In a couple of weeks I’ll be attending a public hearing in Columbus, Ohio, where anyone with an opinion on the use of barricade devices in schools can speak to the Ohio Board of Building Standards. In July, the Board will issue an official decision about whether to change the current Ohio code requirements and allow barricade devices to be used in schools.
Readers of this site know where I stand on this issue, but attempting to look at it objectively, I have not heard one good reason to allow devices which can deter or prevent evacuation, are not regulated, certified, or listed for use on a fire door, and that allow someone (anyone) to barricade the door and prevent access by staff or emergency responders. Why are we even talking about allowing someone to secure a door against not only the bad guy, but the good guys? And especially when there are already code-compliant ways to provide the needed security? The only reason I can think of is cost. Is that really a good reason to take three steps backward on safety?
I know there are people who think the current codes are outdated, that fires aren’t an issue in schools, and that our top priority should be protecting against active shooters. I’ve already put together a lot of research, statistics, and evidence on those topics, so I won’t repeat it here. But when I consider giving up the protection that the current codes provide, and abandoning the code development process that incorporates the expertise of many, it scares the heck out of me. Really.
The Security Industry Association (which recently selected an Allegion team (including me!) to receive the SIA Policy Leadership Team of the Year Award!) has submitted letters to the Ohio legislature expressing concerns about Ohio Senate Bill 125, and Ohio House Bill 114. These bills call for the Ohio Board of Building Standards “to adopt rules for the use of a barricade device on a school door in an emergency situation and to prohibit the State Fire Code from prohibiting the use of the device in such a situation.”
As stated in the letters from SIA:
“We are concerned that the revision to the code is entirely too broad and permits the use of devices that do not meet proper code requirements for free egress, specifically in that occupants would not be able to exit without obstruction. Additionally, willful misuse of the devices could prevent both escape and intervention from the outside. In the event that an emergency situation was taking place inside of the locked room, first responders would not be able to enter.”
At a bare minimum, a lock on a classroom door should allow access from the outside by a staff member or emergency responder with a key or other credential. If you can think of a reason why it would be ok to lock the door and completely prevent emergency response, I’d love to hear it.