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Mar 30 2015

We need to do this right. – Lt. Joseph A. Hendry Jr. , CLEE

Category: Egress,School SecurityLori @ 1:25 pm Comments (14)

This is a guest blog post written by Lieutenant Joseph A. Hendry Jr., CLEE, a 25-year veteran of the Kent State University Police Department, national instructor for the ALICE Training Institute, and father of 3.  The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity.  Lt. Hendry’s complete biography is here.


We need to do this right.

Lieutenant Joseph A. Hendry Jr. , CLEE

As I’m reading the open source material on the German plane crash, I keep returning to one thought:  Someone developed a fail safe way to keep people out of the cockpit, without adequately thinking about what would happen if the threat was already in the cockpit.

When I shared this observation with Lori, she asked if I would write a guest blog post on an issue that she has been discussing for several months – secondary locking devices for doors. I have studied the codes and the reasons why we have the fire and life safety codes. Most of the current code requirements came from lessons learned with loss of lives. We have built much of our infrastructure to mitigate casualties during a fire. Because the codes and training have been so successful since 1947, I believe that many people fail to understand why we practice fire response and enforce the codes. One only needs to do some minimal research to see the huge number of deaths from fire pre-1947.

Active shooter and terrorism are not new threats. What has become evident since Sandy Hook is the sudden awareness that lockdown training is inadequate, our infrastructure is easily breached and we have given the bad guys a twenty-year head start in planning. National recommendations from the federal government changed in June of 2013 on how to respond to these events. The same recommendations had been pioneered by the ALICE Training Institute in 2002 – if evacuation was not possible, the secondary response should be to barricade the location using environmental items and be prepared to use counter measures should the lockdown location be breached.

All of the tactics were developed to be non-linear and non-location-specific. The tactics applied whether you were in a school, church, mall, industrial plant or office setting. Even though evacuation became the primary response and upgrades to locations were needed in order to facilitate the response, some companies began to use the barricading recommendations to market products designed to act as secondary locking devices for doors. Many of the products are marketed as being endorsed by the ALICE Training Institute or the Department of Homeland Security / Department of Education (Run, Hide, Fight). No such endorsement of these products has ever been given, nor are they compliant with the recommendations of these organizations.

As law enforcement and educators assessed their doors, they quickly became aware that their entire facility was not appropriate for lockdown utilization because the doors, locks, and walls were easily compromised. What should have been a national wake up call to improve infrastructure in educational buildings turned into a vendor-driven arms race, pitting fire and safety codes against an unregulated product. Suddenly, fire inspectors were being portrayed as being “against safety” when they prohibited these devices.

In some jurisdictions, police were pitted against fire personnel. This becomes even harder to fathom given that code-compliant locks and doors already existed that would solve the problem. If the door is the problem, you need a better door!  Companies began popping up all over the country, many of them selling a single product built around whatever door their home school district might have purchased.

Some fire inspectors and code enforcement officers have been accused of just trying to “defend their turf,” as one vendor told me while trying to convince me to endorse their product.  What these officials are doing is looking past the initial feel good of the devices and actually viewing them in the prism they view critical response; if it requires more than one motion and you have to remember it (the device), then it does you no good because fine motor skills become non-existent in a crisis.

While I’m certain that many of these products were developed to keep people safer, it is unlikely that they have been independently tested for effectiveness, utilization by occupants under stress, or studied for flaws to see if they can be used against the very people they are supposed to protect. In fact, several of the locking devices are marketed as hanging next to the door ready for use, as shown in the online installation videos.

Given the fact that most threats in education are already in the facility because they are students, easy access to a secondary locking device gives them the means to secure the classroom and terrorize the occupants. We are re-creating the Nickel Mines incident all over again, but making it easier for the bad guys to barricade. Of the more than 20 secondary locking devices I have seen or been told about, only two have the ability for law enforcement to ingress the room. We are providing the instruments of our own destruction without foresight.

The real solution is one involving fire, police, building inspectors, design experts, and architects. We need to design a building blending all the concerns and change code requirements to require better doors, better locks, better walls, better glass and better evacuation routes without making it look like a prison. We need to train in a realistic way with all building occupants, taking into account age and skills.

We are not going to “gadget” our way out of this problem. It requires planning and infrastructure change. Getting legislators to understand the gaps in school safety and put up money to improve infrastructure is critical. We can adapt existing buildings and improve them in ways that do not require occupants to use fine motor skills in the initial steps of critical response (dropping a pin into a hole is a fine motor skill under stress, in just the same way finding and putting a key into a lock is a fine motor skill under stress). New code requirements, folding fire and safety concerns into the building code itself is the long-term solution for new structures.

Because the threat is already in cockpit…and we need to do this right.

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14 Responses to “We need to do this right. – Lt. Joseph A. Hendry Jr. , CLEE”

  1. Joel Luper says:


  2. Bryce King says:

    My grandfather always asked the question, do you put the horse in the barn during the storm hoping the barn will withstand the storm or do you leave the horse out in the pasture and hope the storm passes without harming the horse? I think a better barn is the answer.

