Urgent: A set of bills that if passed will allow temporary door locking devices by law is moving through the Massachusetts Legislature. 

Silhouette of MassachusettsThe text of these bills can be found here:  H.4155 and S.2514.  On June 17th, the House bill received a favorable vote from the House Public Safety Committee, and was referred to the committee on House Ways and Means.  The same process previously occurred in the Senate.

The Massachusetts bills address temporary door locking devices, and require the state’s executive office of public safety and security to promulgate regulations so these locks may be used in public buildings, including but not limited to schools.  The required regulations will include circumstances and locations where the devices may be used, with local approval from the fire department and law enforcement.  In addition, the rules will cover the integration of temporary locking devices into building safety plans, training of first responders and public employees, and annual inspections.

The bills define a temporary locking device as one that prevents a door from opening, and require that the device:

  • can be engaged or removed without opening the door
  • allows egress without the use of a key, special knowledge, or effort
  • can be unlocked from the outside with a key or other credential
  • does not modify the door closer or panic hardware
  • is not permanently mounted on the door (some components are allowed to be permanently mounted)
  • does not affect the fire rating of the door per NFPA 80
  • can be removed with one operation, or two operations if the building is equipped throughout with an automatic sprinkler system

The bill states:  Temporary door locking devices, as defined in this section, shall not be proscribed by any ordinance that prohibits a building from installing a barricade device.

I was not familiar with the word “proscribed”, so I looked it up.  According to Merriam-Webster, a definition of proscribe is: as in to prohibit – to order not to do or use or to be done or used.  I also checked with a lawyer friend, who confirmed that this line in the bill means that if a jurisdiction passes an ordinance prohibiting barricade devices, temporary door locking devices (AKA barricade devices) will not be prohibited, as they will be allowed by state law.

There are many concerns regarding classroom barricade devices that do not comply with the model codes and standards…unauthorized use, barriers to egress and accessibility, fire safety, reliability (read more about these here).  I am so surprised to see these bills making progress.  A similar Massachusetts bill did not pass in 2019, and at that time the state had already adopted many policies to help protect students and teachers at school (more info here).

As with any proposed legislation, Massachusetts constituents interested in voicing their opinions can reach out to their local representatives to discuss.


Which of the barricade devices below will be permitted if this law is passed in Massachusetts? 

That depends on each person’s definition of “special knowledge or effort”, their level of comfort with the method used for unlocking the device from the outside, and their assessment of whether the device “modifies” the closer or panic hardware.

Examples of door barricades

The Massachusetts bills do not limit the mounting height of the device to between 34 and 48 inches above the floor, nor do they require devices that are operable without tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist.  These are both mandates of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as the Massachusetts State Building Code, the Massachusetts State Fire Code, and the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board Standards (with a height limit of 36-48 inches instead of 34-48 inches).

The bills currently being considered in Massachusetts would remove these protections currently found in the adopted codes and standards and would allow temporary locking devices in public buildings.  When considering locking methods, it is crucial to maintain the balance of security and safety for building occupants.  There are (MANY) locks available that provided the necessary security without compromising life safety or accessibility.

If the intent of the Massachusetts law is to allow only code-compliant temporary locking devices, why is a new law needed?  The adopted codes and standards in the state of Massachusetts already address the requirements for hardware on doors in a means of egress.  If changes need to be made to the codes, the code development process should be used to accomplish that.

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