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.
What do you think about the Louisiana memo? Questions? Concerns?
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Each door with an added deadbolt must have signage stating, “LOCK IS FOR TEACHER’S USE ONLY.”
Hope clear thinking prevails for Utah and La
Yeah, I’m sure the sign will keep the little darlings from throwing the dead bolt when the teacher isn’t looking.
The very fact that there is a list of rules that must be followed should make a school rethink the reason for adding just deadbolts. That a single compliant lockset is available isn’t mentioned as the preferable solution. But note also that the “snake oil” cures don’t meet these rules.
While this isn’t the best solution or one I would desire. It is better than a barricade device which would prohibit authorized entry.
As far as cost I don’t see the cost savings they are trying to achieve especially since if they are rated doors it will cost more than a typical classroom security lockset.
I’m not sure how the cost could be significantly less to, add a deadbolt along with door and frame preps and potential relabeling, than to swap in a classroom security lock.
This is what happens when manufacturers don’t respond. Here is a clear need for an inexpensive retrofit device and the Big Three with all their engineering prowess and resources cannot come up with something better? Why don’t these guys have a grant person ON THEIR STAFF to help schools finance some of these improvements? Or sponsored programs? or suggest other ways to finance school security initiatives.
In the world of barriers and expensive electronic solutions, latchbolt hold-backs made from cardboard and other crazy stuff offered by the inventors out there, the auxiliary deadbolt actually makes the most sense to me. First of all its inexpensive and simple to install. Secondly, it is a device that is probably most familiar to adults and kids alike because they have one in their own back door; and, third, it will work just as good (and in some cases better) as any other solution at locking the door from the inside. Granted, it takes two moves to unlock the door and there are other issues (i.e. breaking side lites, key distribution, etc, etc) but, since Colombine, I have asked manufacturers for a better solution and have not really gotten one. If you have any other suggestions that make sense, I am all ears.
Hi Jim –
I would love to explore your ideas about retrofit security. Most classroom doors already have locks, and there are multiple functions depending on whether the school district wants the locks to be controlled by staff, or lockable by anyone. Some locks can be changed from one function to another without replacing the entire lock. Electrified locks are available for schools that want to incorporate an access-control system or stand-alone locks and have the budget to do so. These locks are all code-compliant, tested and certified to performance standards and for use on fire doors.
I have worked with school administrators who are quite knowledgeable about where/how to apply for funding, and Allegion is involved with supporting legislation that will provide millions of dollars in grants. Several of us also work on code development and the creation of recommended standards for school security. We have paid for legal opinions, written numerous articles, and regularly educate architects, end users, security consultants, and anyone else who will listen.
If you have ideas to address what’s missing in the door hardware industry, I will take your suggestions to our product managers and engineers. One of the main problems is the belief that traditional locks do not provide enough security and a retrofit gadget is the solution. In reality, traditional locks have done the job in past school shootings. I’m sure that there is more we can do – let’s work on it together.
Maybe temporary, secondary locking arrangements is the answer. Tens of thousands of schools and other commercial and government facilities, including several departments of Homeland Security, are using door barricading technologies. Code compliant sets offered by companies such as Allegion, Assa, etc. are beautifully engineered pieces of equipment, but Nobody’s perfect. And don’t settle for the statement that “No locked door has ever been breached by an active threat.” Secondary barricading devices are developed to save lives. True, some do not allow for first responders to gain access to the barricaded room, but lots of them do. Classroom function latch sets with thumb turns can also be used maliciously. Lock it and no one can get in without the key. Sure, the key is not far away, but neither is the key to the unlockable barricade. I think we would all do what ever we could to keep a dangerous intruder out, including barricading the room with only code compliant desks, chairs, and copy machines. Several states have made it legal to use special locking arrangements in the face of imminent danger. Trust your guts people. Please look at this link to see why Life Safety Codes must include some smart exceptions. https://vimeo.com/337998156/640c08df9d
Well I guess it’s better than a bucket of rocks!
