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Jul 31 2015

FF: Barricade Device Epidemic

Category: Egress,Fixed-it FridayLori @ 12:23 am Comments (19)

I’ve shared several news stories about high school students designing barricade devices (here’s one, here’s another), but now the Air Force Research Lab has joined the effort.  Sadly, this “innovation” probably won’t stop until a tragedy occurs.

WPAFB researchers say it could protect individuals from active shooter situations – Xenia Gazette

Air Force Lock

Photo courtesy of WPAFB – A lock developed by researchers at WPAFB could help in active shooter situations.

An Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) project team at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has developed potentially life-saving portable door locks that could be easily placed on doors in a matter of seconds during an active shooter situation, thereby providing an extra level of security until first responders arrive at the scene to take control of the situation.

Researchers efforts were part of the 2015 AFRL Commanders Challenge held in June at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Ind..

The team’s mission was to demonstrate new ways to deal with an active shooter scenario and each of the four teams competing was given six months and a limited budget to take their ideas from concept to an operational system that could be demonstrated for leaders across the Air Force and judges at the Commanders Challenge.

You can read the whole article here.

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19 Responses to “FF: Barricade Device Epidemic”

  1. lach says:

    By the sound of none of the locks sound like they are anywhere close to being code compliant…

    I thought the Government would care more about that in a competition.

  2. Sig Siebeneich says:

    What is to prevent the shooter from just shooting out the glass, and removing the barricade device. (almost all of the incident’s that have happened have doors with vision lites in them)
    There is no sure way to defend against a determined individual.

    Also, if the person in the room is shot and injured, how are the emergency services going to get into the room if the door barricade is difficult to remove. In an emergency it usually is a matter of life or death.


    • Lori says:

      The barricade device manufacturers use that argument against traditional locks, and say that their devices can be mounted out of reach even if the glass is broken.

  3. Jerry Richmond, AHC/CDC says:

    While I sit on “hold” for a manufacturer, I read this… the photo looks like they designed this unit for use on a knob (maybe that’s what WPAFB has on their doors) and I wonder if they could get this thing over a lever that returns to the door? How many sizes will they come up with for the various jamb depths? And what about frames with custom profiles like the old double step ogee? (Did I say that right?) Then you have doors with exit devices… Small Group Instruction, Large Group Instruction, Auditoriums, Gymnasiums… how is this “bracket” going to lock down exit devices?
    We all appreciate people’s concern for safety and well meaning intentions, but please, leave it to the professionals in the door & hardware industry.(We don’t tell them how to keep their pilot’s safe, do we?)
    Ah… I am being connected to a human!

  4. Keith Krienke says:

    This is a serious epidemic in the U.S. how can you create such a one sided solution? So many people seem to think they are doing something new and amazing. I could invent one of these devices in an afternoon. I just don’t get why they are under the impression they are creating a safe and smart solution, time and time again.

  5. John McIntire says:

    Hi all. I’m one of the AFRL team members, who was leading the bystander protection effort. First, I’ll say that the door locks are only a small part (and not the main portion) of our active shooter defense system. It was one area we thought could use some innovative low cost ways to quickly secure doors. I’m more than happy, as I have told everyone interested, to strongly recommend a good deadbolt to solve this issue..but offices and especially schools seem hesitant to do so, they complain deadbolts are expensive, or they want multilayered protection not just one solution.

    Second, we freely acknowledge none of our locks are a 100% solution. They only work on some doors, in swing v outswing, latch into strike plate versus slide under door, etc. although some are adjustable for variations you all have mentioned like frame or jamb widths. And yes… We did make some of these locks in an afternoon or two… We were operating under the impression that complex and difficult doesn’t necessarily equate to better for a concept like this.

    Any other comments or concerns I can help clarify? Further system details overall can be found here for those interested:

    • Lori says:

      Thank you very much for your response! The main concerns with the development of these security products is that they don’t meet the model code requirements – they do not allow free egress/evacuation, they are not listed for use on a fire door or certified/regulated at all, and most do not meet federal accessibility standards. They can also be used by an unauthorized person to secure the door, and prevent access from the outside by staff or emergency responders.

      Although there are obvious issues surrounding the use of these devices, the relatively low price and ease of procurement/installation make them very attractive to facilities. Development of these devices by the Air Force add credibility to their use instead of code-compliant, tested and listed security products. I see from the article you linked that there are other aspects of this project, but unfortunately most stories in the media seem bent on demonstrating that these devices are the answer to school security.

      – Lori

  6. John McIntire says:

    Thanks Lori. Another team in this challenge proposed an auto-locking magnetic door system (works off acoustic gunshot detectors). Would be curious what yours (and others) thoughts on such a system.

    Also, assuming we can agree that we want people to be able to lock doors in an emergency like an active shooting, do these concerns you’ve outlined not apply to deadbolts, flush bolts, etc.? What are other (perhaps better) alternatives here?

