Online Exclusive: Reinforcing School Safety with Solution-driven Locks
- By Mark Berger
- Sep 16, 2015
Improvements in communication, monitoring, access to buildings and implementations of other safety measures and technologies have helped to improve the overall security of our nation’s schools. Among these measures, experts agree that fast, strong locks on classroom doors are a highly effective means to create a safe haven and save lives.
In fact, the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) primer on Safe School Design provides specific recommendations for classroom door locks intended to keep occupants safe in the event of terrorist attacks or school shootings. Specifically, DHS recommends door locks that can quickly be locked from the inside with a “simple locking mechanism, such as a button,” and that “can always be opened from the inside for emergency egress,” and can be opened from the outside with master keys. This guidance was published a year before the Sandy Hook incident.
In another document published by the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission*, the very first recommendation could be considered their strongest and most urgent and is the only one in the report that is emphasized both in words and in italics. Here, School Safety Infrastructure Council (SSIC) includes a standard requiring that all classrooms in K-12 schools have doors that can be quickly locked from the inside by the classroom teacher or substitute. The language is very strong:
“The Commission cannot emphasize enough the importance of this recommendation. The testimony and other evidence presented to the Commission reveals that there has never been an event in which an active shooter breached a locked classroom door.”
While physical door locks may seem like an easy recommendation to implement, there is a significant difference between purpose-built door lock solutions and generic door locks. For example, with purpose-built solutions, both the lock and deadbolt are quickly activated without a key. Turning the handle from the inside unlocks the door immediately and first responders can open the door from the outside with a key, if needed.
School administrators should consider the following recommendations to help ensure compliance with the intent and specifics of the DHS primer on Safe School Design and the School Safety Infrastructure Council recommendations:
- Installation of locks should be easy, without the need to replace existing doors.
- The teacher, student, or substitute closest to the classroom door in an emergency should be able to instantly lock the door from the inside.
- Speed and effectiveness are both important. The best solution is both fast and strong.
- It must also be possible to quickly exit the locked room; the best locks provide a single-action exit. This exit action is critical to protect the safety of the occupants.
- Authorized individuals with keys should be able to enter the room. Some door blockers offered for classroom use cannot be opened from the outside, putting the occupants at risk.
*reports available here:
Mark Berger is the president of Securitech Group, Inc.