A question and a comment. For most of my 50 year career in the building management business, we used to refer to and require any fire door in our facilities to be modified a process we called “Label Service” by the manufacturer’s representative. This way we were reasonably assured that a modification would or did meet the label fire test criteria. No new windows, no resized windows, no “plant on” plates, only appropriately sized signs, proper hardware, proper penetration of strike, hinge selection an mounting, etc. Is this term and process still used? Seemed like an appropriate “short hand” way to describe what we desired, that in a fire, doors would hold together, not warp to pop latches, etc.
I also keep reminding everyone (who will listen), not all incidents began from the outside so anytime you potentially wall off a person intent on evil inside a space with your kids, evil folks will take full advantage of this factor in today’s world. Folks with no training or calling to safety better be prepared to get sued when ill-conceive plans go astray!
Hi Jerry –
Yes – we still use the term “under label service” which basically means “according to the manufacturer’s listing procedures.”
Let me get this straight . They now want to put a standard deadbolt lock on a class room full of students at a convenient height accessible to all so that anyone inside the classroom can lock the door. Well at least they are using standard lock hardware and not some of these homemade contraptions that contravene all known building and fire codes . Plus now the added cost of door recertification or new doors? Why are they trying to reinvent the wheel when new lockdown hardware exist?
So adding another lock on the door is the answer? Now there will be two locks on the door to double the security? It amazes me that of all the “facts” swirling around about classroom security, the one documented fact we have from the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission report, that there are “NO documented instances of an active shooter breaching a locked door”, fails to be understood…….On the other hand we have at least 3 school shooting incidents where shooters barricaded themselves in the room or building……..Huh…..
People keep making this so hard. I have a distant relative that teaches in a Chicago suburb. The teachers all have the classroom key and they keep all of the classroom function locks secured at all times. The teacher stands and holds the door open between classes and the door is allowed to close and lock when the class starts. The teacher can assign a student to hold the door if the need arises. A student seated near the door is assigned the task of letting any student that has to leave for the restroom or an errand back in. No new expensive locks, no goofy add-ons, just keep it locked and control it between classes. The way to fix a people problem is to make them part of the solution.
Only when something happens, a drive for a solution is presented. What’s going to happen is multiple cases of students locking out staff and/or a bullying situation where a student is locked in a room with one or more assailants. It takes a scarring situation to have a law implicated in favor. People never fully recover from trauma.
Rick’s comments are the most practical thing I’ve read in a long time. Having said that this person used the fire evacuation procedure to fill a hallway with victims. It’s also reasonably apparent from victims interviews he understood speeding his assault would allow him to reach some doors before they could be closed. It’s brutally apparent from the victims video’s they didn’t have time to blind the glazing or even turn out the lights. The end result being a clear line of site to shoot many more victims sprawling on the floor of well lit rooms without even entering them.
So he leveraged the fire evacuation drill, beat the locks, active shooter training, lockdown policy regarding lights and glaze blinding and retrofit barricades.
All of us have plenty to learn here. Whether we do or not it’s a certainty the bad guys will.
By the way, one of the victims video recorded a perfect door glazing breech and reach room entry. Thankfully it was performed by a law enforcement officer not the shooter. Unfortunately like I said the bad guys are learning.
“LOCK IS FOR TEACHER’S USE ONLY.”
Really??? They think the kids won’t be locking that teacher out? Ugh..
This is not going to be good.
This may be one way to get our Elementary Teachers to carry their keys with them.
Of course, “It could never happen here”
Lori, in Michigan the grant money goes to through the State Police so as far as I can see- and maybe someone from a Michigan can correct me, but it is the law enforcement agencies -sheriff offices getting the grant money for school security”programs” not schools. I just saw in Wisconsin, the governor signed a 400 million grant program that said the money is going directly to schools for security upgrades. So if Allegian is involved in grant money distribution, make sure the schools are the direct recipients of money. I would like to see Allegion reps making calls on school districts or the state School boards. I think It would also help to present schools with a complete system. (meaning a whole school alert system similar to a fire alarm- with a solution to secure a classroom door and a full entry solution) Because this is what the barricade sellers are doing. Not only are they are selling a barricade, but also alert system, and they’re even changing light bulbs out to LED as part of the package to get Consumers Energy rebate money and energy savings for the schools-selling that as a way for schools to pay for the upgrades. Don’t forget, sheriffs are also at the board meetings and in the schools endorsing them.
