During yesterday’s shooting at UCLA, Brian Fochler tagged me in a photo tweeted from the engineering building where the shooting was taking place, which was my first indication that something lock-related was happening.  Since then I’ve received many other emails about that situation.  Because most of the classroom doors were not equipped with locks, or had locks that could not be locked by the occupants of the building, the students were improvising their own locking methods.

I’m sure that some of the manufacturers of classroom barricade devices will use this incident to try to sell their retrofit devices.  But while it might cost less to buy a gadget to lock the classroom door, there are many disadvantages to using this security method.  Adding these devices to the existing doors and hardware will mean that the doors are not compliant with model code requirements for egress, fire protection, and in most cases – accessibility.  In California, classroom barricade devices are not allowed by the state codes.

When I’ve expressed concerns about an unauthorized person installing a classroom barricade device to secure the classroom and commit a crime, I’ve been told by barricade device proponents that there is no cause for concern – the teacher could keep the device in a safe place where only the teacher had access to it.  How would this work in a college or university, where various professors may use any given classroom?  In this situation, the device would not be able to be hidden and installed only by the classroom teacher.  Anyone could install it, and once in place, most of the devices prevent access – even authorized access by school staff and emergency responders.

Traditional locks provide the necessary level of security without sacrificing life safety or leaving facilities open to the liability associated with using a product that hinders egress and can be used to secure the classroom for ill intent.


There are lots of news reports today about the lack of lockable doors in this building, including a CNN story which features this quote:

Expert: Change locks on old doors

One expert told CNN that it is just not feasible to go through such drills with so many students and personnel.

“What we do recommend is that key faculty and staff who would be critical in activating emergency response plans do drills at least annually,” Amanda Botelho Robbins, a senior security consultant for San Diego-based TSG Solutions, said.

Robbins said it is common for doors in older buildings, many built before school bloodbaths like the Columbine massacre in 1999 and Virginia Tech shootings in 2007 became a national concern, to be hard to secure from the inside.

Universities should change the locks on any door that cannot be locked from the inside, she said. That can cost $200 to $400 per door (more for a cafeteria or auditorium door), but it is worth it, she added.

“We also recommend electronic security systems, especially on exterior doors,” she said, referring to giving campus police the ability to remotely lock doors into buildings.

Some universities are beginning to think about access controls for interior doors, too. But that’s very expensive, she said.

Here’s a report from CBS News:


Images: Pranasha Shrestha, Daphne Ying, Carrie Rapaport, and Jason Schechter via Twitter.

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