I have been inundated with requests for information about school safety and security in the last two weeks, and I’m guessing many of you have as well. Each time there is a mass shooting or a fire that was (or could have been) impacted by doors and hardware, people call looking for answers. Many days, iDigHardware receives more than 2,000 visits from people in search of information about code requirements and best practices.
I want to provide the necessary information, but I need your help. This site has dozens of articles, videos, and other resources about school safety and security – I have organized some of this information on the School Security page. But in the rush to address school security “yesterday”, it’s difficult to absorb all of the guidelines and recommendations. The security options seem complicated and expensive, which can lead facilities to consider retrofit products that may be easier to procure and install, but which often prioritize security over life safety.
Here’s what I need from you. Think about sitting down to discuss school security in whatever capacity you might have that conversation. If you work in the door and hardware industry, maybe you have been called by a school facility manager or locksmith. If you’re an architect or specifier, it could be a staff meeting where your firm is deciding on best practices for school projects. If you’re a fire marshal or building inspector, you may be responding to a school administrator’s inquiry about classroom barricade devices. Or maybe you’re a parent who wants to provide information to your kids’ school principal or superintendent.
In this (real or imagined) meeting on school safety and security, there are bound to be people who are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of locks and door hardware. The lock functions, electrified hardware options, monitoring, procedures, keying, drills…it can get overwhelming. There’s too much information (T.M.I.). How do we simplify this and help people make educated decisions? Our expertise can help save lives – we just need to keep it simple and make specific recommendations based on the existing conditions which will vary from one school to the next.
I’m ready to create any documentation that you need to facilitate these conversations, but I need your input. What information should be included? What are some of the “talking points” you cover and how can I support them? What are the resources that you most often refer to when people want to learn more?
How can I help?
If you don’t respond, I’ll assume that you already have everything you need. 🙂
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In my experience as an architect, I have noticed people frequently do not understand the necessity and origin of free egress. There are a lot of really painful examples that led us to where we are, and why we need to be careful addressing the school security problem. If the issue is not framed in the larger context, I don’t think it can be successfully spoken to.
I’m not really advocating scare tactics that show students are under threat endlessly, but unless the issues are discussed comprehensively ( security, accessibility, fire), and these threats are shown in relation to these solutions, its hard for someone who is worried about a very specific threat to care about the larger picture. Nobody sets out to do this to intentionally expose a student to assault or fire risks, but if the response is a section of code, it is very hard for an ordinary person to value that over what they intuitively feel. The explanation has to be clear and intuitive.
Do you remember that diagram that showed how to give the Heimlich? It used to hang everywhere. It showed the process clearly and graphically. I wonder if the issue could be expressed through streamlined, graphic information in static poster-like form (not that I don’t love the whiteboard videos, just easier to share a static graphic).
Great feedback. I like the idea of graphics to represent the various concerns. If we think about only the classroom door (for starters)…
Preventing access to the room during an active-assailant event
Preventing unauthorized lockdown – threat inside the classroom
Protecting egress in any type of emergency
Protecting accessibility / usability for all
In my mind the title of the graphic might be something along the lines of “Protecting the Classroom at the Door”. I think while we discuss it in terms of access, if the issue is framed as “protecting access”, that is less significant to the ordinary person than “preserving students” when really protecting access is about protecting students, only more comprehensively.
There could be two parts. The top can show the issues as you have pointed out. Maybe also being sure to include a note on glazing protection.
The second part could compare common solutions and associated issues, similarly in simple graphic form with limited text. 1) New access control systems (for new construction) 2) A plain-language explanation of common adjustments to in place locks 3) retrofit barricade devices. 1 and 2 will be shown to address the above issues, and 3 will not. I think its honest to acknowledge item 1 and 2 cost more, and list those as drawbacks in addition to the advantages, but showing item 3 in the context of the greater issue may help explain the larger issues this causes. I think “misleading claims of adoption by code enforcement jurisdictions” is a legitimate item to bring up for number 3, as you have pointed out in the past.
I think there is a place for deeper discussion, and perhaps that can even be handled through a simple link to a longer explanation as a footnote or a “learn more at:”, but I think the goal is to have something that can almost be held up at a school board meeting or to a school administrator so someone can say “have you seen this”?
Probably the most common question I hear is “why are after-market barricade devices not allowed by the building code?”
And how do you answer that?
