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Feb 22 2018

Why Compromise?

Category: School SecurityLori @ 12:17 am Comments (11)

Locks save lives.

I’m not talking about wedges, cables, hooks, or other contraptions – I’m talking about BHMA-certified locksets which do not have to be located and deployed during an emergency, wasting valuable time and limiting evacuation options.  As we learn more about what happened during the Parkland shooting, it seems that locked doors have once again provided the necessary level of security, and allowed evacuation when the opportunity arose.

Many (most?) classroom doors are already equipped with locks.  So why are some schools considering the purchase of retrofit gadgets?  Here are my thoughts – if you have other ideas, leave them in the reply box.

  1. Teachers don’t have the ability to lock the existing locks.  Maybe keys have been lost or the key system is out of control.  Maybe the school’s policies don’t include distributing keys to teachers, including substitute teachers, and other staff members.  This problem is relatively easy to rectify, and likely costs much less than purchasing classroom barricade devices.
  2. School administrators, teachers, and parents believe that someone will “shoot the lock off.”  Although this happens in movies, it has not happened in a school shooting.  The Final Report of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission states: “The testimony and other evidence presented to the Commission reveals that there has never been an event in which an active shooter breached a locked classroom door.”  I have never heard of a lock forcibly breached by an active shooter – before the shooting at Sandy Hook or in the years since.  Unfortunately, there have been several cases when first responders had to breach the door by force because the perpetrator had barricaded himself inside with the victims (Platte Canyon High School, Virginia Tech, West Nickel Mines Amish Schoolhouse).  Authorized access by first responders and avoiding unauthorized lockdown are important considerations when evaluating locking hardware.
  3. The existing locks are standard classroom function locks, which require the teacher to open the door in order to lock it.  Many schools with standard classroom function locks have adopted policies that require the door to be kept locked at all times.  Although this may not be the most convenient solution, it costs nothing to implement.  Schools could change these locks to another function in phases, as the budget allows.  Some existing locks can even be changed to a new function without purchasing a new lock.
  4. Classroom security locks require the use of a key in the inside cylinder, which can increase lockdown time.  I read one news report in which the teacher was quoted as saying that her keys were on her desk so she didn’t have time to lock the door.  Again, these doors could be kept locked, or the school’s policy could require that the lockdown key be worn on a lanyard.  Electronic solutions could be phased in as the budget permits.
  5. Glazing adjacent to the door hardware may be broken by the perpetrator to allow access to the inside lever.  Existing glazing can be addressed by replacing the glazing or applying a film to increase the impact-resistance.  Glazing that doesn’t meet the minimum impact requirements should be brought up to current codes anyway, since some facilities have been held liable for injuries caused by non-compliant glazing.
  6. School administrators are under pressure to do something (anything!) and do it now.  Improving classroom security does not always have a long lead-time.  A rushed response based on fear can lead to a decision that results in a false sense of security and may have unintended consequences.  It’s important to remember that school shootings are not as common as the media coverage indicates.  There is time to make an educated decision, and there are many hardware consultants who are available to evaluate existing locks and recommend solutions.  If you are looking for someone to help, send me an email.


This story from Good Morning America quoted a Parkland student with regard to the locked doors there:

He praised the school’s practice of locking classroom doors in an active-shooter situation.

“We have had meetings and teachers talking about what to do in these type of situations, actually, pretty recently and had initiatives to lock all the doors,” he said, “and I think, honestly, that worked and easily saved a couple hundred if not a thousand lives because all those doors were locked.”

Good Morning America also shared a teacher’s story of what happened:


Let’s help school administrators learn how to secure doors more quickly while keeping evacuation options open, rather than on how to make security cheaper while ignoring the potential consequences.

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11 Responses to “Why Compromise?”

  1. Jerry Richmond AHC/CDC (retired) says:

    First, let me say that my heart grieves for the victims and their families. In spite of the tragedy, it’s good to know that our industry professionals and our code compliant products, along with good implementation, helped to prevent more lives from being taken at Parkland and once the emotions die down, and cool heads prevail, school districts should look to our industry professionals for help, rather than some YouTube video of someone hocking their “gimmick” barricade device dreamed up in their garage. Classroom security locksets do the job!

