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Best Practices for Securing Classroom Doors from the Inside

The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission and The National Association of State Fire Marshals recommend doors that can be locked from the inside only.

This video from Schlage Security gives recommendations from the National Association of State Fire Marshals and the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission for securing classroom doors from inside the classroom.

Whether facing an active shooter emergency or another type of lockdown situation in school, it is vital for staff to be able to successfully secure classrooms from the inside to protect students from potential threats.

At Sandy Hook Elementary School, the classroom doors could only be locked from the outside, forcing teachers to walk out into the hallway and potentially into the line of fire in order to secure their classroom, reports The Hartford Courant.

The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, a 16-member panel of public safety experts created by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy following the devastating Sandy Hook shooting, released a report containing several recommendations regarding classroom door safety.

First and foremost, the report emphasizes the importance of all classroom doors having the ability to lock from inside the classroom. The report says testimony and other evidence presented to the commission revealed that there has never been an event in which an active shooter was able to breach a locked classroom door.

The report also emphasizes the importance of distributing keys to all staff members, including substitutes teachers.

Location, type and size of glazing adjacent to the hardware to ensure the lockset cannot be defeated by breaking glass is also vital.

NASFM Guidelines for Classroom Door Security

The National Association of State Fire Marshals echoes the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission’s standpoint on the importance of being able to lock doors from inside the classroom.

NASFM recommends classroom door hardware meet the following criteria:

  1. Hardware must be lockable from inside the classroom without opening the door to minimize exposure by inserting a key in the cylinder of the inside lever
  2. Give emergency responders access from the outside of the classroom, either by using a key or some other credential
  3. Egress without a key, tool, special knowledge or effort and only one operation to unlatch the door
  4. Operable hardware should be mounted between 34 inches and 48 inches above the floor
  5. No tight grasping or twisting of the wrist to operate
  6. If a classroom door is fire rated, the door must be self-closing and self-latching and may not be modified in a way that invalidates the fire rating

Since some staff members may have difficulty using fine motor skills to lock a door from the inside in a high-stress situation, it is vital to have regular lockdown drills to help familiarize teachers with the operation of the locks. These door locks should also have an indicator that will confirm the door has been put into lockdown.

Many doors that do not have hardware that allows teachers to lock it from inside the classroom can be locked by turning a thumb turn or by pushing a button on the door. Although this makes it easy to lock without opening the door, the door can be also locked by an unauthorized person, including someone who may want to secure a classroom to commit an assault or a theft. If this lock function is used, staff should carry keys to unlock the door from the outside in case of an unauthorized lockdown.

Many schools whose doors have the above capability but do not have the budget to install updated hardware have instituted a policy in which classrooms are locked at all times of the day. This forces teachers to unlock the door themselves to grant someone else access, helping to prevent lockdowns by unauthorized individuals.

For more information on hardware for securing your classroom, visit www.idighardware.com/schools. Be sure to check your local and state building codes for specific requirements.

About the Author

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Amy Rock is Campus Safety's senior editor. She graduated from UMass Amherst with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and a minor in Education.

She has worked in the publishing industry since 2011, in both events and digital marketing.

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8 responses to “Best Practices for Securing Classroom Doors from the Inside”

  1. Dan Richter says:

    I’m no expert, but it seems to me that in addition to the above, there should be a central system with electrically actuated locks so that in the case of an active shooter, all the classrooms could be locked simultaneously from one or more locations, including a wireless fob that could be carried by select school personnel.

    • Art Kirkland says:

      For such a system to work, it would have to be hard-wired at a cost of several thousand dollars per door. This is impractical for most schools. Additionally, it creates a single point of failure in which one failure results in the entire facility being open.

    • Art Kirkland says:

      For such a system to work, it would have to be hard-wired at a cost of several thousand dollars per door. This is impractical for most schools. Additionally, it creates a single point of failure in which one failure results in the entire facility being open.

    • Benjamin A. Kirkland says:

      In addiion, such a system would have to be hard wired. This is expensive and beyond the capability of most schools. Additionally, it creates a single point of failure. If the central locking system fails or is not activted, how do individual teachers know?

  2. Ricky Arms, FF II, Certified Fire Safety Inspector says:

    Keep in mind the weakest link principle. Such a system could be disarmed from the central point unlocking ALL doors including exterior ones. Has there been any research on the vulnerability of the front office? A hostage situation / breach there could compromise the entire plan.

  3. J.MO says:

    How many student/teacher deaths have occurred since 2000 due to fire at a school??

    Why can’t the teacher be trusted with access to a barricade device for the door, only to be used during An active shooter situation?

    I understand the concern for delayed contact from emergency services personnel due to barricade devices, but I thought the whole point of these devices IS to make it very hard for anyone to gain entry.

    The video in this article uses examples from the sandy hook incident and others to show that no locked has ever been breached by an active shooter. Do we have any examples of victims in need of help inside a classroom who would’ve been unable to let responders in??

    Seems to me like an over abundance of fire safety and what if scenarios is getting in the way of what could be the easiest most cost effective solution for providing safety for students and teachers in schools.

  4. A single hinge that runs along the full length of the frame does the same job.

  5. paul sonan says:

    I feel that its the same reason dead bolts cannot be locked from the inside, classroom function a fire code, its not the teacher locking out the intruder but kids locking out everyone during an assault or a violation. when inside thumb turn is held locked, no way of turning the key, leverage.

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