Printed from the blog of Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI
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Apr 17 2013

WW and WWYD: Panic Hardware Lockdown

Andrew Harris of Willis Klein sent me these photos of doors in a school district.  He had been called in to solve the problems that caused the school to resort to these locking measures.

What would you recommend to help a school improve the lockdown capabilities of their panic hardware, and especially fire exit hardware?

School with Chained Levers  School Crossbars with Chain 2

School Crossbars with Chain  School with Cable Lock

School Crossbars with Chain 3

38 Responses to “WW and WWYD: Panic Hardware Lockdown”

  1. Tim O'Leary says:

    Just curious: What were the problems that led them to chain the doors shut? It’s hard to determine if they wanted to lock people in, or lock them out.

    • Lori says:

      I’m guessing that the devices are no longer latching properly – especially the opening that’s missing the mullion!

  2. M.Castillo says:

    Maglocks 1200-1500lb minimum. Tied into the fire alarm system so that they release in the event of a fire.

    • Lori says:

      The challenge with mag-locks is that you need to have either motion sensors and push buttons or a door-mounted release device. With motion sensors, everyone walking past the door, or walking up to the door to see who is knocking, ends up unlocking the door. Some fire marshals will not allow mag-locks in schools (some jurisdictions don’t allow them in any occupancy). The other issue is that if there is a fire alarm or power failure, the doors are unlocked. This could be an issue during an emergency – ie. the whole building would be unlocked if someone pulls the fire alarm while there’s an intruder inside or trying to get in, but also in a power failure due to a storm or utility problem.

  3. Jack Ostergaard says:

    I’m somewhat baffeled by the doors that are “locked” from the exterior side. Doesn’t the hardware work?
    Second – the pulls on the red doors – We have stopped putting two pulls on secondary exterior entrances since they can be prevented from opening by using a stick or rod through the pulls.

    • Lori says:

      I’m guessing that the doors are not latching properly. I’ve heard of other facilities going with one door pull instead of two for the reason you mentioned. Many of our local schools are used as voting locations, and one of the districts that I have worked with will install the pulls before voting day so there are multiple entrances, and then remove them right after.

  4. Chuck Park says:

    I would put alarmed delayed egress devices which would be tied into the fire alarm for immediate egress. And I’d try to find the missing mullion for the doors in picture #3

    • Lori says:

      You have to be careful with delayed egress because it is not allowed in schools per the more recent editions of the IBC. We used to use them in schools for areas that the school wanted to restrict access to when they let someone in after hours to use the gym, auditorium, etc., but we can’t do that any more.

  5. cda says:

    well the lockable doors from the outside, get them working.

    I have not been involved lately with schools and lockdown planning, so a little out of touch.

    I have allowed the drop bars between two panic hardware doors, but this is when not occupied.

    How about magnetic locks??

    • Lori says:

      See my response to M. Castillo about the mag-locks. The problem with allowing certain things when the building isn’t occupied is that they end up getting used when the building is occupied – especially when it’s partially occupied. We need a good solution for when the building is occupied. For example, one of the teachers from our school transferred to Sandy Hook and was teaching a gym class on the day of the shootings. She moved the class to an office or storage room, but there should be a way to lock the gym doors to prevent access without restricting egress (there is…I’m just seeing what other ideas people have).

  6. Kim says:

    OMG – I would hate to be the one responsible when the fire marshal showed up.

  7. Gerald Austin says:

    If I have related this experience before I cannot recall so bear with me. I was in a volunteer fire department in a small city with a university. There was a large gym that was not only used by the University but also for high school basketball games. The final match of the season to determine the State A high school champion was underway one evening. I got a call from the Fire Chief who lived several houses down from me to respond to the University Gym with him, there was a problem. We drove up to the building in the Chief’s car. What we found was a building packed full of kids, parents, teams. There was such an over the occupancy crowd that people were sitting in the bleacher aisles, along margin between the court and the bleachers and standing in any place they could to see. As I recall there were probably about 7 or 8 double exit doors leading from the gym to the outside. All but one pair was chained similar to the picture with the chain looped through the panic bar hardware. The Chief ask to see the person in charge of the building. After some delay, we were told he was not in the building. The Chief asked who had the key to the locks and chains on the exit doors. We were told the guy who was not in the building had the key. The Chief told the spokesperson that unless those doors were made operable immediately, he was going out on the ball court, stop the game, silence the crowd and ask them to move outside for their safety until a problem could be resolved. The spokesperson said that they did not think they could contact the building person. Thinking for a minute, Chief turned to me and said: “Jerry, go out to the station wagon and get a key for these chains.” I was puzzled that he would have a key and said so. He motioned his hands as if operating a bolt cutter and said: “Get that key!” The next day, the Chief deftly fielded a complaint from the University and they agreed to never allow that situation again. They mentioned that they did not think it was an important deficiency but would comply. Several weeks later, during a University game, a fire started in a locker room that did result in a full fire department response and short evacuation of the facility.

    You just can’t afford to relax the requirements for the means of egress.

  8. Gerald Austin says:

    To me the answer to some control problem is not to create a worse situation by interfering with the full and immediate use of the means of egress, corridors, and exits. There should be no question from building management or they are sorely in need of finding another job. Some places do not fool around with this. A number of years ago, in Omaha, one of the Fire Division’s inspectors was rebuffed by a school principal who defiantly would not remove combustible storage from the stairwell of his school. He told the inspector essentially it was nonsense and he was sick of this fire nonsense. About an hour later, two armed City police officers accompanied by an assistant City Attorney showed up in his office, put him in handcuffs and led him out of the building to jail. According to the inspector involved, they called the Superintendent of Schools for the district involved and he was required to come down to the jail and post bond for his principal. That seemed to fix that attitude problem for many years, maybe even today. The Our Lady of Angels fire started in a space where storage was permitted in a stairwell as I recall although it has probably been 50 years since I read the account. Multiple deaths of kids resulted. This situation was somewhat similar and the building design was identical as I recall. I don’t know what causes people in charge of buildings to be so caring at times yet so blind to requirements that could save lives. Sorry to be so preachy.

