Printed from the blog of Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI
Allegion
Email: lori_greene@allegion.com, Blog: www.idighardware.com or www.ihatehardware.com


Mar 19 2019

Wicked Local: School’s Locks Violate Codes

Category: Egress,News,School SecurityLori @ 12:51 am Comments (6)
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A news report hit my inbox a few days ago, which discussed a security situation in a Massachusetts elementary school.  You can read the full article here, but in a nutshell, some classroom barricade devices had been installed in the school in 2014.  During recent renovations, classrooms were relocated and teachers asked for the devices to be installed in their new classrooms.

As I have mentioned before, Massachusetts has a very clear policy which requires code-compliant security (more info here), so the local fire marshal consulted with the state fire marshal and, according to the article, “determined [the barricade devices] no longer meet the Massachusetts building code and recommended they be removed.”  The very last line of the article states, “It is not clear why the locks do not meet the current building codes.”

What is not clear to me is why the news reports almost never explain the concerns associated with classroom barricade devices.  Considering that the Massachusetts State Fire Marshal issued a comprehensive advisory a year ago, there should not be any confusion about this issue in Massachusetts.  This is not new – this is not a question of the devices “no longer” meeting the building code – they never met the Massachusetts State Building Code.  It would be extremely helpful if the news stories would discuss the requirements and help schools avoid spending money on products that do not comply with the adopted codes.

Kudos to the local fire marshal and state fire marshal for enforcing the state codes, kudos to the reporter for not making the fire marshals out to be the bad guys, and kudos to the school district for complying with the fire marshals’ directives.  With that said, this paragraph concerns me:

“Superintendent of Schools Robert Gerardi said because the fire chief was concerned about the building codes, it made sense to remove the locks.  ‘The chief has always been very supportive of the schools,’ Gerardi said. ‘[The nightlocks] are only used in emergencies and I didn’t throw them away because there may be a chance we can get a variance and still use them. Heaven forbid we should have a fire or other catastrophe and those locks were not useful.’ “

Instead of trying to get a variance, I would recommend learning more about the potential risks and liabilities of using barricade devices.  And the last line is chilling…what was the plan for using the barricade devices in a fire or other catastrophe?  Focusing only on the fact that classroom barricade devices do not meet the model codes may motivate code officials or state legislators to modify the codes to remove that barrier.  But the important question is WHY aren’t the devices compliant with the codes?  There are reasons for each and every code requirement, and many of them were incorporated because of past tragedies.  Rather than ignoring all of those lessons learned, let’s rely on solutions that provide security AND safety.  They’re readily available.

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6 Responses to “Wicked Local: School’s Locks Violate Codes”

  1. cda says:

    “It is not clear why the locks do not meet the current building codes.”

    Maybe a good reporter would ask the question to the right people, and get an answer.

    I like the end around company name “nightlock”, makes it sound so safe.

  2. Richard Leibowitz says:

    In Massachusetts the fire official has no authority to approve or disapprove any portion of the Building Code including egress, that responsibility belongs to the Building Inspector. I’d like to think the Superintendent of Schools and Fire Officials took the time to consult with the (AHJ) Authority Having Jurisdiction (The Building Inspector) before making any determination about code compliance. The media should have examined how the locks were approved in the first place.

    • Lori says:

      Hi Richard –

      I noticed that inconsistency too – the article mentioning the fire marshal in conjunction with the building code. Unfortunately, in some states this issue has become a conflict between the building official and fire marshal, who are both typically enforcing the same or similar requirements from the adopted building code and fire code. I’d like to see less focus on the power struggle and more on the intent of the code requirements.

      – Lori

  3. DAVID FEDERICO says:

    Is not about time we quit fighting with each authority and decide for once and for all that life safety is the Paramount issue. “Some times it not making the right decision but making the decision right .”

  4. Austin Bammann says:

    I like the press release by ALICE but wish they used the term barricade instead of door locking device. The door can be locked and be code compliant but it cannot be barricaded.

  5. LarryG says:

    Lori, In my experience there is way, way more conflict on this issue between what fire marshals are trying to achieve and what the local police are trying to achieve when they recommend barricade devices. And a lot less actual conflict between the fire marshal and building officials who, more often than not, are on the same page with life safety considerations. No pun intended but, this is a lack of education issue with Education Administrators who turn to their local police only to help solve this complex problem. Not helping is there is no shortage of non-compliant barricade devices that were either developed or are being endorsed by members of law enforcement.

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