says:

    Ok must have been a fireman that suggest it.

    They have used them for a long time, and the same reason so the door will not latch on them.

  3. Kyle Williams says:

    I thought it was going to be the home economics class making these but it’s neat to see the community helping out and how they found an inexpensive way to do it. Is it perfect or the best option, no but they are making the effort to try something. Your evaluation of the article is well put and I agree.

  4. JMR says:

    The elementary school where my children attend, use the simple rubber band approach. They hold the latchbolt in, and they can simply pull the band down to latch (and lock) the door.

  5. Joel Niemi says:

    Regarding Ahmed:
    The way he was mis-handled demonstrates that they didn’t think his clock was a bomb (or, they have no clue what to do with a bomb).
    Did they evacuate the building to get other students and staff away from the “bomb” ? (no)
    Did they call for the bomb squad? (no)
    Did they put him and his “bomb” into a police car, and drive away, so it could blow up somewhere else? (yes)
    Just pointing out a few discrepancies which others have mentioned

  6. Andy Lindenberg says:

    Nice idea, but hard to police. It’s pretty much impossible to insure they don’t get used on fire rated doors, especially if one classroom has an entrance in a fire wall, but another does not. They’ll all want to use them.

  7. Pete Schifferli says:

    I think those Lock Blocks provide a false sense of security. Although well-intentioned, like most similar devices; these can be easily lost, damaged or misplaced when a urgent situation may require their use. Schools seem to have plenty of money for astroturf playfields and such, and I believe they fail to recognize that the severity of potential threats may require a serious expenditure beyond such knee-jerk responses to provide the proper degree of security needed. My two cents.

  8. Khozema Kazi, AHC, FDAI says:

    it is a good product idea, and can be tested for use on fire door if the rubber band or the fabric is made of material that burns/melts at low temperature (similar to a fusible link on fire rate louvers).

  9. lach says:

    I hope they are not made out of a material that when melted won’t adhere itself to the door or frame and become a deterrent from the bolt extending.

    • Lori says:

      After seeing a couple of fire tests my guess it that it would disappear pretty quickly once the fire got going but by that point conditions probably would not be survivable.

  10. Marcus Muirhead says:

    In the event of a fire, the cloth patch would probably melt or char without being fully consumed, and stop the latch from functioning properly. This looks like an okay stop gap measure, but I don’t like it, and I’m not sure why. It just feels wrong to me, like going back to hook & eye or slidebolt… And I am a little weary of people talking about the cost of a real solution. When your child has been tracked down and shot dead, it will be hard to console yourself that at least you saved a lot on the hardware. How much would the people of Columbine or Sandy Hook or Bath, MI spend if they could have a do-over?

  11. Karl Lust, AIA says:

    This solution, just like the various barricade devices Lori has discussed on this blog, is trying to resolve a functional need that is not provided by the typical Classroom function locksets. It is assumed that the motivation for these solutions is money, or to design something that costs less than one of the new double-cylinder security classroom function locksets. But could it be a lack of education?
    Who is marketing the double-cylinder classroom locksets to schools?
    How much does it REALLY cost to change out the old locksets for the new ones?

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