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Jun 13 2018

WW: Safety vs. Security

A couple of weeks ago I posted a terrific news report that addressed the use of barricade devices in Tennessee schools – the fire marshal had enforced the codes and the devices were removed.

Unfortunately, the fire marshal has faced strong opposition from the sheriff in Perry County, who had raised money to buy barricade devices without realizing that they were not compliant with the adopted codes.  This is not the first time this has happened…once the money has been collected it becomes even more important to override the safety requirements and buy the devices that the community has paid for.

Now the news reports are basically saying that the state fire marshal has changed the codes in Tennessee, and barricade devices are allowed.  But I’m confused.  The codes in Tennessee DID change – on June 1st, the state filed an emergency rule filing form, adopting the classroom locking section of NFPA 101-2018.  But this code does not say “anything goes” – it includes specific requirements for classroom locking.  Here’s the section from the chapter on existing educational occupancies: Classroom Door Locking to Prevent Unwanted Entry. Classroom doors shall be permitted to be locked to prevent unwanted entry provided that the locking means is approved and all of the following conditions are met:  [Note: “Approved” means acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction.]

(1) The locking means shall be capable of being engaged without opening the door.  [Note: The Tennessee form says that the state is not adopting this particular requirement.]

(2) The unlocking and unlatching from the classroom side of the door can be accomplished without the use of a key, tool, or special knowledge or effort.  [Note:  “Special knowledge or effort” can vary widely, depending on the AHJ’s interpretation.]

(3) The releasing mechanism for unlocking and unlatching shall be located at a height not less than 34 in. (865 mm) and not exceeding 48 in. (1220 mm) above the finished floor.  [Note:  If the mounting height requirement is enforced (as it is also required by the ADA – a federal law), devices which must be released by reaching to the top or bottom of the door would not be compliant.]

(4) Locks, if remotely engaged, shall be unlockable from the classroom side of the door without the use of a key, tool, or special knowledge or effort.  [Note:  This typically applies to electrified hardware.]

(5) The door shall be capable of being unlocked and opened from outside the room with the necessary key or other credential.  [Note:  Many classroom barricade devices can not be unlocked from the outside with a key or credential.]

(6) The locking means shall not modify the door closer, panic hardware, or fire exit hardware.  [Note: Barricade devices which attach to existing closers and panic hardware are not compliant with this requirement and could also void the warranty and listings of any existing door hardware.]

(7) Modifications to fire door assemblies, including door hardware, shall be in accordance with NFPA 80.  [Note:  NFPA 80 and the model codes require products used as part of a fire door assembly to be listed to UL 10C/NFPA 252.  I don’t know of any barricade devices that have been tested and listed to these standards.  Do you?]

(8) The emergency action plan, required by 15.7.1, shall address the use of the locking and unlocking means from within and outside the room.  [Note: NFPA 3000 includes additional requirements and recommendations for emergency action plans, including a requirement for doors to meet the egress requirements of NFPA 101.  In addition to the requirements listed here, NFPA 101 also limits doors to one releasing operation to retract the latch or latches.  This is one operation to release all latches simultaneously (existing hardware + retrofit security device) – not one operation for each latch.]

(9) Staff shall be drilled in the engagement and release of the locking means, from within and outside the room, as part of the emergency egress drills required by 15.7.2.  [Note: There are additional considerations for classroom security, which are addressed in this article.]

And finally, here’s the news report from Fox 17 News that left me Wordless (but not Wordless enough to keep quiet):

Image and Video:  Fox 17 News

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8 Responses to “WW: Safety vs. Security”

  1. Jeff Tock says:

    The sheriff claims the locks can be shot off of the door. Can he site an example when this has been done? Pictures that I have seen of doors that were shot showed that the door remained locked.

    • Lori says:

      I don’t know of a school shooter entering an occupied classroom that way in past shootings.

      – Lori

  2. Julia B says:

    Those nightlock lockdown devices are the same ones that a large school system in the state of Kentucky recently got bids for. Unfortunately, the AHJ has approved the use of these awful things. I emailed you about this a while back, Lori. It should be noted that the company that makes and sells these devices also bids the installation for them through an offshoot company owned by the same people. So the school systems can think they are really getting a bargain when they put these out for bid and other suppliers have to purchase from the company with no hope of getting the pricing they need to win a bid. Fortunately, my company did not bid on his project as we do not believe in these barricade devices.

    • Lori says:

      Hi Julia –

      The liability and risk involved with this is such that I would never supply or install these devices. When a barricade device is used to secure a classroom and assault someone while preventing school staff from entering, the fingers will be pointing everywhere.

      – Lori

      • Julia says:

        Exactly! We know that eventually this is going to happen. Either a student will assault another student, or even a teacher. It is sad that people cannot see this. I am lucky my company will not bid these devices. It is a horrible accident waiting to happen.

  3. Rich McKie says:

    “The police can shoot them off the door”. That rates an “OMG!” from me.
    Having seen numerous times how many shots some police officers need to bring down an assailant
    I can only imagine how many shots with their attendant ricochets would be needed to shoot one of these
    gadgets off a door.

  4. Chuck Noble says:

    Hello Lori.
    This is a case of two very different mind sets. One being the Life Safety mind set that wants to get everyone out of the building in the quickest and safest manner. The other, is the Security mind set that wants to lock down everything and keep every in place.
    The two mind sets do not talk to each other, therefore can not come to a compromise.
    My opinion is different from many who read this blog. If my child was in a school with an active shooter, I would want that entry system locked down, secured and I am also in favor of teachers being trained and arm with fire arms. The schools are at war Lori. The teachers need to realize this fact. After the incident the teacher is trained to unlock the devices.
    The locking and unlocking is similar to the Healthcare allowance that allows patientrooms, smoke compartments to be locked if the patient (clinical needs) require lock downs.

    • Krystina says:

      I totally understand this. On my personal house in my own home, we use door clubs on all exterior doors except one. I am touching these on at least a weekly basis, and even my oldest kid is familiar with how to get it out. However, being prior military and being trained to think of all the what-ifs to look at all the safety and security to find that balance, I have come to accept the phrase “Never underestimate the stupidity of people in large groups” is all too true. Scared students and staff is one of those groups. My biggest fear as a parent is that all these barricade devices become allowed, and then some suicidal, intelligent kid plans ahead… bombs are planted to start fires. Kid comes in shooting, when he knows that everyone has their barricade devices in place, he sets of well-placed and times bombs remotely. Now there are kids and staff trapped, panicked in a room with a fire. Unfortunately, there’s now too much smoke to be able to see to undo the barricade device that they have only used or touched a couple of times during drills. Everyone dies because police and emts have to wait for firefighters to axe the door open because the door is barricaded and unlocking it doesn’t help. This is the stuff my nightmares are made of. Mythbusters several years ago also did an episode of shooting out a lock… NOT EASY. They found that with a wood door is was just as easy to shoot a hole in the door to open from the inside as it was to shoot the lock. In once case (if I remember correctly), it actually damaged the lock to the point the door wouldn’t open. When I explain things like this to my parent friends, they understand. We remember before school shootings, bomb threats were the big fear.

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