Perhaps the most important finding from the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, is the simplest measure: Make sure classrooms can be locked from the inside.
This article discusses fire and life-safety codes, dangers secondary barricade devices pose, and lessons learned as it
relates to lockdowns and hardware. Reviewing active shooter incidents allow us to identify and apply valuable lessons so
mistakes are never repeated.
Fire & Life-Safety Codes: How We Got Here
Modern fire and life-safety codes were molded as a result of tragic fires that took place in the early half of the 20th
century. One of the most notable tragedies was in 1903, the Iroquois Theater Fire in Chicago.
On December 30, 1903 the opulent, five-week old Iroquois Theater was filled with guests for an afternoon performance.
The eager crowd of more than 2,000 patrons could not have suspected that almost a third of them would perish
As the show began its second act, a spark from a stage light set fire to the backdrop and curtains, unfolding mayhem. When it became apparent that the fire could not be contained, theater-goers desperately trampled one another toward what few exits they could find.
Terrified patrons clogged the aisles and funneled through the 3 exits they could find; the remaining exits were roped or
gated off, covered entirely with curtains, equipped with counter-balanced locks, combined with unclear exit signs.
27 of the 30 points of egress were either blocked, locked, or otherwise obstructed.
More than 600 people lost their lives in the fire, regarded as the deadliest theater fire and deadliest single-building fire in
Learning From The Past
Many fire and life-safety codes are the result of tragic losses such as those that occurred at the Iroquois Theater.
Code officials worked hard to make sure this would never happen again, adopting codes for buildings and door hardware designed so that exiting can be done safely and effectively with single motion egress. Industry professionals met the call and have designed and refined door exit hardware.
How does code-compliance impact school locking?
Products marketed to vulnerable schools, called barricade devices or Secondary Barricade Devices, gloss over, or minimize threats posed by fires trapping occupants.
They’re sold as a “quick-fix” for doors that cannot be locked from the inside, as opposed to updating or replacing the lock. Unfortunately, an unnecessary risk is being created as a blocked door may place children and teachers in harm’s way.
Secondary Barricade Devices may prevent first responders, teachers or school staff from using a key to enter the room.
Secondary barricade devices, which are not locks, not code compliant and not approved for installation on doors used
for exiting, are being aggressively promoted to schools and parents.
Bullies and would-be assaulters can use secondary barricade devices to trap someone in a room with no chance to escape. All the lessons learned since the Iroquois Theater Fire are lost.