    People are instructed and trained to barricade or otherwise lock their doors anyway, though fire codes clearly gets squirmy here too if using ties or furniture or whatever. It’s an interesting issue, much more complicated than I would have thought….

    • Lori says:

      Locking doors remotely can be a valuable part of a lockdown plan, but the locks must still allow free egress. Electromagnetic locks require sensors or switches to unlock the door for egress, and I’m guessing the gunshot detector/mag-lock plan may not have included those necessary switches.

      I think we can all agree that we need to be able to lock doors in an emergency like an active shooting, but the model codes require the latch(es) to be retracted with one operation, with no key/tool/special knowledge/effort and no tight grasping/tight pinching/twisting of the wrist. Locks used on fire doors must be listed for that purpose. Accessibility standards require operable hardware to be mounted between 34 inches and 48 inches above the floor (with an exception for locks used only for security purposes) and require the bottom 10 inches of the door on the push side to be flush and smooth. These code requirements are in place because of decades of code development, often as a result of tragedy. Throwing away the requirements that protect our safety in favor of inexpensive security doesn’t make sense, especially given the added concerns of unauthorized use and lack of access by staff and emergency responders.

      There are existing locksets – electronic or mechanical – that provide the needed level of security and meet the code requirements. Deadbolts and surface bolts would not meet current model code requirements if used in conjunction with a separate lockset, because two operations would be required to retract the latch(es). Most new school projects have either classroom security locks, which are locked from within the classroom with a key, or entrance/office function locksets which are locked from within the classroom with a thumbturn or push-button. This video describes some of the code-compliant options:

      I just read a draft of an article today, written by an instructor from the ALICE Training Institute, about why barricade devices should not be used. Barricading with furniture is not the same as using a barricade device. If the door can be secured with a code-compliant lock, or if building occupants can evacuate, barricading may not be necessary. I will eventually post that article on my site so check back in a few weeks.

      If you have any other questions, please let me know. I appreciate your interest.

      – Lori

  7. Eric Tengowski says:

    Mr. John McIntire answered several of our questions, like the one from Mr. Keith Krienke above….”how can you create such a one sided solution”? Mr. McIntire stated “It’s an interesting issue, much more complicated than I would have thought…”. I believe most of the “inventors” out there have great intentions and have never considered how many codes are being violated in the process. Unfortunately, our legislators are also naive about the codes (and often persuaded by $$$ which causes them to make poor decisions).

    Those outside of our industry do not understand the complexity of doors/hardware and that can be said without even touching on the code requirements. I’m sure most of us in this industry have tried explaining our job to someone (friends, family, etc) and heard them say something like “I had no idea so much thought went into doors”. Most architects and GC’s will tell you that our products are their least favorite to deal with. It’s extremely complicated and ever-changing (and quite frankly, a PITA). It takes a special breed (or complete insanity) to handle this line of work and really enjoy it.

    I like what Jerry Richmond stated above, “We don’t tell them how to keep their pilots safe, do we?” It’s a very complicated matter, and to all the “inventors” out there, you can rest assured that our industry is working on better ways to keep everyone safe.

    • Lori says:

      I gave up trying to explain my job a long time ago. When I was dating my husband I heard him tell someone that I was a software engineer. 🙂

  8. John McIntire says:

    I’m still having trouble with some of these concepts, would appreciate some input & clarity. In an emergency requiring lockdown, we agree we want people do be able to lock or otherwise secure a door shut. And to comply with code as much as reasonably possible. OK–agreed.

    Why is barricading with furniture, ties, ropes, chords, etc. seemingly acceptable, but portable door locks are not? This seems contradictory to me, especially since the furniture-or-whatever’s-handy barricading option is more difficult to do (and if done well, is more difficult to undo for egress, or for first responders to get inside). I would appreciate any and all feedback on this issue…thanks!

    • Joe Hendry says:

      Barricading is a gross motor skill. Using secondary door looking devices requires fine motor skills. In an emergency, fine motor skills diminish quickly and this can lead to plan failure. Barricading is a training concept that is applicable regardless of the location and is a portable skill. Door locking devices are not portable and may differ from one location to the next, requiring multiple development of fine motor skills with different devices, which has never been recommended or taught. These devices are accessible to all building occupants in many locations (including the threats, who will use them). Threats should not have time to erect barricades given a proper law enforcement response. However, these devices give them a quick way to secure a location and kill building occupants. The primary recommended response is for infrastructure to allow safe evacuation over lockdown.

      Barricades erected by room occupants take minimal time given proper training and room preparation. Properly trained individuals walk into rooms and are able to quickly adapt the items in the room to barricade based on previous experience. This is impossible given the plethora of devices being marketed. The true answer is improvements in infrastructure and codes that merge safety and fire codes in the area of terrorism and active threats and remove fine motor skills from the equation – just like we have done with fire for over 100 years.

