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May 25 2016

Classroom Security – Latch Prevention

Category: Egress,Locks & Keys,School SecurityLori @ 11:56 pm Comments (10)

In 2015, the Colorado code for educational facilities was changed in order to address classroom security.  The change added a requirement for classroom doors in Group E occupancies to have a means for teachers to manually lock the door from within the classroom.  The type of lock used must not prevent the doors from being readily openable from the egress side without a key or special knowledge or effort.

The code change goes on to say that under certain conditions, classroom doors may be equipped with a device that prevents the door from latching.  The purpose of this code language is to allow a thin magnet to be placed over the strike, or a similar means of preventing the door from latching, so the exterior lever can be kept locked at all times for security but the door may still be pulled open from the outside.  If there is an incident that requires a lockdown, the door is opened slightly, the magnet removed, and the door automatically latches and locks when it is closed.


See any problem with this image used in the KKTV article?

This code modification is written in a way that it’s difficult to interpret, but one thing is clear.  It requires code-compliant hardware to be installed on egress doors in classrooms no later than January 1, 2018.  In addition, any latching hardware that is repaired or replaced has to meet the new requirements, including a means of locking the door from within the classroom.

A few days ago, the media caught on to the potential cost of replacing most of the locks on classroom doors across Colorado.  These articles explain the situation:

Small safety change means big costs for Colorado schools – KKTV-11

A change in state safety codes means the Thompson School District will have to replace the knobs on 1,140 doors at a cost of up to $600,000.

The Reporter Herald reports the state fire code was updated in 2015 to address a need for teachers to quickly lock their doors from inside their classrooms in the event of an emergency.

Schools have been able to use magnets over locking mechanisms, allowing doors to be easily opened throughout the day and still lock quickly by simply removing the magnet. But by Jan. 1, 2018, that quick fix will no longer be enough, and all doorknobs in all schools statewide must be changed. Doors are designed to create a barrier during a fire, and the magnets interfere with the seal that creates that barrier.

Thompson required to replace doorknobs, cost is about $500,000 – Reporter-Herald

Most of the interior doors within the schools in the district have simple doorknobs that lock from the outside with a key — a cost-effective option that was commonly used when local schools were built, even in newer schools within the past decade.

But now, with more worry about an active shooter incident inside schools, safety requirements dictate that teachers must be able to quickly lock their classroom doors from inside in the event of an emergency.

During the past two years, since the state fire safety code was updated in 2015, schools were able to jury-rig the doors, using magnets over the locking mechanism. That allowed doors to be easily opened throughout the day and still lock quickly by simply removing the magnet.

On a related topic, this news story is about a fight between students which took place in a classroom.  The substitute teacher didn’t feel comfortable trying to break it up, so the teacher left the classroom to find help.  Parents are up in arms because the fight went on for a couple of minutes.  It could have gone on much longer if there was a classroom barricade device hanging next to the door, and someone deployed it while the teacher was outside the room.  How would the teacher get back in at that point?  At least there were other students in the classroom and maybe one of them would remove the barricade device, but what if the two students fighting were alone in the classroom – a sanctuary for crime and mayhem once the barricade device is in place?

What is your state doing about classroom security?

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10 Responses to “Classroom Security – Latch Prevention”

  1. Bob Caron says:

    At first, it looks like the doors are not swinging in the right direction for an exit but who has a lit exit sign that is 23″ x 15 1/5″? Besides the red and blue flare that was photoshopped in there, the sign must be also and the true exit may be from the other side.

  2. Joe Hendry says:

    We really need to slow down and look at the long term implications of change to safety and fire codes. Colorado is doing the right thing by requiring the change and removal of these devices. Too many decisions about allowing secondary locking devices are being driven by fear, money and convenience and not by logic. We are failing to study incidents and think about ramifications of decisions. As a layman who has been slowly learning the “why” of your industry and how it applies to mine, even I can see the death trap in the picture above. The “exit” doors open “in”.

  3. Austin B says:

    I recently saw an item on a classroom door called a LockBlok(I believe) that accomplished this. It allowed the lockset to be locked but not latched allowing people to come into the room and not disrupt the class. The door wasn’t rated so I assume it was code compliant.

    • Lori says:

      Hi Austin –

      For a non-fire-rated door, in my opinion it is code-compliant to use that product or another method of preventing the door from latching. I’m not sure whether Colorado schools will replace all locks or just locks on rated doors. The need to open the door to remove a magnet during an incident is not ideal, but that is not currently addressed in the model codes.

      – Lori

      – Lori

      • Glenn Younger says:

        Hi Austin and Lori,
        I can not recall seeing a classroom door that did not have at least a 20 min ratred fire door when going into a hallway. A fair general assumption would be a door going into a corridor will be rated.

        In San Diego we have many schools that have classrooms that exit directly to the outside of the building. But that is the exception and not the rule.

  4. Wayne says:

    Here is a great, code-compliant solution that addresses intruder security while notifying first responders. It can be initiated by the push of a button and can be given to teachers or staff depending on the desire of the school district.

    • Glenn Younger says:

      Just was introduced to this by our Best / Stanley rep. Looks like a great product designed for the specific purpose. Best did their homework on this one.

  5. JBange says:

    Nothing functionally wrong with an electronic solution, Wayne. The only issue is cost. I work for the second largest school district in the country and we have done some trial installations of wireless electronic locking systems, and even a small install clocks in at $30k. Multiply that times nearly 1000 school sites, and then tell me who’s going to write the check, particularly in an economic climate where the maintenance department has seen job cuts of 40%. We had 48 locksmiths employed in 2008. Now we’re down to 29. Expensive solutions are currently unpopular with management.

  6. Jim ELder says:

    Good solution but it’s $800 a pop it will be a difficult sale in the quantities needed, particularly in a retrofit. Also, this, like other locksets of a similar type are kinda proprietary which public entities dont like for obvious reasons.

  7. Nicole Dreschler says:

    It’s so important to keep children safe in the classroom. Unfortunately, replacing equipment when safety codes change can be expensive. Staying in compliance, however, is essential to keep people safe!

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