Ensure You Have Rapid Egress and Effective Ingress Control in Schools and Educational Businesses

Barricade Devices as Unusual Solutions

Parents, teachers and school personnel have struggled to figure out the best way to protect students and staff in the event of an active shooter. In some cases, these parties feel that classroom intruder locks and entrance locks aren’t adequate when it comes to keeping their students safe. As a result, devices, such as door barricades, have emerged during the last few years.

Another description for these devices is “ad hoc door barricade devices”. Ad hoc door barricade devices are typically designed to be deployed on classroom doors (in addition to the existing locking hardware) in the event of a lockdown or active shooter situation.

Door barricade devices are currently being made available to—and installed by—some school districts despite the fact that they may violate building codes, fire codes, life-safety codes and/or accessibility laws.

This classroom security lock features an indicator, noting the hardware is unlocked.

This classroom security lock features an indicator, noting the hardware is unlocked.

Consequently, building-code and fire-code officials across the country are being challenged with the task of determining an appropriate compromise between life safety and security when it comes to schools.

Commercial locksets, such as classroom intruder and entrance locks, are designed to meet building, fire and life-safety code requirements for free egress. They always allow occupants to exit a room without impediment. These commercial locksets also meet accessibility requirements set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Building codes, fire codes, life-safety codes and the ADA ensure safe egress and easy access for all by requiring door hardware in public and commercial buildings to have single-operation release for easy egress. These codes also require that locks must not require any keys, tools, special knowledge or effort to unlock.

Door hardware also must not require tight grasping, pinching or twisting of the wrist to open the door. Door barricade devices often violate these codes and regulations, life-safety codes and the ADA because they tend to require multiple steps and/or “special knowledge” for operation, delaying egress.

These inconsistencies may also compromise fire safety and have the potential to create an environment where disabled employees and students are discriminated against because of their inability to operate or remove the barricade device.

Disadvantages of ad hoc Door Barricade Devices
Door barricade devices may seem to provide better security by preventing or delaying ingress to classrooms but, unfortunately, the availability of door barricade devices in classrooms facilitates unauthorized use that can do more harm than good. If a door barricade device is used by someone intending to harm others, these devices can especially be hazardous to life safety. Many ad hoc door barricade devices are difficult for authorized personnel outside of the room to remove or disengage and may require significant physical force to breach the door.

As mentioned, door barricade devices can also make it harder for people to leave a room in life-threatening situations when installed, should there be a fire or an intruder already in the classroom, for example. These devices are also more difficult for smaller children, the elderly or those with disabilities to operate than conventional locksets.

Ad hoc door barricade devices may help people feel safer by allowing them to barricade themselves inside a classroom during an emergency but, in reality—unless they comply with building, fire and life-safety codes, as well as with accessibility requirements—these devices introduce unintended risks that far outweigh their intended benefit.

Staying with the Codes

To help address these life-safety issues, the New York-based Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) is working with other stakeholders to provide information about the risks of some ad hoc door barricade devices in schools and to review and revise building codes, fire codes and life-safety codes.

Thanks, in part, to the efforts put forth by BHMA, new language has been approved to be added to the 2018 International Building Code (IBC) when it comes to educational buildings. The IBC classifies these facilities as Group E, which pertains to daycare centers and schools up to the 12th grade, or Group B, which includes universities, community colleges and other centers of learning. The 2018 IBC language will read as follows:

PHOTOS: Allegion

About the Author

John Woestman
John Woestman is director of Codes & Government Affairs for the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association, New York.

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