  3. Curtis Meskus says:

    For every quick solution there are several real world problems. We need to focus on the goal, with all the stakeholders at the table and have a measures and thought through analysis of the problem and proposed solutions to the problem as stated in this article.

    code compliance and inspections leads to non-events

  4. Jack Ostergaard says:

    Don’t forget training and practice. This is one of those cases where rote learning of a procedure could put those fine motor skills on auto-pilot.

  5. Safecrackin Sammy says:

    Excellent article and much food for thought.

    I agree that the answer is not in trinket solutions but in a well thought out long term plan by a group of qualified people versus the knee jerk solutions that many with good intentions propose.

    The money to accomplish this can be made available… Its just getting the people holding the purse strings to realize the value of the money spent.

    • Lori says:

      I agree, and the organizations responsible for distributing the grants should not award grant money to be spent on locking devices which don’t meet current model code requirements.

  6. Young says:

    Thanks for this good article.^^

  7. Louise says:

    I’ll be saving this just in case our local schools want to go down the door block road.

  8. Cda says:

    Great thoughts!!!

    “””””Given the fact that most threats in education are already in the facility because they are students, easy access to a secondary locking device gives them the means to secure the classroom and terrorize the occupants.””””

  9. Chuck Noble says:

    Excellent article!

  10. Gerald Austin says:

    For your information, this is about the most comprehensive description of the door locking system for the airplane involved in the Germanwings Airbus A320 murder/suicide. Hope you don’t mind the length. The system seems to be engineered as best such systems can be where they are subject to human derangement. Ultimately, there should be a “back door”, maybe remotely actuated by a radio signal from the ground if that is possible. Quote:


    The Airbus A320 is fitted with a locking mechanism to prevent unauthorized access to the flight deck while the aircraft is in flight.

    Access to the cockpit door on the Germanwings Airbus A320 can be disabled from inside the flight deck, thus someone on the flight deck can deliberately locked the other out. The safety systems were improved in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks where hijackers were able to gain access to the cockpit and take over the aircraft. In normal flight, the door to the flight is closed and locked. Cabin crew can use a code and gain access to the flight deck. Entry is controlled by the flight crew, in case of a possible hijack attempt.

    The Cockpit Door Locking System (CDLS) according to the flight manual ‘provides a means of electrically locking and unlocking the cockpit door’. The CDLS is located in the central pedestal between both pilots and has a toggle switch which controls the door. They also have a CCTV camera so they can see who is seeking access, and if they are under any form of duress.

    Pilots can restrict access to the flight deck although cabin crew can gain entry in an emergency. However, this emergency access can be over-ridden by the pilot for between five to 20 minutes. The limited time to keep the door closed is itself a safety feature, in case the flight crew become incapacitated – known in the industry as ‘incap’. After the predeterminted time, the keypad on the outside of the cockpit door will become operational again, unless the pilot actively restricts access again. Also the cockpit door has several other safety features in case of a sudden decompression which will cause the door to open.

    According to the flight manual there are ‘routine’ and ’emergency’ access requests. ‘The toggle switch enables the flight crew to lock or unlock the cockpit door, following an access request, thereby allowing or denying the entry to the cockpit.’
    The flight manual states that the control unit is responsible for:
    Locking or unlocking the door latches, upon flight crew action
    Unlocking the door i, in case of cockpit decompression (the door then opens towards the cockpit under differential pressure)
    Indicating system failures of electrical latches and pressure sensors
    Activating the access request buzzer and turning on the keypad LEDs

    On the Airbus A320, there are three settings:
    Unlock: This position is used to enable the cabin crew member to open the door. The switch must be pulled and maintained in the unlocked position until the door is pushed open.
    Normal: All latches are locked, and EMERGENCY access is possible for the cabin crew
    Lock: Once the button has been moved to this position, the door is locked; emergency access, the buzzer, and the keypad are inhibited for a preselected time (5 to 20 min).’

  11. Ed Marchakitus says:

    Thanks for this article!

  12. Gerald Austin says:

    Seeing the comment on the horse and barn, reminded me of something that happened when our fire department responded to a fire in a hog operation. You never know what will happen in a fire situation whether it be human actions or animals. There was some hay in a barn that was around a bunch of baby pigs that were being weaned from their mothers. There was some suspended lights being used to provide some warmth for the little pigs and one of them fell into the hay, starting it on fire. The mothers were in an adjacent pen outside the barn.

    One of the firemen decided that he would open the door between the baby pigs and moms and the baby pigs would go out to their mothers. You know what I am going to write – the mothers rushed into the burning barn with their pigs and there was considerable loss. With humans or animals it is very hard to foresee every circumstance in event of an emergency. We just about had fire emergencies figured out and now comes people bent on murdering innocents.

  13. Mark C says:

    Knee jerk reactions are seldom the right choice. A well thought out comprehensive solution is the path to choose. The fact that there is not one documented incident of an active shooter breaching a locked door would indicate to me that we have solutions at hand. Active shooters are interested in following the path of least resistance.
    The flip side is a barricade device (knee jerk solution sold and marketed through fear mongering) which gives anyone in the building permission to barricade themselves (and others) in any room at any time for any purpose. Armed with the statistics of student on student violence and student on teacher violence, this seems to be moving us in the wrong direction…

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