1. I think first it takes a combined effort of everyone that might be involved in the decision making and concern.
2. It seems there is a common goal, so that does not need to be defined.
3. So where do we all go from there.
4. I tried to look up about how many schools were in the US, but did not get a good number. But it is a lot.
So with that what I am getting at is that some campuses may be easy to secure and some like high schools, with large and numerous buildings would be a great challenge.
5. My feeling is first keep the problem outside the building. So how is that accomplished.
6. If the problem gets inside the building, how do we secure the rooms, but still allow one operation to get out of the room.
I need to but a little more thought into the question, and add some replies.
I think the main thing is involvement of all concerned.
And kind of as the saying goes, we have laws and codes in the books, use them, there is no need to create new ones.
I try to keep it simple at first: what if the bad guy is inside the classroom and the police can’t get in? Or what if there is a fire inside the classroom and the firefighters can’t get in? My knee-jerk response used to be reciting building codes but that’s never a good way to start with an outsider. After about five minutes they regret asking the question.
along with “safe egress is vital”,
what’s the differential cost (new construction) for a classroom security lock versus other commonly used lock types? [I’ll guess $0.00]
What does it cost to update a single opening from whatever it is now, to a classroom security lock? (mortise and bored)
Statistics on in-class assaults, etc., to point out the “unauthorized lockdown” threat. This may be hard to acquire.
Policies which fire marshalls have agreed to to eliminate pull stations near exiting doors. [In Washington state, where smoke detectors are typically required in schools, and virtually all new school construction is sprinklered, many fire marshalls, after discussions with police, sheriffs, etc., now encourage having pull stations only at a supervised location.] What I’ve heard from Parkland is that the attacker pulled a fire alarm to lure victims into the halls.
The ability to freely exit is paramount over the threats from within; assault on students, assault on teachers, assault by students, hostage situations, fire, pranksters
I could definitely use the help/knowledge a school security page would offer. We are a small company doing small jobs. In the school additions we’ve done, we have used regular classroom function locksets with an upgrade to the intruder classroom lock. Only ONE school has taken the upgrade. We are 15 minutes away from the school Luke Woodham attacked (Pearl, MS). Have they forgotten? Or do they think it couldn’t happen again?
I read a report that said no one has died in a school fire in the last 50 years. If that’s true, that could be part of the problem of convincing people not to override fire codes in favor of school baracade devices.
Reading though some of the comments I wanted to share some of the reports related to these issues which I’ve found (barricade devices vs safe egress requirements).
Here is one the NFPA has put together on fire-related damages:
The FBI has also published several reports and even 1 study on active shooter incidents within the USA:
The two above links are great information for some statistics.
How I have had success when talking about unacceptable door Hardware choices (used to be just maglocks, now barricade devices are slipping in); when addressing the proper operation of doors and their hardware, the most successful tactic I’ve come across is one which starts out by talking about how effective fire drills are now days and why they work so effectively (proper codes and hardware). Talk about why there isn’t much loss of life; because of the emphasis we have placed on the fire drill training, annual fire alarm inspections, and properly tested and regulated equipment (if possible, i like to show a NFPA fire door testing video).
Next I would talk about how there are numerous types of emergency situations which don’t cause a fire alarm to sound; medical emergency, chemical/biohazard spill, and an active assailant (gun/knife/verbal). In all of those situations, people will evacuate the area in the same manner they would in a fire drill; because we’ve been trained since grade school on how to evacuate safely in an emergency.
Then i would bring up why we have the ‘one operation to egress’ law;
– what happens if the room is filled with smoke? (do you have the time & ability to read/recall the instructions to remove/disable the barricade device?)
– What about ADA requirements? If someone in that rooms has less than full mobility, will they also be able to remove and evacuate the area in a safe manner?
– The UL arguments about lack of testing and how they may prevent egress when damaged.
– the amount of training required to teach the building’s occupants on how to properly use the barricade devices in a safe manner
– How they will be responsible for any loss of life or damage to persons due to the use of a barricade device which is in direct violation of approved building codes
And finally, if they still want to use barricade devices. I write up a letter/e-mail to them describing all of the reasons they shouldn’t use the devices and requiring them to confirm in writing that they have read and accepted the risk’s I’ve identified.
I like the idea of having some clear and easy to understand illustrations; i believe it would be a great help if we could distribute these inforgraphics to the school districts (once they’ve been created that is). If we can inform the district superintendents as to why this is such an important matter and give them some easy to understand material, I think it’d quickly be distributed down to the staff & students. Also, it’d be easier to contact the district as a whole than trying to chase down each school building independently, as they should have a process in place for informing staff of life safety related issues.
That’s my two cents.
Great information, thanks for sharing.