Meanwhile, in an effort to provide some guidance for those seeking to increase classroom security, the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) has published a set of guidelines that includes a “Suggested Classroom Door Checklist,” and identifies many parameters that should be satisfied when selecting and installing security hardware in classrooms. These include:
- door being lockable from inside the classroom without requiring the door to be opened;
- egress through the classroom door without use of a key, tool, special knowledge, or effort;
- ability to unlatch the classroom door from inside the classroom with one operation;
- classroom door being lockable and unlockable from outside the classroom;
- door-operating hardware being operable without tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist;
- door hardware operable parts being located between 863 and 1219 mm (34 and 48 in.) above the floor;
- the bottom 254 mm (10 in.) of the ‘push’ side of the door surface being smooth;
- a fire-rated door and hardware being self-closing and self-latching; and
- doors not being modified in a way that invalidates the required fire-rating of the door and/or door hardware where a fire-rated door is required.
The NASFM guidelines note these requirements may be mandatory depending on applicable codes, laws, and regulations. The IBC, International Fire Code (IFC), and/or National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) 101, Life Safety Code, have been adopted in most states, and include the egress, fire, and accessibility requirements in NASFM’s checklist.
At NASFM’s 2015 annual conference, members approved a resolution supporting the group’s “Classroom Door Security & Locking Hardware” guidelines. In an excerpt from this resolution, the state fire marshals warn against the use of classroom barricade devices:
Whereas, when selecting hardware that allows classroom doors to be lockable from inside the classroom, consideration should be given to the risks and potential consequences of utilizing a device that blocks the classroom door from the inside. For example, devices that prevent classroom doors from being unlocked and openable from outside the classroom may place the inhabitants of the room in peril. In addition to the requirement that classroom doors must be unlatchable in a single motion from inside the classroom, these doors should always be unlockable and openable from outside the classroom by authorized persons.
Many code officials have responded to questions about school security by reiterating that egress doors (including classroom doors) must meet the requirements of the adopted codes. Although efforts are underway to incorporate school security requirements into the model codes, states and local jurisdictions have been busy issuing their own directives on this issue, with mixed results.
Florida and California have already adopted requirements or guidelines that are more stringent than the current model codes. They require classroom doors to be lockable from the inside, with classroom security locks being the preferred lock function.
However, in Arkansas, the Senate voted unanimously to amend the fire code requirements and allow the use of barricade devices despite the strong objections of the state fire marshal who noted potential issues with emergency egress and removal of the device—as well as the financial interest of an Arkansas state legislator in a company that manufactures barricade devices.
In Ohio, a law was passed which forced the Ohio Board of Building Standards to modify the state codes in order to allow classroom barricade devices to be used. The board had previously held hearings to gather testimony and created a report to support their conclusion that no changes should be made to the current building and fire codes. However, because of the new law, the state code had to be changed regardless of the board’s position, and certain types of classroom barricade devices are now allowed in Ohio schools.
Other states have independently issued directives or adopted various code changes. For example, Colorado has adopted a code change that allows temporary security measures only until January 1, 2018. The state fire marshal in Kansas issued a memo allowing temporary security devices to be used, while Louisiana allows a deadbolt that requires one additional operation to unlatch the door. Further, New Jersey permits some types of devices, but not others.
The only thing these policies have in common is a startling inconsistency from one state to the next. Therefore, it is more important than ever to be aware of local code requirements, including the jurisdiction’s position on barricade devices.