Similar to the scenario laid out in the Iroquois Theater, secondary barricade devices trap occupants in place preventing anyone from quickly exiting if they need to.
When we say quickly exiting, we mean with no special knowledge required and with one motion, pulling the lever down or pressing the panic bar like you normally would.
Besides impeding the ability to enter/exit and not meeting ADA requirements, secondary barricade devices create a new set of life-safety challenges. If an unauthorized person engages the blocking device to barricade the door, administrators may be unable to enter, creating a liability.
Statistically, while school shootings are still very rare, data shows that they are happening more often.
From 1999 to 2014, the average number of days between shootings was 124 days. From 2015 to 2018, the average was 77 days.
We learned from the 2006 shooting at West Nickel Mines School in PA just how deadly secondary barricades can be. First responders were unable to enter and trapped occupants were unable to flee, resulting in the death of five school children. In 2007, we revisit the tragedies associated with barricading at Virginia Tech when a gunman trapped students by chaining several main doors before he entered and opened fire.
Each tragedy has provided momentum (as well as state and federal funds) towards initiatives aimed at keeping schools safe. While secondary barricade devices seem like an easy solution, we must do our part in making schools aware of the dangers that they pose.
Recommendations by NASFM & DHS
The National Association of State Fire Marshals’ Classroom Door Security & Locking Hardware Checklist, highlights the importance of being able to effectively secure yourself from the interior of the classroom, and to steer away from locksets that require teachers to go in the hall to lock the door.
The Department of Homeland Security recommends employing the use of a push-button mechanism to avoid having to scramble for a key.
Spending precious dollars wisely is important. We have not lost any students in an active shooter situation in the United States when they are secured behind a locked door.
School Lockdowns: Lessons Learned
Reviewing active shooter incidents as it relates to door hardware, allows us to reflect and apply valuable lessons so mistakes are never repeated.
In 2005 at Red Lake Senior High, we learned the importance of sheltering in place. The active shooter repeatedly tried opening classrooms, only to find that those doors had been locked.
In 2012, we learned the importance of training all individuals on emergency protocols. The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission reported that lives were lost in a classroom when a substitute teacher didn’t have a key and didn’t receive training on the security protocols.
Stoneman Douglas’ school shooting revealed that a teacher was killed by the shooter while trying to lock the classroom door from the corridor side of the door.
Separately and with no teacher present, no key fob or credentials, and no time to stack furniture, a student desperately barricaded the door using his body resulting in several life-altering gunshot wounds and injuries.
Classroom Door Locking & Code-Compliance
Classroom function door locks were originally designed with a key on the corridor side of the door. They have been in use for decades as a way of entry and locking the door when the teacher leaves the room at the end of the day.
Intruder function, or double cylinder, door locks were a response to lessons learned at Columbine, so that the teacher didn’t have to open the door to use their key.
Sandy Hook taught us that only relying upon a teacher and key was not an effective method.
Red Button Intruder Locks allow anyone in the room to quickly barricade the door in a lockdown, while retaining single motion egress and code-compliant keyed entry. Pressing the button projects a locking bolt, changes the visual indicator and safely protects everyone in the room.
Red button locking is the logical lock function evolution and a code-compliant response to today’s need to barricade or lockdown a classroom door quickly.
Secondary barricade devices may be tempting to install as an inexpensive lockdown method, however, as experts in both security and door hardware, it’s imperative that we do our part in voicing life-safety concerns and offer guidance to decision makers and stakeholders.
School shooting studies in the United States disclose that not a single student or staff member was killed behind a locked interior door, affording evidence that door hardware and efficient lockdowns are still the most effective tool in preventing deaths during this epidemic of deadly school shootings.