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Mar 02 2015

The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio schools can’t use barricades to keep gunmen out

Category: Egress,School SecurityLori @ 12:57 am Comments (14)

The current situation in Ohio could result in a major blow to the codes that protect building occupants, unless lawmakers recognize the importance of code-compliant egress.  For anyone who needs to catch up…

Upholding the code requirements that ensure free egress seems like a very reasonable decision made by the board.  But most of the media reports describe classrooms left unprotected when code officials enforce a code that some feel is outdated and needs to be changed.  Will lawmakers uphold the codes that have been protecting us for decades, or will they modify state laws to satisfy the parents and teachers who are pushing for a change that would sacrifice free egress in favor of inexpensive locking methods?

There are many code-compliant locks available today which allow free egress, can be locked without opening the classroom door, and allow authorized access from the ingress side (code change proposals submitted for the 2018 IBC and IFC would require this if approved).  Yes, these locks may cost more than some of the barricade devices, but most of the retrofit devices don’t allow free egress, can not be accessed by staff or first responders from the ingress side, do not meet accessibility standards, and may be used by an unauthorized person to secure the classroom.

If a code change is made because the cost of the code-compliant products is too high, we’re headed down a slippery slope.  In my opinion, free egress should not be compromised to avoid paying for code-compliant security.  What do you think?

Some of the recent news…


State rejects school district’s appeal to use barricades – Akron Beacon Journal

Members of a central Ohio community said they’re frustrated with the state’s decision to keep schools from using security barricades intended to stop a gunman.

After parents raised $30,000 to buy intruder-defense systems for the Southwest Licking school district, they were told the devices violate Ohio’s Building Code. The district appealed, but the Board of Building Appeals within the Ohio Department of Commerce this week voted down the use of the barricades.

The active-shooter training received by the school district last year encouraged using barricades to stop a gunman. Southwest Licking Superintendent Robert Jennell told The Advocate in Newark that the ruling means schools have one less safeguard against an active shooter.


Ohio rejects school district’s appeal to use security barricades – The Morning Journal

“We’re not allowed to barricade our doors,” he said. “That’s basically just short of telling us ‘Don’t follow the advice outlined in active shooter training.’ “

The state’s ruling also called into question similar barricade devices used by Mentor and Madison school districts in Northeast Ohio, according to WEWS-TV. Mentor Fire Chief Bob Searles said he’s hopeful the state fire marshal will consider changing classroom fire codes.

Several districts in the Cincinnati area had also explored using barricade devices last fall.


Ohio school barred from using barricade devices – Telegraph-Forum

A recent state ruling barred an Ohio school district from using portable door barricades to stop potential school intruders. That could prove problematic for schools using similar devices across the state.

The appeal came from the Southwest Licking Local School District, which intended to place the small devices in every classroom. The Barracuda Intruder Defense Systems can be placed across classroom doors in the case of emergency to lock them from the inside.

However, a 4-1 ruling from the Ohio Board of Building Appeals stopped the district, at least for the time being.

School officials had appealed to the state board after the county building department said the Barracuda Intruder Defense System prevented people from leaving a room without a key or special knowledge — a violation of state building code.

The codes were created to protect the welfare and safety of the public so they can quickly exit a building in an emergency, Ohio Department of Commerce spokesman Matt Mullins said.


Editorial: Blocking school barricades endangers students – Newark Advocate

During the state’s ALICE safety training for school shooting situations, it’s become clear that the best method for saving lives is to securely block classrooms. It’s far more effective than other tactics, including asking staff to throw items at a shooter. And as one parent noted to us, public safety experts all recommend barricading doors.

“The (state) attorney general, the FBI, even Homeland Security, tell schools to barricade doors, and for some reason the (state) Department of Commerce has not caught up,” Erin West said.

So, it’s time for state lawmakers to step in and change state law to allow schools to install door barricades and use them during any situation where student safety is threatened.

So we call on our local lawmakers — state Sen. Jay Hottinger and state Reps. Scott Ryan and Bill Hayes — to work with the colleagues and update Ohio law as quickly as possible.

We can’t imagine the blame many would face if the unthinkable happened without these barriers in use.


Ohio schools can’t use barricades to keep gunmen out – The Columbus Dispatch

Hottinger said he has spoken to Flowers several times about the situation, most recently at Tuesday’s State of the State speech.

“I asked him, ‘Would you really levy fines (on schools) that used door barricades in the case of an active shooter?’ It’s not illegal to have them, just to use them. He said, ‘Absolutely not.’ But, he said, ‘It’s a big liability if they’re used inappropriately.’ What’s to keep a student from using a barricade and then assaulting a teacher or raping a student?”

Hottinger said he plans to schedule another meeting to bring more people into the decision-making process, including the Department of Public Safety and the State Highway Patrol.

“At the end of the day, I’m confident that we will come to the conclusion that barricading doors is a proper solution against an active shooter,” he said.

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14 Responses to “The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio schools can’t use barricades to keep gunmen out”

  1. Lee Francisco says:

    Unfortunately it will take a lawsuit for them to see the error of their ways. There will be an assault/incident/bullying where a student used the barricade to block the door. Then the blame game will start.

