Oxford Shooting Update: A Warning About Non-Code-Compliant Door Barricade Devices
Most door barricade devices don’t comply with ADA and NFPA codes. They also pose other major risks.
Editor’s Note: The article below originally ran on CampusSafetyMagazine.com in December 2018, but I’m re-posting it because claims are being made that barricade devices were used to keep the active shooter out of classrooms at Oxford High School in Michigan during the November 30 school mass shooting.
There have been calls on various social media platforms by parents and other members of the public to have these types of barricade devices installed in all schools across America. It’s my understanding that even the Wall Street Journal has run an article about this topic.
Before any school district or college campus runs out and spends a lot of money on these barricade devices, they need to remember that the after-action report on this tragedy has not been publicized yet, so we don’t know the following:
- If barricade devices were actually used
- If they were used, if they actually worked
- If they created other problems that were potentially life-threatening
More importantly, even if these devices did save lives at Oxford High School, most door barricade products pose the following risks:
- They could be used by criminals to trap students, teachers and other individuals inside a classroom
- Under some circumstances, even persons who don’t have any disabilities could be prevented from evacuating a building during an emergency when these products are used
- They could prevent individuals with disabilities from evacuating a building during an emergency, such as a fire
- Most door barricade devices on the market violate the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) as well as National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes
- Barricade devices only address one issue: assailants with weapons, such as guns and knives, so the campuses investing in these devices aren’t getting the most “bang for their buck.” It’s wise to adopt solutions that address a multitude of risks. For example, access control and ADA and NFPA-compliant locks and door hardware not only keep out an active shooter (by the way, the chances of a student being killed by an active shooter are extremely small), they help prevent vandalism and theft (which happen much more frequently than active shooter attacks).
- Barricade devices present significant liability exposures.
It is for these reasons that Campus Safety magazine, CampusSafetyMagazine.com and the Campus Safety Conferences stopped accepting advertising or sponsorships from non-ADA and non-NFPA door barricade vendors.
Before investing in any security solution, schools, colleges and healthcare organizations should obtain guidance and support from vetted and qualified consultants, systems integrators, engineers and other vendors. Doing so will ensure the organization spends its precious and limited resources wisely and only installs products that are safe.
Original December 2018 Article:
Campus Safety Takes Stand Against Non-Code-Compliant Door Barricades
Campus Safety, the brand that schools, universities and healthcare facilities have come to know and trust for more than a quarter century, is facing a crossroads of conscience. As many of you know, in recent years there has been a proliferation of door blocking devices hitting the market. The intention of the companies that manufacture these barricades is to save lives by preventing active shooters from entering classrooms or other areas where students, faculty, clinicians or others might be taking shelter.
However, these devices come with risk because they could prevent individuals with disabilities and, under some circumstances, even persons who don’t have any disabilities from evacuating a building during an emergency, such as a fire. That’s why access control and lock experts say these door barricades violate the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) as well as National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes. Although some jurisdictions are allowing these products to be adopted for situations requiring lockdown, experts say the risks outweigh the benefits. Multiple experts, organizations and associations have come out against door blocking devices.
Over the past several years, Campus Safety has described in great detail the challenges with these devices in numerous print and online editorials and in sessions at our Campus Safety Conferences, while maintaining strict abidance to our long-standing editorial policy to never endorse a particular product. Our stance has been to lay out as much information as possible and let you, the campus safety experts, make your own product, technology, policy and training choices.
At the same time, Campus Safety has accepted advertising from various door barricade companies.
But our conscience has been stirred to the breaking point, driven by the potential dangers of barricade devices to students, faculty, administrators, clinicians, patients and others. Thus, Campus Safety, with the support of our parent company Emerald Expositions, is publicly choosing to no longer accept advertising or sponsorships from non-ADA and non-NFPA compliant door barricade companies. Quite simply, it is the right thing to do.
