What do school superintendents and parents need to consider to ensure classroom safety and security?
Dangers of Barricades
Storing the barricade in a locked drawer or location known only to the teacher, does not fix the problem. Additionally, most barricade devices prevent access from the outside, so even a staff member or emergency responder with a key to the classroom door would not be able to enter.
It is critical that these devices are vetted through the formal code process to ensure that the proper balance of life safety and security is met. There are already solutions in place in most schools and experts who can help you confirm if your school is safe and secure.
Liabilities of Barricade Devices
Modifying building codes to allow for door barricade devices might keep a gunman out of classrooms, but the unintended consequences associated with the devices could put children at even more risk and could make the school liable.
This type of reactionary response has resulted in several state legislatures overriding both existing codes and the objections of their fire marshals and approving the installation and use of retrofit barricade devices in classrooms. Many of these devices are not code-compliant, particularly when layered over existing hardware, and could actually prohibit egress and endanger the life safety of the school’s occupants in the event of an emergency.
Obstacles during egress can be fatal during an emergency. Modern codes exist because of lessons learned from school fires and other tragedies. A district considering whether to install classroom barricade devices should take into account the possibility of an exit being accidentally or maliciously blocked during an emergency or even a bullying incident, amongst many other unintended consequences.
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI, students are the most likely people to commit violence on school grounds, not outsiders.
As seen in the school shootings at Virginia Tech, the West Nickel Mines schoolhouse and Platte Canyon High School, shooters often barricade themselves in a classroom with others to cause harm or take hostages.
Storing a barricade device in a classroom makes crimes easier to carry out and increases the chance of an unintended consequence.
Benefits of Code Compliant Locks
Testimony presented to the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission indicated that an active shooter has never breached a locked classroom door by defeating the lock. The solution is to lock the door. Don’t block it.