      If you assess your doors and locks and find them inadequate for lockdown, you need a new door or lock. They already exist. We are trying to re-invent the wheel…and in the process increasing our vulnerability.

  9. John McIntire says:

    Joe, thanks for your feedback, though I’m not sure I agree with much of your assessment.

    “Barricading is a gross motor skill.”
    It can be (furniture, tables, cabinets). Or it may not be (ropes, zip cords, belts, etc.). In any case, it takes dozens of seconds to accomplish, if it can be accomplished at all given what is available in the room.

    “Secondary door locking devices require fine motor skills.”
    They can, or they can’t. Depending on the model, some of which have auto-lock features (just shutting the door activates the lock).

    “Barricading is a concept regardless of location and is portable skill.”
    Except for rooms that don’t have the infrastructure to accomplish, for inward-swinging doors, or that require physical strength to accomplish (moving furniture).

    “Devices are accessible to all building occupants in many locations.”
    This is true of existing door locks, or barricading using existing furniture, belts, or zip ties.

    “Threats should not have time to erect barricades given a proper law enforcement response.”
    Yes in an ideal world, which we do not live in.

    “If you assess your doors and locks and find them inadequate for lockdown, you need a new door or lock.”
    Yes, agreed.

    But, still, as far as I can tell, none of this removes the contradiction between OK’ing barricading a door with furniture, cords, belts, ties, etc. (which takes time and effort, and hampers egress while complicating first responders’ ingress), while forbidding rapidly deployable portable door locks. I am honestly not trying to be argumentative, but I don’t understand this (apparent) contradiction. I appreciate your insights and reply.

  10. John McIntire says:

    By the way, I agree that proper, permanently installed locks are the *optimal* solution. But the way I see it, if we are going to allow or even encourage furniture-or-whatever’s-handy barricading, then portable locks/ barricades allow people a way to do the same thing faster and easier. Suboptimal? Yes probably. But discouraged or forbidden?

  11. Joe Hendry says:

    Hi John,

    No contradiction. Barricading is a training concept using environmental items to secure a location. The concept is portable and adaptable. Secondary door locking devices are locks. They are mechanisms that secure. They are not portable or adaptable from location to location.

    As an expert, I have no other choice than to recommend the best possible solution. Better doors and locks for locations that will be utilized for lockdown. Utilizing push buttons or thumb turns already in the infrastructure and required by code. Keys are not my favorite (lost, misplaced,forgotten or fine motor skill for use). The answer is rooted in the same lessons we have learned in fire training and code. Simple is best and no fine motor skills required.

    We are twenty years behind the threats in training, infrastructure and planning. No gadget is going to answer that problem. Infrastructure improvement and requirements, rooted in code is a long term solution, not a quick fix from a company that may not exist in six months.

    Giving threats access to devices that quickly lock a room and prevent access by administrators or law enforcement is not a solution. We need to not only think about active threats but include rape, assault and bullying on the list making these devices dangerous. Threats normally do not barricade locations using environmental items. Except now, we are giving them the ability to quickly do so. Most of these devices do not allow for ingress, have design flaws and have not been independently studied or tested by uninterested third parties. Many actually have videos showing law enforcement can not breach their device. These are supposed to be the good guys?

    People that can not barricade, for what ever reason, need to assess if the location is even appropriate for the use of lockdown. I’m sure you are aware that lockdown tactics were developed for drive bys shootings, not active threats. That means our infrastructure has been inappropriate from the start. If it is appropriate for use, infrastructure must be improved. Handing people a gadget is not a long term solution.

    We are allowed to be ahead of the bad guys, even though we don’t seem to be thinking about it by developing gadgets. Long term thought process and changes to infrastructure provide the best solution. The threats are changing and learning. Why aren’t we.

    This summer I have had two school districts share they bought secondary door locking devices based on how easy they were to use. They are experiencing failure rates of around 40% in low stress drills. Imagine what that will be during high stress incidents. One district went to demonstrate the device and when we went into the classroom they couldn’t find the device. I would like to think the teacher may have accidentally packed it for the summer recess, but that’s not how my mind works. You might like to read this:



    • John McIntire says:

      Thanks Joe, I’m definitely giving due consideration to your viewpoint, though you still haven’t swayed me completely. Frankly, the distinction you are making between barricading with “stuff” and barricading with a device still strikes me as a false dichotomy; both are methods that use items to secure a door, and both are portable and adaptable depending on how you define these terms, notwithstanding devices that clearly do not operate as advertised. I do agree that the long-term solution is the better one, and I appreciate your insights. I’ll keep thinking on this and talking to people such as yourself. If you have any further insights or thoughts, please share. Thanks again!

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