Ron Cote

School Lock-Downs – blending security with traditional fire and life safety

Blog Post created by Ron Cote Employee on Jun 16, 2015

The names can be hauntingly familiar—Cleveland,
Lindhurst, Pearl, Westside, Columbine, Red Lake, Nickel Mines, Virginia Tech,
Chardon, Sandy Hook. They represent sites of school violence tragedies that
will torment the affected communities for decades to come. The incidents are
infrequent, but their consequences, in terms of deaths and injuries and the
impact on the broader community, are often severe.

 

School administrators, parents, and public officials are
demanding increased school security in light of these types of school violence
episodes. Consensus codes and standards, like those widely used for fire
safety, do not exist for use in preventing or effectively managing a school
violence incident with the potential for severe consequences. Instead,
communities are drafting their own solutions; despite the well-meaning intent
of those measures, some of them have the potential to adversely affect the
level of fire safety already present in school buildings.

 

NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, and the other model fire and life safety codes require that
doors not be locked so as to prevent egress. Locks or latches must be able to
be disengaged so that a door can be opened with only one operation; that
operation cannot include the use of a key, tool, or special knowledge or
effort. But hardware and related installation and usage guidelines do not exist
that would allow a classroom door to be locked against opening from the
corridor side while still ensuring the door can be opened by any classroom
occupant, or that emergency responders can access the classroom in time to
prevent an occupant from causing harm to those within the room.

 

In December 2014, NFPA held a two-day school security workshop at the University
of Maryland. The event was designed to identify problem areas affecting schools
as they mesh security with fire and life safety, and to propose short- and
long-term solutions to those problems. The more than 60 attendees included the
full gamut of stakeholders as identified by NFPA staff who conceived and
managed the program: educators, state educational regulators, fire and life
safety authorities having jurisdiction, law enforcement officers, fire
protection and security consultants, fire and security systems manufacturers,
testing laboratories, and technical committee members. The workshop consisted
of panel discussions and professionally facilitated breakout sessions for three
groups. Each breakout group addressed one facet of the school security issue:
codes, security, and operations. Following each round of breakout sessions, the
attendees reassembled to receive and discuss each group’s report.

 

The workshop facilitation firm, Energetics Inc.,
delivered the final report in May. The 5 MB PDF is available at:

http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/occupancies/school-fires/codes-and-security-workshop

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