Last week, the governor of Utah signed a school security bill into law. As you may have read in some of my earlier posts (one, two), this law removes most of the life-safety criteria from Utah’s state code – for the purpose of allowing classroom barricade devices. While it’s disappointing that the concerns about egress, accessibility, fire protection, and unauthorized lockdown were overshadowed by the pressure to allow lower-cost retrofit security products, I hope school districts in Utah will take the time to understand the potential unintended consequences, risks, and liabilities.
In contrast with Utah’s approach, the Louisiana state fire marshal has issued a memo outlining the state’s acceptable modifications to the code requirements for classroom doors. Two operations will be allowed (instead of one) to unlatch classroom doors in Louisiana, but the SFM’s memo includes some very specific criteria which must be met:
- The modification applies to existing schools and day care facilities that have economic or structural restraints which mean that a code-compliant retrofit security product would not be feasible. New buildings must include locks that are compliant with the model codes – including one operation to unlatch the door.
- The retrofit lock must be a deadbolt with a thumbturn on the inside and a key cylinder on the outside – double-cylinder deadbolts are specifically prohibited by the memo. The corridor-side cylinders on the deadbolts must be keyed alike, and staff must carry keys.
- Each door with an added deadbolt must have signage stating, “LOCK IS FOR TEACHER’S USE ONLY.”
- Deadbolts must be located between 34 inches and 48 inches above the finished floor – as required by current model codes and accessibility standards.
- If deadbolts are installed on existing fire doors, the modification must be in accordance with the door manufacturer’s listings. The installation of most deadbolts would not be allowed by NFPA 80 as a job-site preparation, so in most cases permission would have to be requested from the listing lab (via the manufacturer) to perform the work as a field modification. Another option would be to have the doors relabeled in the field.
- The work must be performed by a qualified and trained employee of the school system, or by a licensed locking system contractor.
- Reliable two-way communication between classrooms and the main office is recommended.
- Procedures and drills must address evacuation as well as defend-in-place requirements – the response depends on the type of emergency that occurs.
- Doors serving rooms with an occupant load of 50 people or more are not allowed to have the retrofit deadbolts.
- Requests for permission to install retrofit deadbolts must be submitted to the SFM’s office for approval, along with supporting documentation.
- All other code requirements remain in place, including the requirement for hardware to be operable with no tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist, and no key, tool, special knowledge or effort.