ASIS, PASS, DSSF & DHI Applaud CS Policy Change
Campus Safety’s policy change is being applauded by a wide range of campus security experts, associations and other organizations:
- “ASIS International School Safety & Security Council appreciates Campus Safety magazine’s and the Campus Safety Conferences’ change in direction regarding dangerous non-code compliant barricade devices. While we know schools are anxious to provide quick solutions for active shooter situations, we must make sure that life safety codes are respected and avoid the potential harm to a student, teacher or anyone else who could be trapped in a classroom against their will without the ability to escape. The Council looks forward to bringing best practices to the readers of Campus Safety.” — Mark J. Berger, Chair, ASIS international School Safety & Security Council
- “The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) fully supports the stand Campus Safety magazine and the Campus Safety Conferences are taking on barricade and ‘door-blocker’ devices. We stand with other organizations including the National Association of State Fire Marshals, Safe and Sound Schools, Secure Schools Alliance, Door and Hardware Institute, Door Security and Safety Foundation, Security Industry Association and many more in opposing the deployment of these devices. In addition to life safety and fire code challenges, these devices also violate the ADA law. There are code- and ADA-compliant solutions that work and are currently in use in most schools. According to the Sandy Hook Commission, there is not one documented instance of an active shooter breaching a locked door. We have additional concerns with many of these devices that interfere with the efforts of emergency responders to quickly and safely reach staff and students during emergencies. At a time when many districts are re-evaluating their security measures and making new investments, it is now more critical than ever to ensure the use of proven, vetted and code-compliant security practices and make the most of limited resources.” — Guy Grace, PASS Chairman
- “Door Security and Safety Foundation (DSSF) and Door and Hardware Institute (DHI) thanks Campus Safety Magazine and the Campus Safety Conferences for recognizing the dangerous unintended consequences of installing non-code compliant barricade devices on campus classroom doors. While barricade devices are perceived as providing security, they violate fire and life safety building codes including the Americans with Disabilities Act. DSSF is committed to ensuring that campuses are safe havens for students, faculty, administrators and visitors.” — Jerry Heppes DSSF and DHI CEO
Campuses Must Carefully Select Solutions
The door barricade conundrum highlights the larger issue of how schools, universities and hospitals select the safety and security solutions and policies they implement. It is critical for a college campus, school district or healthcare organization to hire vetted and qualified consultants, systems integrators, engineers and other vendors for guidance on this task.
For the most part (although not always), these professionals should have experience working on your type of campus or organization. For example, a K-12 district should probably consult with an expert in school security. The expert should also have experience in dealing with the particular issue your campus wants addressed. For example, a university wanting to be able to quickly lockdown its classroom doors should consult with a professional who fully understands ADA and NFPA codes.
Additionally, multiple campus stakeholders as well as those in your community should be involved in the decision-making process so one person’s lack of expertise on a particular topic can be addressed by the others. Those stakeholders should include administrators, the C-suite, the superintendent, law enforcement, IT, security system technicians, architects, facilities, fire, emergency management, faculty, clinicians, parents, students (when appropriate) and more.
It’s also important to note that every security and public safety solution and policy — even if it is ADA- and NFPA-code compliant — carries with it some risk. That’s why Campus Safety regularly covers equipment selection, installation, deployment, maintenance, policy and training best practices. We urge all school, university and healthcare facility stakeholders to review this content on CampusSafetyMagazine.com, in our print publication and at our conferences. It is our mission to have every school, university and hospital in America adopt the best solutions possible for their specific situation and campus, install them in the proper locations, support them with the appropriate policies and use them correctly.
We trust that our decision to not accept advertisements or sponsorships from non-ADA and non-NFPA-code compliant door barricade companies will help clear up any confusion surrounding the complex issue of campus lockdowns and active shooter response.
Robin Hattersley is the editor-in-chief of Campus Safety, and Steve Nesbitt is the publisher of Campus Safety.
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While this article may have the tiniest whiff of virtue-signaling, I applaud the decision. Keeping a campus safe and welcoming is more than just keeping the bad guys with guns out; we also must ensure that all on campus have access, and that all on campus are safe from other disasters, such as fire.
Sorry, but this feels very much like an attempt to peddle more overpriced technology to lock doors (electronic, etc.)
First, what do you classify as an expert? I’ve spoken to a whole lot of “experts” that have no stand in reality. For example, There hasn’t been a student killed in a school fire since 1958. The fire codes the schools are built on prevent that from happening. The fire-proof or fire-retardant materials that almost everything in the school consist of is ridiculously expensive but effective. Fire-suppression systems, such as sprinklers, Keep any fire that may happen contained. So that means that what the fire experts are doing is working. No deaths in 60 years.
Now… how many students have died in those 60 years from violence. The answer is 518. Those numbers will be artificially low due to reporting criteria. Zero from fire, 518 from violence (these are only shooting-deaths); where should our priority shift? The fire code needs to be updated to INCLUDE violence safety. We can’t be working against the safety of our kids just because one group is better at lobbying. Shooters are using the archaic laws against us to engage and kill our kids. That screams for improved and updated laws. CS “taking a stand” means nothing more than bowing down to monetary interest. They have more money behind them so one has to cave. Think I’m wrong? Look at government grants for fire-safety and compare that to violence safety. Again, zero dead from fire, 518 dead from violence (shootings only). I urge CS to take a look at real expertise and raw data. Then make a non-political decision on how we should keep our kids safe.
Thanks to Campus Safety Editor Robin Hattersley for the publishing decision regarding the clever and timely door barricades. As learned from Virginia deputy state fire marshals who co-presented with me at three Virginia statewide safety workshops in Oct 2018, no such devices yet approved for use in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Donald E. White, Former Director of Safety and Security, Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute, Falls Church, VA.
