This morning I found an article in my news alerts:  Roxbury Eyes Spending $580K on “Man Traps” for Schools.  My first thought…”Oh. No.”

A man-trap is another term for an interlock, and interlocks are designed as a group of two or more doors that are part of a vestibule.  When one door is open, the other doors can not be opened.  There is more information about interlocks, including a video, in this blog post.

A few years ago, I read a proposed set of school security standards.  The standards called for man-traps in various locations in school buildings, which could be used to isolate and “trap” an active shooter.  In my opinion, this is a terrible idea.  The chances of containing an active shooter alone (without hostages) in a man-trap are minimal, compared to the risks involved with a man-trap’s potential for deterring egress and evacuation.

I’m hoping that the term “man-trap” is being used incorrectly in the article, and that the proposal is to add security vestibules, not interlocks.  A security vestibule would consist of two sets of doors which are typically locked on the access side, and which allow free egress at all times.  Security vestibules, along with personnel and processes to evaluate visitors before they enter a school, can be one of the best tools to prevent unauthorized people from gaining access.

Although I do believe that the term man-trap has been misused (as in this TIME Magazine article from just after the Sandy Hook shooting), the idea of locking egress doors in schools has been discussed as a recommended practice.  The video below shows a pair of doors with panic hardware, which a consultant describes as electromagnetically locked.  Although the doors are designed (and likely required) to allow free egress, they are locked by the security system when the intruder enters the building.  This is not compliant with the model codes, and I don’t believe that it is practical or safe.

When we’re talking about school security, let’s make sure to use the correct terminology…”security vestibule” – YES!  “Man-trap” – NO!  We can not forgot about egress and evacuation in a rush to secure our schools.  There ARE code-compliant options available.

Update:  This morning, I emailed the security director who was quoted in the article and explained the difference between a man-trap and a security vestibule.  He responded and said that there are fire marshals and building inspectors involved in their plans, who will ensure that the vestibules are code-compliant.  In this case, it seems like there was just a mix-up in terminology so that’s good news!

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