Over the past few years, the NFPA 101, Life Safety Code Technical Committees repeatedly learned of schools’ efforts to protect students and staff that, in many cases, were imperiling safety. It was determined by the Committees that a cost-effective door lock/latch combination utilizing a second releasing operation was needed so that the Code would continue to deliver a high level of safety to students, staff and visitors and, at the same time, minimize the need for well-intentioned but dangerously misguided applications.
A newly issued tentative interim amendment (TIA) to NFPA 101 now enables existing classroom school doors to be retrofitted with secondary hardware, which might include items such as a thumb turn lock. This option can be used in lieu of single operation hardware, which combines a latch and lock together, if a school finds the single operation hardware solution cost-prohibitive.
Prior to the TIA issuance, schools were required to use lock/latch sets utilizing a single releasing operation when retrofitting classroom doors, as required by the 2018 edition of the Code. Because this requirement reportedly has been considered cost-prohibitive for schools, many resorted to solutions or installations involving barricades, door wedges, rope, and other contrivances as cheaper alternatives. These devices and applications pose significant risks to occupant safety and also present potential challenges and hazards to teachers on a daily basis, as well as to first responders who need to quickly gain access to school classrooms and other student-use spaces during emergencies.
Regardless of the approach taken to retrofitting classroom, engaging and disengaging the lock cannot require special knowledge, strength, or any other unique abilities. Performance requirements related to these locking devices include the following criteria:
- The door must be lockable without having to open it.
- The lock cannot require special knowledge, a key, or tool to engage or disengage from the classroom side of the door.
- The two releasing operations must not be required to be performed simultaneously to unlock/unlatch the door.
- The lock must be installed at an acceptable height - between 34 to 48 inches above the floor.
- The door must have the ability to be unlocked and opened from outside the classroom with the necessary key or credential.
- The staff must be drilled in the engagement and release of locks.
Earlier this year, NFPA released a school safety and security update document for schools and code enforcers to help answer questions and concerns around safe door locking and related issues. With the issuance of the TIA, an updated version of the resource has been made available. For more information about NFPA’s efforts to address building security and safety, visit www.nfpa.org/security.