Well written article, but I find it self-serving. While CS may have stopped taking money from door barricade companies, they still take money from the companies doing Active Assailant training that advocate barricading doors with heavy furniture. This is not only ineffective, it violates the same codes and ADA sections quoted in this article. In the recent Suagus H.S. killings, students barricaded doors with furniture from the inside as they were trained to do, but unfortunately the doors opened outward so the barricades were ineffective. Had the killer wanted to enter a classroom, there would have been nothing to stop him.
As a public safety professional I find irony in a school safety magazine including the quote that “the chances of a student being killed by a school shooter are extremely small.” I agree this is a high impact-low probability event, but so is a 7.0 earthquake or school fire, and we still train for them. As a law enforcement professional who had to step over children with gunshot wounds in a school in 2006, I find that one statement highly offensive. We need to train, plan, and prepare for the worst case scenario and pray we never have to respond to it. Trivialization of school killings in an attempt to sell door locks is unacceptable. Door locks also do not prevent vandalism as stated in this article. Window smash is the typical method of entry we see at schools.
Some of the organizations quoted in this article have board members or sponsors who sell door locks, so they can not be considered independent experts. Schools should not take advice or assessments from anyone selling products. I recently visited a school that spent $500K for electric door locks on every classroom door in the school. That is admirable, but every door had a large glass window in it, so the locks can be easily defeated by forced entry. Any sales person who sells schools locks but does not address the vulnerability of glass is nothing more than a profiteer selling a false sense of security.
There are pending changes in NFP 101 to address the need for enhanced door security in schools. Several states have already approved certain door security devices for use in schools, as long as they can be opened from the outside by school staff or emergency responders. I started using door security enhancement devices to create Safe Rooms in my schools shortly after the Sandy Hook massacre. There is no replacement for a solid core door with a good lock on it that can be locked from the inside without using a key and has no glass near the door, but unfortunately this is not the case in many schools. Until grant or bond funding can be obtained for door and lock retrofit, creation of safe rooms and enhanced door security is a more viable option than barricading doors with furniture. Common sense must be used when discussing door security.
It is admirable that CS Magazine stopped taking money from products they do not deem credible, but only if that loss of money was not supplemented by other companies selling door locks. As I walk through trade shows at CS conferences, I see multiple products that are being sold to specifically address the single threat of the school Active Assailant. This includes several products I would never put into a school or recommend putting into a school because they are expensive and ineffective.
This makes me wonder why CS Magazine singled out door security enhancement devices in this article. If this is actually the belief of CS Magazine, they will need to stop advocating any training program teaching barricading of doors with heavy furniture since this is also a code and ADA violation. That will not be done though, because these code violations are advocated by the Department of Homeland Security as a means to save lives. I agree with the DHS recommendation to throw codes out the window when there is an imminent threat to safety. That’s why I created Safe Rooms in my schools. Planning, training, policies, and common sense must be used when addressing door and perimeter security. Profit should not enter into the equation.
Regarding Donald Whites 2018 comment. Please clarify and announce a new 2019 senate bill approved to allow Barricade devices, which comply with Va. law requirements, of approved devices.
While I agree with the basic premise, I believe that teachers and others should be able to use any means necessary to prevent an active shooter from entering a room full of kids. The teacher at Sandy Hook technically violated codes by packing a small restroom full of kids and herself and locking the door. She saved many lives that day. In addition, barricading a door using furniture is a violation of codes but when someone is in the hall with an AK47 and killing people, you do what you need to do. Fire codes need to take into account the active shooter firing in a school scenario and make exceptions. You use the term “rare” to justify your anti barricade stance and cite a possible “hostage” situation as a rationale against them. I submit that the “hostage” situation, while important, is even rarer that the active shooter reality. I believe that policies regarding students’ abilities to exit a building in a shooting event are more important than banning the use of a barricade when someone is shooting people in the school. This concept needs more study.
This is one of the most ridiculous articles I’ve read. First, a dose of common sense. THE BARRICADES ARE USED FOR SHOOTERS, NOT FIRES! If the barricades are sngaged, that means a shooter is in the building. Ther is no fire. As a perfect example, Combat Gauze wasn’t authorized in the US for paramedics until about 2018. They had been used in combat for over 15 years. They saved lives and saved limbs. We aren’t very good at keeping laws up to date with crises. Barricade the doors if it’s going to save lives. Is the NFPA going to support you or take responsibility for making that barricade illegal? No. Was the ADA updated to address active killers? No. Will the ADA save the lives of your kids? No. Barricades have and will. Killers haven’t breached a properly secured door yet…
Stop running this misleading and dangerous article!