As many of you know, a public hearing with the Ohio Board of Building Standards was held last Friday. This hearing was part of an ongoing discussion about whether Ohio should allow barricade devices to be used to secure classroom doors. There was a previous hearing where invited speakers presented their views; on Friday the podium was open to anyone who had something to share with the Board. These hearings were prompted by the filing of bills in the Ohio House and Senate, summarized as:
“A BILL: To amend section 3737.84 and to enact section 3781.106 of the Revised Code to require the 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.”
Friday’s 4-hour meeting began with a presentation from Joseph Bergant, who was the superintendent in Chardon, Ohio, when 3 students were killed in a February, 2012 shooting. Mr. Bergant told board members and the audience of 40-50 people to “Expect the Unexpected,” and described different types of incidents that schools may face, including bomb threats, fires, bus accidents, tornadoes, as well as school shootings. He stressed relationships, pre-planning and drills, and a holistic approach involving all stakeholders with different perspectives – “gadgets and gimmicks aren’t gonna do it.” The Ohio AIA chapter posted an article about Mr. Bergant’s testimony here.
With regard to locking of classrooms, Mr. Bergant explained that Chardon High School’s classroom doors were equipped with standard classroom function locksets, which have a key cylinder on the outside only. This lock function requires teachers to open the door, and possibly even enter the corridor, in order to lock the door. After the shooting, Chardon’s classroom locks were re-keyed, keys were issued to all teachers, and the current policy is that the outside lever is always kept locked so doors are immediately locked when they are closed. When asked by the Board if he would support the use of barricade devices, he said that he would not, because emergency responders would not be able to enter the room to assist occupants. He also talked about the need for egress / evacuation, and concern that students could use the devices for unauthorized lockdown.
Members of the Door Security and Safety Foundation and the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association worked together to make sure that our industry was well-represented at the public hearing by an Ohio distributor, 3 manufacturers, and a representative from BHMA – all with experience participating on code committees. A speaker from Underwriters Laboratories and an architect both shared their perspective. There were 8 code officials who spoke, some of whom were against the use of barricade devices, and others who thought the decision should be left up to the local AHJ. A speaker with law enforcement and teaching experience who is an ALICE instructor stated that barricade devices are not needed or recommended, and could be used by an attacker. Three barricade device manufacturers were represented, as well as the community organization that raised $30,000 and purchased barricade devices for their district. The goal of all speakers appeared to be the security of students and school staff.
Some* of the main points of discussion included:
- Current code requirements for free egress, fire protection, and accessibility are based on past historic events and an all-hazards approach. We need to support the code development process which includes the perspectives of many, and to support the enforcement of those codes.
- Code change proposals which address the locking of classroom doors are already moving through the code development process, and adoption of these proposals could be expedited by Ohio and other states.
- Labeled / listed code-compliant locks are available, and must be part of a holistic approach, including the size, location, and type of glazing used near locking hardware, as well as key distribution, training, and drills.
- Shooters or students may deploy barricade devices to take hostages, commit a crime, or as a prank. The ability to access the room from the corridor using a key or other credential is critical. School districts need to consider the unintended consequences, and their liability in using barricade devices.
- A couple of speakers mentioned that code-compliant locks are not always feasible, but one building official pointed out that the issue should not be money, since schools have million-dollar football programs and multi-media signage.
The final speaker (Mark Berger of Securitech), testified “on behalf of someone who couldn’t be here to speak” – the security director of the World Trade Center, who died on 9/11. Mark spoke about his involvement in the security measures taken at the WTC after the 1993 bombing, telling the Board that there was never any temptation to impede egress in favor of security, and as a result, 9/11 was the greatest building evacuation in world history, with 99% of people below the level of impact evacuating safely. The point…we can accomplish both – security and safety.
I can’t predict what will happen next, but a decision is due in July. So now we wait.
Thank you to all who helped with this effort!
*There were many additional points made. If you have questions about anything in particular, you can leave them in the comment box and I’ll answer the best I can.