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Jun 02 2016

UCLA Students Unable to Lock Doors

Category: Egress,School SecurityLori @ 10:55 am Comments (12)

During yesterday’s shooting at UCLA, Brian Fochler tagged me in a photo tweeted from the engineering building where the shooting was taking place, which was my first indication that something lock-related was happening.  Since then I’ve received many other emails about that situation.  Because most of the classroom doors were not equipped with locks, or had locks that could not be locked by the occupants of the building, the students were improvising their own locking methods.

I’m sure that some of the manufacturers of classroom barricade devices will use this incident to try to sell their retrofit devices.  But while it might cost less to buy a gadget to lock the classroom door, there are many disadvantages to using this security method.  Adding these devices to the existing doors and hardware will mean that the doors are not compliant with model code requirements for egress, fire protection, and in most cases – accessibility.  In California, classroom barricade devices are not allowed by the state codes.

When I’ve expressed concerns about an unauthorized person installing a classroom barricade device to secure the classroom and commit a crime, I’ve been told by barricade device proponents that there is no cause for concern – the teacher could keep the device in a safe place where only the teacher had access to it.  How would this work in a college or university, where various professors may use any given classroom?  In this situation, the device would not be able to be hidden and installed only by the classroom teacher.  Anyone could install it, and once in place, most of the devices prevent access – even authorized access by school staff and emergency responders.

Traditional locks provide the necessary level of security without sacrificing life safety or leaving facilities open to the liability associated with using a product that hinders egress and can be used to secure the classroom for ill intent.


There are lots of news reports today about the lack of lockable doors in this building, including a CNN story which features this quote:

Expert: Change locks on old doors

One expert told CNN that it is just not feasible to go through such drills with so many students and personnel.

“What we do recommend is that key faculty and staff who would be critical in activating emergency response plans do drills at least annually,” Amanda Botelho Robbins, a senior security consultant for San Diego-based TSG Solutions, said.

Robbins said it is common for doors in older buildings, many built before school bloodbaths like the Columbine massacre in 1999 and Virginia Tech shootings in 2007 became a national concern, to be hard to secure from the inside.

Universities should change the locks on any door that cannot be locked from the inside, she said. That can cost $200 to $400 per door (more for a cafeteria or auditorium door), but it is worth it, she added.

“We also recommend electronic security systems, especially on exterior doors,” she said, referring to giving campus police the ability to remotely lock doors into buildings.

Some universities are beginning to think about access controls for interior doors, too. But that’s very expensive, she said.

Here’s a report from CBS News:


Images: Pranasha Shrestha, Daphne Ying, Carrie Rapaport, and Jason Schechter via Twitter.

12 Responses to “UCLA Students Unable to Lock Doors”

  1. Michael Pedersen says:

    Fortunately the initial reports of 2, 3, or 4 shooters and 7 or 9 casualties turned out to be false. It was “just” a murder-suicide. Still very frightening.

    The guy wrapping his belt around the closer arm is a quick thinker. Most people don’t even think about the closer when looking at a door. To recognize its function and how it can be used to secure a door is pretty impressive, unless he’s already seen one of those barricade devices that do the same thing. It’s not great for egress, but I can’t think of a better emergency method of securing an outswinging door with no lock.

  2. Jerry Richmond, AHC/CDC says:

    It’s hard to tell from these photos what is actually on these doors. They say, no locking… were these all passage function locksets, or traditional classroom function with no locking from the inside?

  3. Debbie Stewart says:

    Colorado is now requiring ability to lock outside of door from inside the classroom. However, only on PreK-12 and Junior/Community College. This is a good example of why
    they should require on all education facilities.

  4. Joel Niemi says:

    So many of these tweets say “doors open out” like it’s a bad thing. Clearly unaware of the tragic history of so many fires, stampedes etc. with great loss of life when doors did not swing in the direction of egress.

    • Lori says:

      I agree. I saw an article that said the college was going to investigate why the doors swing out. I could probably save them some time. 🙂

      – Lori

  5. Ray McElheney Jr. says:

    I think it is very fortunate this horrible event happened in the Engineering building. Some of their clever ideas will probably lead to new inovations.

  6. Chris Clark says:

    All these doors were capable of locking…if you had the key! The reports of doors that “wouldn’t” lock are a bit like complaining to the dealership that your car wont start, implying that its defective when in fact you simply don’t have the keys to it!

    70 function Classroom locks and 60 function Vestibule locks are typically what are found here. The use of a key to lock/unlock the doors has for decades been considered the best way to manage who can control a door to a classroom. The thinking was that students would not be able to lock others out as a prank or a person would not be able to lock the door and possibly assault someone while delaying a response by police.

    Threats have evolved now and many are re-thinking that idea and want to allow a classroom to be locked/unlocked from the inside with a t-turn. That’s a solution that may need to be implemented but all should be aware of what that will then allow and have a plan to address it.

    And many of the doors in the building were locked as evidenced by the numerous doors that were forced open by first responders searching for suspects and additional victims.

  7. David says:

    Time to change the paradigm. Time to allow entry function or storeroom function on classroom doors. I may go as far as to suggest eliminating classroom function locks.

    • Lori says:

      Here’s the dilemma…I was told that UCLA had changed some doors to office function locks, but there were so many problems with students locking doors that they went back to classroom function or classroom security function.

      – Lori

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