Barricade Devices – What You Need To Know
January 10, 2019|SCHOOL SAFETY
As of 2019 according to the Washington Post, more than 220,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine. In its aftermath, public outrage has led to many conversations and debates about ways to prevent future incidents from occurring, as well as hardening construction in existing and new school buildings to better protect students and faculty. Sandy Hook and other tragic school shooting incidents in the past sparked the invention of devices intended to prevent doors from opening. These devices have become known as door barricade devices.
Should barricade devices be used to secure classroom doors during an active-shooter incident?
Barricade devices have emerged in the last few years in response to fears that inadequate security may leave classrooms vulnerable. They’re perceived to be generally less expensive to purchase, and easier to procure and install than traditional security devices, such as lockets or access control solutions.
They’re designed to do two things:
- Allow people inside the room to “lock” closed doors without opening the doors and exposing themselves to potentially dangerous circumstances in the corridors. (Many older existing classrooms doors have lockets that can only be locked and unlocked by key on the hallway side of the doors, meaning that staff are exposed to danger and need to open the door and step into the hallway to lock doors.)
- The purpose of some door barricade devices is to make doors more resistant to forced entry attacks by reinforcing a portion of the doors whether it be designed by cables or brackets, to fit over the top of hardware components, or even underneath doors.
By employing or installing these devices, doors becomes fixed regardless of the locking hardware installed (locked or unlocked) on classroom doors. While securing the door with a classroom barricade device may seem to address the immediate need for security, it is important to discuss barricade device life-safety concerns. [FCIA: Life Safety Digest]
Barricade Device Life-Safety Concerns
Traditional lockets, unlike barricade devices, meet code requirements for free egress, fire protection, and accessibility.
- Free Egress: Allowing occupants to exit without obstruction
- Fire Protection: Compartmentalizing the building to deter the spread of smoke and flames
- Accessibility: Ensuring assess for all, including people with disabilities
As stated in the PASS: Partner Alliance for Safer Schools, “these locksets effectively secure classrooms against active shooters; in fact, testimony presented to the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission indicated that an active shooter has never breached a locked classroom door by defeating the lock.”
Let’s be clear – Barricade devices are not code-compliant. Some argue that because the device is intended for use only in emergency situations, securing the door takes priority over free egress, fire protection, and accessibility. (First responders cannot disengage or release door barricade devices from the hallway side of the door, preventing them from entering classrooms!)
However – Because there is no guarantee the device will only be installed in emergency circumstances, the device can be misused, moreover, a dangerous liability.
- Children will be children- what if a student locks themselves into a classroom? How does faculty regain entry?
- Consider bully or harassment scenarios- door barricade devices prevent both people from escaping and faculty or first responders from intervening.
Barricade devices are dangerous; commercial door hardware solutions provide increased security and respect all life-safety codes.
Code-Compliant Classroom Locks
The National Association of State Fire Marshals guidelines address door security devices, which are mandatory in many states as they are included as part of the International Building and Fire Codes and Life Safety Codes.
Code-compliant classroom locks should consider the following:
- Location: Door hardware operable parts should be located between 34 and 48 inches above the floor, and not require special knowledge or effort, nor key or tool, nor require tight grasping, twisting, or pinching to operate, and accomplished with one operation.
- Security: Be easily lockable in case of emergency from within the classroom without opening the door.
- Lockable: Lockable and unlockable from both inside and outside the door.
The National Association of State Fire Marshals recommends what classroom locking mechanisms can and should do.
Fast, Easy, Safe
There’s nothing quicker and easier than pressing push button to lockdown a classroom at the first sight of danger. Whether it’s faculty or a student, the person closest to the door is capable of enacting a lockdown in under a second. Minutes and seconds are saved allowing faculty to focus on gathering students into the safe haven area.
No more scrambling for keys or needing to install instruments to the door; the push button is placed on the door. Some classroom function locksets are available with mechanical and electric locking functions.
Life-safety codes require one action to exit- pulling down the lever. Red button Locks respect this requirement, even when the emergency deadbolt is thrown.
No one is ever locked in; you can always exit and enter via keyed entry.
Installing barricade devices may seem like an easy and inexpensive fix means of increasing security, but they are just as likely to heighten issues rather than solve them.
There are many time-tested and proven commercial door hardware solutions that can be used to improve classrooms, as well as resources that offer better and more informed decisions.
PASS: Partner Alliance for Safer Schools
Firestop Contractors International Association: FCIA
Sandy Hook Advisory Commission
National Association of State Fire Marhals