  2. Evan Ballard says:

    Thanks for this. It is difficult to get people to understand the issues behind many of the barricade devices. And the fact that locking the door has shown to be effective is an important message to get out there. How can we better get that part of the story out, as well as the issues these barricade devices create when in place?

  3. Tim S says:

    There’s a press brake in our shop that has a wonderful line on it that seems highly applicable in the current situation…

    “WARNING: Confidence is the feeling you sometimes have immediately before understanding the situation.”

    People are pushing to feel confident, but their confidence is based solely on their lack of understanding of the situation. I’d much rather have easy egress in case of a fire than unbreakable barricade in the case of a shooter…at least I can fight back against a shooter, but there’s no way I’m going to be able to do much to fight back against a fire (to say nothing of the relative probabilities of being in a building fire vs. being involved in an active shooter incident).

  4. Eric says:

    I started listening to the news coverage as soon as I heard about the Parkland incident. I heard one student mention that the shooter did shoot a lock to gain entrance to a locked room. I don’t have any proof other than her statement but I did hear it and remember thinking about you as soon as I heard it. I’m not sure if the local PD would be willing to share the truth but it would be interesting to find out.

    • Lori says:

      Hi Eric –

      I have read a lot of articles and searched for a reference to this, but haven’t found one yet. If you see it again, please send me a link. There is a lot of misinformation in the news, and it’s very unlikely that the police department will share anything now. Eventually there will be a report.

      – Lori

  5. Tony Klagenberg says:

    My heart grieves for the many effected people of Parkland. A question remain for me. How did the shooter enter the building? One report I heard was through a stairwell. All perimeter doors of a school should be locked forcing enter to a monitored and secure location.

    • Lori says:

      Hi Tony –

      I agree – there should be one monitored entry point to the building, but this can be difficult in a campus setting and in schools with detached classrooms. At some point there will be a report available that details exactly what happened in Parkland. A similar report was released regarding Sandy Hook, and while it was extremely difficult to read, there was valuable information to help prevent a similar event. Classrooms at Sandy Hook were not locked and the #1 recommendation from the committee was that classroom doors be lockable by teachers. In Parkland, the doors were lockable and lives were saved. At Rancho Tehama the lockdown procedure and fast response of staff prevented the shooter from entering the building. We’re learning.

      – Lori

  6. Mark says:

    This is a great conversation guide for anyone who is trying to have a conversation about barricade devices. The bottom line rationale for them is based in misinformation about the security provided by locked doors…..Locked with tested, code compliant, life safety products that have been documented to work time and time again. The fear mongering that many of these device manufacturers are promoting is beyond my comprehension.

  7. Krystina says:

    This is an interesting article. This kid had really planned, and used the schools safety procedures against them. Now what?

    • Lori says:

      Hi Krystina –

      Campuses where students move between buildings are challenging because a large number of people may be entering the building as they move from one class to the next. Also keep in mine that students are responsible for most high school shootings. If an enrolled student who is authorized to be in the school is able to bring a gun into the building, all we can do is try to compartmentalize the building to prevent access to some areas. Unfortunately, many high school shootings take place in common areas like the cafeteria, where there are a lot of kids present. We need to allow classrooms and other areas to be secured (but still allow free egress) and prevent or delay unauthorized access to the building. There is only so much that doors and hardware can do.

      – Lori

  8. Jerry Monse AHC Coral Springs, FL says:

    I am local to the massacre that took place. I work remotely.

    As far as I know, there are no F110 function locks in place at MSD. Where the shooter couldn’t enter the room, he fired through the glass. He also fired through drywall. No lock or barricade device could have prevented that. What do we do now?

    This school does have a single point of entry during the day. In the morning and at dismissal time, all of the gates are opened to allow 3300 student to enter and leave and access various parking lots. Dismissal is at 2:40. The gates were opened approximately 20 minutes prior.

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