“We are all guilty.” Photo: News 1130

Stories like this break my heart.  Although this happened in a country where codes aimed at protecting life safety may not be strong or well-enforced, there is always something for us to learn.  The idea of locking 52 girls in a classroom measuring 4 meters x 4 meters is something I hope would never happen in the US.  However, I recently heard a proponent of barricade devices say that during an active shooter scenario, “a classroom becomes an area of detention and restraint.”

The point of his statement was to support the use of classroom barricade devices, because of this exception in the IBC:  1010.1.9.3 Locks and latches. Locks and latches shall be permitted to prevent operation of doors where any of
the following exist: 1. Places of detention or restraint (refer to the IBC for additional exceptions).

A classroom does not “become an area of detention and restraint” just because someone wants to use it for that purpose or to justify their security methods.  Occupancies used for detention typically have code requirements that provide additional safeguards for people who are not afforded free egress – like fire barriers and opening protectives, sprinkler systems, fire alarms, supervision, and the means to unlock all doors within a prescribed amount of time.  A space used as a classroom is required to allow free egress at all times, with one operation to release the latch and no key, tool, special knowledge, or effort.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…we are all responsible for protecting the safety of building occupants.  If you see something, say something.


Girls Killed in Guatemala Fire May Have Been Locked In – New York Times

Guatemalan human rights officials said Thursday that they believe that the 35 girls [update: 40 girls] who were killed when a fire swept through a dormitory at a children’s home had been unable to escape because they were locked inside.

As new questions arose over the fire at the Virgen de la Asunción home, evidence emerged that the girls had been confined to a small room after they had escaped from the residence and been recaptured by the police.

“There were 52 girls in that room, and if someone locked the doors, the consequences are serious,” said Hilda Morales, the adjunct prosecutor for human rights.

The locked doors were still a “presumption” that had to be confirmed by Guatemala’s attorney general, Ms. Morales added. “The responsibility lies with the staff, the director and the secretary” for social welfare.


Girls burned to death under lock and key in Guatemala shelter – The Indian Express

At around 1 am, the 52 girls were locked into a classroom and given thin mattresses to sleep on, local police chief Wilson Maldonado told a congressional commission. Boys involved in the trouble were kept in a separate area, an employee at the home said. At about 9 am, police stationed outside the room noticed smoke seeping out, Maldonado said. However, one witness said the fire started 30 minutes earlier and police initially ignored the cries for help, thinking the girls were protesting.

“I heard shouting and loud noises all night,” said a teenage girl who witnessed the fighting in the lunch hall and said she spent much of the Tuesday cowering under a bed in her dorm after some of her peers tried to make her join the riot. “The fire was at about 8.30 am, the boys came running down to say that a girl had died,” she said. “The police grabbed the boys and a carer began hitting them and telling them off for having left the room they were left in.”


Guatemala fire death toll rises to 40 – BBC News

Before the tragedy, Ms Morales had recommended the shelter, near Guatemala City, be shut down.

“The tragedy could have been avoided if the authorities had complied with our recommendations from years ago,” said Ms Morales of the home in San Jose Pinula.

She said she was determined to bring those responsible to justice and a criminal complaint had been filed.

The tragedy has put a spotlight on alleged failings in Guatemala’s child protection services.

The head of the agency has been ordered not to leave the country while investigations continue.

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