So Allegion could also be calling on State Police and Annual Sherriffs Associations – lobbying them on the benefits of code compliance and a secure lock. And might want to throw some money at their re-election campaigns.
The “cost savings” will be realized from installations being performed by unqualified persons, with no Code knowledge, maybe with limited skill sets, with no regard for inspection or re-labeling requirements, with hardware purchased from the local close-out store under pressures from administrators to get it done cheap and now!
And I am confident that the additional signage, if it gets installed at all, will be complied with.
Sorry, corrected e-mail now entered.
We are an iota away from a single operation to unlatch. Our engineers have a few tricks up our sleeves to get to the perfect retrofit device. We have learned a lot from Lori and her blogging and are using the information to perfect TeacherLock. It’s bullyproof, patent pending, openable by first responders, fast to deploy, and can’t be locked by a student. We are also adding wireless triggering, signaling and two way messaging to authorities on the status of the lock and the teacher and students in the room. Yes, we already know our strengths and weaknesses when compared to high end available hardware. But, you’ve got to admit, it’s a good start and much better than existing barricades. We have seen them all and don’t like any of them. We recently saw Lowe’s donate 1000 buckets with a hammer, a door chock, rope, and duct tape. In other words, a terrorist starter kit. We are highly collaborative and agile company so send us your suggestions. We can tell you this, schools have little money, so there is a real need for a low cost retrofit.
Hi Salvatore –
If you’re interested in feedback from iDigHardware readers, I can post the video of your product and ask for comments. Please understand that I have no control over what readers write, but there have been other product developers who found the feedback beneficial.
I’m pleased to make your acquaintance. I really enjoy reading your articles. It has been an incredible resource for us. Your depth of knowledge is amazing. Before reposting our video, I am very curious about your impression. You are the guru and we would be honored to get your perspective. We know that retrofit devices as a genre are not popular with most of the folks who might be visiting your blog. We understand why. If your Impression is “this Elementary Principal and Engineer in Massachusetts might be on to something here, “ then I’d say it would be a good chance for us to get some constructive criticism. Your thoughts?
Sal and Amy Emma
Hi Sal and Amy –
I think we are all working toward the same goal – trying to keep kids and teachers safe. With that said, I do look at security products with a critical eye because of my involvement with codes. I like that your product is “bully-proof” although I have worked with many school administrators who want a lock that can be locked by anyone. As you know, there are pros and cons to either option (locked with a key/tool or lockable by anyone). I think given the fact that the locking of your product is controlled and would only be locked in an emergency, it is likely that teachers and even students could be trained to unlock it for egress. I would be careful about calling it code-compliant in your marketing materials though; in my opinion the use of the product would require a code modification from the local jurisdiction because it takes special knowledge to know how to release it. And if the door is a fire door, the lock needs to be listed to UL 10C, and the open hole through the door to release the lock from the outside could impact that testing.
I appreciate the thought, time, energy and financial investment that has gone into this product. I can see that you took the code requirements into account as much as possible, as well as the concerns about unauthorized lockdown and access from the outside. When evaluating school security, my first choice would be to see if the existing hardware can be utilized before encouraging schools to add a retrofit security device.
Thank you so much for your guidance. We will certainly take these suggestions and incorporate them as soon as practically possible. Yes, we have considered rewording our claims of code compliance and to add “subject to AHJ.” We have also been looking at UL10c testing as you have suggested. Our new design blocks the outside door key hole with a quick-release security torx steel through bolt. We are also going to enlarge our egress lever to make it so that it is impossible miss our lever when moving the door lever. Still not a mechanical interconnect, but we are going to be the best retrofit device on the market. We really appreciate the work that you are doing to keep kids safe. Your advice is extremely valuable and we understand your passion to make the best and most reliable products available.
Sal and Amy Emma