Page 164 - Security Today, July/August 2018
P. 164

Why are there no active shooter barricades in K-12 schools? BIy Dave Geenens
n sporting events, the score often doesn’t tell the whole story. In the search for active shooter barricades in U.S. K-12 schools, this score tells it all. One hundred and thirty-four is the approximate number of fatalities attributed to active shooters in K-12 schools since late 2000. Each one of those 134 people
was someone’s son, daughter, sister, brother, grandchild, father or mother, and each one was so much more than a data point.
Then what’s the zero? Zero approximates the number of active shooter barricades in K-12 schools today. The zero also represents much more, and it’s this zero that tells the real story of the absence of active shooter barricades in schools today.
Since 1998, there have been exactly zero reported deaths by smoke or fire in K-12 schools. Why is this relevant? This fatality statistic alone is fantastic, but there’s more. The same forces that have delivered on safe- ty in K-12 schools in case of smoke and fire—the Life Safety code com- mittees that author the nation’s fire codes; the Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), including the nation’s state and local fire marshals who enforce these codes; and the door and door hardware manufac- turers who innovate to make doors more smoke-proof and fireproof— have played a very active and key role in preventing code changes that would make way for active shooter barricades in schools.
Eighteen years have passed since the Columbine shooting in Little- ton, Colorado (for which the data is not included in the score above), yet virtually no active shooter barricades are on K-12 classroom doors—a product of the significant efforts of this triad.
Who would have known? The manufacturers and sellers of active shooter barricades to the market did. These innovators have been try- ing to penetrate this blockade by the triad for years, to little avail. Cur- rent fire codes do allow for some form of secondary locking devices on classroom doors if these requirements, among other criteria, are met:
• The doors are lockable from inside the classroom and both lockable
and unlockable from outside the classroom door with a key.
• Egress needs only a single motion, requiring no key, special tool or
knowledge or effort.
• The height of a secondary locking mechanism is within 34 to 48
inches of the floor for ADA and fire code compliance.
Most, if not all, of the early barricade devices met none of these crite- ria, though they would certainly keep an active shooter threat out. Many were archaic in design, much like the early-America method of placing a beam across a door to protect one’s house and property. Some are more sophisticated now, using sliding mechanisms at the base of a door, a ratchet and cable mechanism to winch a door shut, a sleeve placed over an automatic door closer to prevent a door from opening or door-mounted posts that can be pushed into a hole in the floor to secure a room.
Some are as simple as a refrigerator-type magnet used to prevent an inside-locking classroom door from being locked as long as the mag- net is in place covering the latch hole. These are all still on the market today and are approved active shooter barricades in a few states. But most are not allowed in K-12 schools because they violate current
adopted and enforced fire codes.
The AHJ’s have a point. Getting out of a building quickly and in an
orderly fashion is essential for the preservation of life in case of smoke or fire. We’ve seen the horror of what happens when egress is restrict- ed—the Oakland warehouse fire of 2016 and earlier club fires on the East Coast provide gruesome evidence.
The reality, though, is that doors provide two purposes: egress from a room, partition or space when exiting is required; and closure for privacy, quiet and security (more specifically, secure-in-place safety). The latter purpose draws us to question the lopsided score. Can the two purposes not co-exist? Not until active shooter barricade manu- facturers honor the need for unrestricted egress in case of fire, and not until the triad of code authors, enforcers and door and door hardware innovators honor the need for affordable, secure-in-place safety.
Here is what can happen when a fire occurs and a non-code-compliant active shooter barricade is actuated on a classroom door: any special tool or knowledge required to open the barricade could restrict egress enough to cause fatalities. Not a satisfactory outcome.
In an active shooter emergency, will it keep an active shooter from entering a classroom? It likely will, since that is what it is designed to do. But what if the active shooter barricades himself or herself in a

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