  9. Gerald Austin says:

    At the risk of overdoing it, one has to remember the name of the devices that lock down entrance from outside a building but allow free passage out: Panic hardware. Panic can occur without fire, such as someone trying to kill you with a gun. Free passage out of a building is more than just in event of fire although until recent times, that was the most probably cause for the requirement.

  10. Gerald Austin says:

    I better get back to what I am paid to do because this topic could be endless. Delayed egress locks are not likely to be an answer because indeed there are requirements. Once the a request to unlock has occured and the lock is released, it must stay in the released, unlocked state. If this were not the case, people arriving at the door as a series of events would find themselves waiting the 15 second release period over and over again. This would effectively render the escape problematical.

  11. Gerald Austin says:

    Fortunately they tolerate me.

  12. Robert says:

    Von Duprin 9857EO Three-Point Latching Panic Device- Exit Only. 9857/9957 three-point latching device for all types of single or double doors, UL and can use high security keys for access but keep the access doors to a minimum with alarm contacts on the doors to alarm if open to long or after hours
    This does work as we done schools in this with good results for lock down

    • Lori says:

      I would definitely use a mullion for all exterior pairs. How about doors leading from the gym to the interior of the school, especially if they are fire rated? How do you lock them quickly?

  13. Terry Crump says:

    Those ‘auxiliary’ locks have been around as long as exit devices have been around. And I guess they work as ‘panic’ devices because of the panic that would be created when a person sees them while trying to get away from danger.
    Obviously, to function as designed they must be properly fitted and adjusted. We’re all taught in COR113 that Rim x Rim X Removable Mullion is the most secure and cost effective method, yet these chains and padlocks persist.

  14. Safecrackin Sammy says:

    I would get rid of the 88’s and replace with the 99 series to reduce the chain issues…
    That last door looks like 44’s….yikes!

    Blank for the inactive door outer trim.

    Trilogy networx trim for both dogging and lockdown functions on the actives.

    Address the glass issue either replacing with a hardened version or plexiglass etc.

    What they have there now is simply payments for years of cheap maint and quick fixes…

  15. Robert says:

    We would suggest that the inactive doors be blank and if only section doors (in areas were there needs to cover access) have trim. The fire doors would be on hold open mag on the fire alarm with an alarm manual release. If the doors are on alarm contacts than the alarm will sound if door is open and cameras can view door when opened on alarm

  16. Robert says:

    We also suggest that the exterior doors have the seams welded as this adds to the strength of the door and gives the hardware longer life. believe it or not as we will only install exterior doors with welded seams on any job and we know that door is stronger and last a lot longer

    • Chuck Park says:

      In the door & hardware spec guidelines I helped write for the facility I recently retired from, we specified fully welded, seamless finished, 14 gauge HM doors for all exterior exits; all high-hazard utility rooms; and all high cart traffic corridors.
      The welded seams make all the difference in the world!

  17. Wayne Ficklin says:

    We’ve discussed this issue before at my son’s school and fortunately they’ve stopped using chains on the doors for now at least.

  18. Cda says:

    But what are they trying to achieve????

    Sounds like secure doors from people entering.

    And what can they do if they need to lock down the school???

    Or is it just plain legal exiting??

    • Lori says:

      Lock the doors to prevent someone from entering, but still allow code-compliant egress. The trick is being able to lock the doors quickly, and for the teachers to have the tool or key needed to do that, preferably without opening the door.

  19. cda says:

    change out the devices to something that does not allow entry or is that to simple??

    Then go from there to see if the ahj would allow any addtional device during a lock down mode.

  20. TJ Q says:

    How about using mullion with electric dogging rim exit device ? In an emergency, staff could pull fire alarm or a have wireless transmitters that signal the security system to lock down.

    • Lori says:

      I like the way you think! In a world where money was no object, I would use electric latch retraction devices with the ability to release and project the latches from multiple locations – for the main entrance, any additional entrance points, and assembly spaces like the gym, library, auditorium, and cafeteria. This might be difficult for an existing building, but I think it’s a good option for a new building or major renovation. For existing buildings, select openings can be retrofitted – it was done on our school’s main entrance this fall.

  21. Robert says:

    It is to say that the lock down is a lot easier when there is only a few entry doors to secure and when I suggest the welded doors it help in the long term with the hardware life. The idea of lock down is to prevent entry is it not to secure the school from those type of people that harm our kids.
    The idea of the mullions with electric strike is good but wireless is not up to the task yet. The mullions is what we did at the last school we did with 9957 Von Duprin (3 point lock)with mullion to lock down.
    The pure idea of the exit only is to help costs go down with less doors to set up with lock down security is s cost effective method. This is just thoughts from a Canadian but the best thing we have here is being able to talk about ways to save our kids from harm.

  22. Robert says:

    The best thing to do for the security lockdown is bottle neck the flow of entry to the main doors where the security can be dealt with in an effective way.

  23. Mary says:

    I know I’m late to posting on this thread but I’m just catching up with emails. Why don’t they just put the VonDuprin -2 on the gym doors so the teacher(s) can lock them from the inside of the gym so no one can enter but they still have free egress?

    • Lori says:

      Hi Mary –

      The -2 is not available on vertical rod devices, because the rods interfere with the inside cylinder location. It’s a great solution for single doors or pairs with a mullion though.

      – Lori

  24. Ron Richter says:

    picture 3 looks as though – “somebody stole my mullion !!!”

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