After a school shooting in November of 2021, several news reports mentioned that barricade devices had saved students’ lives during the incident.  To date, a detailed analysis of what occurred during the shooting has not been released, so there is no way to know what actually helped to secure the classrooms – the door locks, barricaded furniture, or another security method.  I have read numerous reports of the shooting without learning whether the shooter attempted to enter classrooms where the doors were locked and/or blocked by furniture, or what prevented him from gaining access.

Just over a week ago, a gunman entered the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas.  Four people were held hostage for more then 10 hours, and their escape clearly demonstrates why it’s important to keep all options open – including the ability to exit – during this type of situation.  From the Associated Press:

“First of all, we escaped. We weren’t released or freed,” said Cohen, who was one of four people in the synagogue for services that many other Congregation Beth Israel members were watching online.

Cohen said the men worked to keep the gunman engaged. They talked to the gunman, and he lectured them. At one point as the situation devolved, Cohen said the gunman told them to get on their knees. Cohen recalled rearing up in his chair and slowly moving his head and mouthing “no.” As the gunman moved to sit back down, Cohen said Cytron-Walker yelled to run.

“The exit wasn’t too far away,” Cytron-Walker said. “I told them to go. I threw a chair at the gunman, and I headed for the door. And all three of us were able to get out without even a shot being fired.”

Would the outcome have been different if the hostages were not able to exit freely?  Or if the intruder had barricaded the exit?  I am reminded of the 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand.  The exit in one of the mosques had been secured with an electrified lock that did not allow free egress as required by the US model codes.  Fifty people died in the shootings in Christchurch.  How many could have survived if the exit door had allowed them to escape?

There are concerns associated with barricade devices that can trap building occupants as well as delaying or preventing access by emergency responders.  The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) has published a document to help school administrators and other facility managers learn about the potential dangers associated with the use of classroom barricade devices.  PASS also has school safety and security guidelines, a checklist, and other resources available on their website – passk12.org.

A recent article in Security Sales & Integration addressed how to work with schools to integrate the PASS guidelines – the article can be read on the SSI website.  The video below gives a good overview of PASS.  This organization can be instrumental in helping schools make security decisions that don’t neglect life safety, fire protection, or accessibility.  If you have any questions about PASS, feel free to leave them in the comment box and you will receive a response from the organization.

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