What is the best way to secure a classroom door that meets all fire and building codes and allows for a quick lockdown?
Which products meet fire code?
Which products break codes for life safety?
And who do YOU trust to give you accurate information on door security?
On January 15, 2014, The Michigan Bureau of Fire Services issued an alert to all school administrators warning that they have seen an alarming increase in the use of devices such as magnets, and magnetic plates or clips that prevent a classroom door to the corridor from latching and that this type of device is in violation of the New and Existing School, College and University Fire Safety Rules which adopt NFPA 101 1997 edition with Michigan amendments promulgated under Public Act 207 of 1941.
NFPA 101 section 10-3.6.1 and 11-3.6.1 require corridor walls to be constructed of fire barriers that have not less than a 1-hour fire resistance rating, with some exceptions for older buildings. All corridor walls regardless of age of the building are required to resist the passage of smoke and shall be constructed to be reasonably smoke tight.
1) BE AWARE OF THE FIRE DOOR CODES THAT CAUSE LIFE SAFETY VIOLATIONS:
Some of you reading this may have installed some sort of aftermarket device on a door frame, or lock, or a standby mechanism that will put your school in violation of fire codes, thereby endangering the very lives you are trying to protect.
Expert security door blogger, Lori Greene, has on numerous occasions posted photos of doors blatantly violating these codes- exit doors chained shut, fire doors propped open, no visible exit signs, slide bolts installed, magnets preventing a door to latch and the list goes on and on- these code violations are happening at schools right here in our small towns and big cities in the United States of America public school systems.
IF YOU DON’T KNOW FIRE DOOR CODES, FIND A LOCAL, WELL RESPECTED DOOR AND HARDWARE COMPANY WHO IS EXPERIENCED, AND WELL VERSED IN THE DOOR RELATED FIRE CODES TO ASSIST YOU IN PRESENTING ALL FEASIBLE OPTIONS FOR LOCKDOWN SOLUTIONS AND GENERAL INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR DOOR SECURITY. USE THIS COMPANY AS A RESOURCE FOR YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT’S FACILITY DEPARTMENT. THEY KNOW A LOT!
If you don’t have a local door and hardware company you trust, talk to other school districts in your state, and ask them who performs their work, or who they buy their hardware from and be sure to get references. Door and Hardware distributors and wholesalers are not created equal, so find a reputable company with experienced hardware salesmen and installers who have seen lots of openings at schools. Some door and hardware companies are better than others, so do your homework in choosing a reputable one who you can trust and who can give you correct answers to these important code violation questions. A school janitor or maintenance and grounds manager, while an integral part to any physical facility, is not educated in fire codes for school doors, and they’re probably not certified in electronic access control. Professionals in the door and hardware industry have many years of experience, training, and know a lot more than you could imagine about plain old doors. The electronic door security and locksmithing curriculums and knowledge base is immense and includes life safety and fire codes that are many hundreds of pages in length and cover many facets of building envelope security. The Door and Hardware Institute is an international association that provides education and certification, along with Intertek and Warner Hersey indicating a high standard in regulatory code matters pertaining to door hardware and fire doors. Experienced Door Hardware salesmen, installers and technicians’ devote many hundreds of hours learning from experience and also classroom training- which- in time and money, is costing the equivalent of a Master’s degree. This education can cover topics from electrical hardware wiring, to estimating from blueprints, to in depth fire door inspections. We are talking about very highly trained and experienced commercial door specialists. Finding a local door hardware subcontractor who has these well trained and capable technicians and installers is very important for any school district. You should be able to call them and get written door maintenance plans and also written annual fire door inspections to present to your local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). Find one who can make a site visit to your school and give you an exterior site door survey for starters. A well trained door and hardware eye can catch small maintenance problems before they become a malfunctioning exit or inoperable fire door breaking codes. They can also tell you if your new magnet or blockade is in violation of fire codes and also give you examples of what is working at other schools. And they can show you the newest possible lockdown hardware from respected manufacturers and suggest best practices.
2) MAKE SURE YOUR FIRE DOORS CLOSE AND LATCH
If you do have fire rated doors in your school district and they are being locked, and then being held slightly open with a protruding clip or a magnetic strip of some type is being placed over the door frame at or near the strike plate to keep the door from latching- YOU SHOULD REMOVE THEM IMMEDIATELY! You are breaking the law by violating Life Safety Codes in NFPA 101. Fire Doors need to latch securely at all times into the door frame when doors are closed to prevent fire and smoke from entering the corridor system, preventing the corridor to be used for evacuation in the event of a fire. There must not be anything that needs to be removed in order for the door to latch.
And if safety from an intruder is your number one concern, then consider leaving the classroom doors closed, latched and locked at all times. All classroom locks should allow anyone to leave the classroom at any time, but it can remain closed and locked so that no one can enter from the hallway unless let in.
3) ONE AND DONE.
Does your classroom provide egress from the inside, out into the hallway with one motion?
NFPA 101 life safety 188.8.131.52.9.2 states that Doors shall not be openable with not more than 1 releasing operation. …Unlatching any door shall not require more than one operation….
So in classrooms and also other means of egress in your school, make sure that whether it’s a panic device on a gym door or a lever or knob on a classroom, that it only takes one motion to open the door to obtain egress. This code is meant to inhibit placing of additional slide locks and chains, dead bolts, or chains and paddle-locks so that doors can be easily and quickly unlatched. There are also door blockade type products online which do not allow a door to be opened from outside, and some need an additional tool to remove the block. These pose a serious risk that in the event of violence happening inside the classroom, the doors are blocked shut from the inside making it difficult if not impossible for help to get inside. Consult with your local AHJ on the code compliance of any such device that you may be looking at purchasing for your school district.
ADDITIONAL SCHOOL DOOR SECURITY TIPS:
If your classroom doorway does not have a lock, locks with a key only from the hallway, or does not have a door at all, the first priority is to:
1) install a door and get a lock on the door.
There are several scenarios and solutions for classroom lockdowns that do not violate codes and offer added security. Classroom security function locks that can lock from the inside, so that a teacher can remain in the room without having to go out into the hallway to lock the door are one choice. Some manufacturers have upgrade kits that can change the function of your existing classroom lock to a classroom security lock. Check with your local Door and Hardware Company for product samples, and to see if they are compatible with your current lock. For increased security, If your classroom door only locks from the outside with a key, teachers can keep the door locked and closed at all times. One of the best options available for classroom lockdowns is to put in a new electronic stand-alone lock that has a remote lock fob so a teacher can leave the door unlocked, but closed. Then, in the event of an emergency, he or she can remotely lockdown the door from anywhere within 75 feet of the lock. And lastly, a completely networked access control system with a centralized lockdown location can provide the optimum in immediate lockdown capabilities.
To read more, an interesting article by Phil Chandler, Fire Inspector for Universities and colleges writes about the concern of making sure fire doors close and latch. In an article found on Lori Greene’s blog, Phil writes,
“Similarly, we must redouble our efforts in implementing a robust opening protective inspection and maintenance program as outlined by NFPA 80. Keeping all of our passive protective devices functioning as intended is an essential component of life safety. A fire door that fails to close securely is of little help in holding back the wrath of a freeburning fire. A door maintenance program is costly, but the alternatives are more so. The potential loss of life is the most extreme consequence, but even the expense of repainting a building is significant.”
Below is a link to the full article.