  2. lach says:

    I was always under the impression that free egress was always the highest priority. And I also always thought that in all those trainings they never said to use a barricade as a first and only solution. It should only be a last resort. A stronger lock would be better in my opinion. I took a look at the ones they got (according to the news stories) and the pull side barricade hooks on the lock handle itself! How is that any better than just the lock that is already there? Also according to the prices on Grainger’s website they are not much cheaper than a ND lock would be either. I’d rather give a sub a key for a classroom security lock than give all kids the ability to seal a room to do whatever they please. If this does get passed then the downfall will be big when that one kid seals himself in a room to cause harm to himself or others. Then guess what, it’ll be the code official that gets blamed and not any of the people that are breaking his arm to allow it. These people chose the wrong option before they found out it was the wrong one. It’s on them.

  3. Bryan McKeehan says:

    “The (state) attorney general, the FBI, even Homeland Security, tell schools to barricade doors, and for some reason the (state) Department of Commerce has not caught up,” Erin West said.
    It’s time these idiots get educated on codes and the reasoning behind the codes. SMH

  4. Leonard Bankester says:

    I am a firm believer in the code system for egress. However, we are not talking about an everyday situation and hopefully a situation that will never come to pass. If the barricade device is under lock and key by the teacher it should be allowed in every classroom. I go back to the situation where a student was shot in the face by the shooter as the student tried to stab the killer with a pencil. I’m sure this use of a pencil is banned in normal everyday situations, too. In my opinion any means to stop this barbaric behavior should be allowed.

    • Lori says:

      Hi Leonard –

      Besides the egress restrictions that can be caused by barricade devices, there is also the issue of unauthorized use. If someone other than a staff member installs the device, or someone installs it when it’s not an emergency, there is usually no way to enter from the corridor. The person who put the device in place would have plenty of time to commit an assault or other crime while staff tries to figure out how to get in. One of the objections to classroom security locks is that they require the teacher to find the key and then use fine motor skills to insert and turn it. The same would be true if the barricade device was kept under lock and key to prevent unauthorized use, so I don’t know what advantage there is to the barricade device except for possibly the price.

      – Lori

  5. Curtis Meskus says:

    Life safety should not be cost driven. If the code complaint door hardware is available and it cost more than non-compliant hardware, raise the money for the code compliant hardware and install that.

    We have seen lately that the vison lite in the door that is installed for the staff’s protection is now a problem since it can be broken out, with the intruder reaching in and opening the door from the interior. Now in some areas there is a push to replace that glass with a more secure glass.

    What is next, bullet proof glass, doors, walls and windows? I have been told that bullet proof glass has a life span and needs be replaced from time to time.

    A wise old custodian always said locks keep honest people honest and an engineer said the codes are formulated to provide a reasonable level of safety from reasonably foreseeable events, not to protect the occupant from all possible events that may occur in a building’s life span.

    • Lori says:

      Hi Curtis –

      I was just talking about the vision lite with someone yesterday. Maybe for new doors the standard needs to be a 3″ x 33″ lite centered in the width of the door, with laminated glass. The accessibility standards require the bottom of at least one lite to be at a maximum of 43″ above the floor, so a longer narrow lite would work for that. For larger lites or existing lites that are close to the lever, there is glass available that would slow an intruder. Or maybe the existing glass kit could be replaced with one that has muntins (like a divided-lite window). I think we just need to be careful to balance the need for safety and security with the cost of preventive measures. There are steps we can take that will help to increase security, will maintain the required level of safety, and won’t break the bank.

      – Lori

  6. Joel Niemi says:

    They just don’t get it, do they?

    Buy some locks. Buy a bunch of locks.

    Or set aside space in the newspapers to report the aftermath of use of the anti-exit devices.

  7. Mike says:

    The reality is that no active shooter has defeated (or really tried to defeat) a locked door internal to a building. Their goal is to find and engage readily available targets. Locking the door on the classroom is barricading the door! If your school does not have doors that lock from the inside, change the locks. This device is not necessary as there are other options. Writing that disapproving this device leaves classrooms “unprotected” is not just incorrect, it simply wrong.

  8. Rich says:

    This media hype will create a problem with their uneducated bias toward sensationalism. The true information needs to be presented in a forum that is respected and unbiased. If the media were to report the real reasons for not using these after market devices, there would be less outrage directed to enforcing valuable codes to protect egress and access. The fact that ALICE does not endorse any of these products should be an indicator of their problems. Bringing in the police to make decisions will not help, but will only push the problem farther along. Every time an uninformed official claims that they were prevented from using a non compliant device because of the building code, they need to be corrected and told that is was a Life Safety code that prevents the device use. When a student is assaulted in one of these barricaded rooms because of a non authorized use of one of these products, what will the media say when the parent wins the law suit. Lori, this entire thread of information in your forum is invaluable. Please keep up the diligent work you do.

  9. Tom Breese says:

    I have to ask: what did the barricade device mfr know re possible life-safety concerns, and when did they know it? Were they completely ignorant of any concerns when they accepted the order?

  10. Mike Fox says:

    I will tell you before they bought the devices at SW Licking they were informed about the concerns of life safety. I notified the maintenance supervisor and talked to some of the volunteers. I believe they purchased them because a local firefighter designed them.

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