Classroom Locks Reviewed

By: John Honovich, Published on Dec 18, 2012

Access control hardware cannot defeat a gunmen; but it can slow them down and buy precious minutes for responders to arrive. Locking classroom doors is one way to do this, but traditional hardware presents life safety issues. In the past decade, a newer style of lock - the 'Classroom/Intruder' Lock - has emerged as a key tool to slow down an attacker, yet stay code compliant. In this note, we examine this hardware and an example where it saved lives.

Traditional Locks

While most classroom doors in the US are made to lock, this is typically accomplished at the end of the day or when the classroom is emptied. The teacher or room monitor secures the door from outside the classroom (in the hall) before leaving. In an emergency situation, the teacher needs to physically exit the classroom in order to lock the door - exposing the teacher and students alike to a potentially deadly situation.

Existing hardware types are not able to address this vulnerability: because of the occupancy rating of a classroom, the 'traditional' thumbturned deadbolt feature of residential locks is not permitted by code. In an emergency egress situation, the thumbturn must be first used to retract the deadbolt before the door can be opened, conflicting with the 'unimpeded egress' safety codes that require only a single action to open a door (eg: turning a lever handle).

Because of the limitations of traditional locks in an emergency situation, locks with an entirely new mechanical function were created - the 'Classroom Function' lock:

Classroom Lock

Identified officially as an ANSI F84 or F05 "Classroom" function locks, some manufacturers sell these locks using "Intruder [link no longer available]", "Classroom Intruder" function, or "Columbine Locks [link no longer available]" specifically named after the tragic 1999 High School shootings where their use might have kept the shooters from entering classrooms.

This lock resolves historical shortcomings by permitting the door to be locked from the inside. This is done by having key cylinders on both sides unlike traditional locks that only have on the outside. Additionally, a person seeking to exit, even when locked, simply turns the lever handle and can instantly leave the room if needed.

Operational Issues

This lock function is often mistaken for "Entrance/Office" locksets [link no longer available]. However, the critical difference is that a "Classroom" function always requires a key to be locked, compared to "Entrance/Office Locks" that can simply be locked from the inside by pressing a button or turning a small knob.

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

Requiring a key ensures that only authorized users (i.e., teachers or school staff) can look the door. If schools attempt to use other types of inside-locking hardware, students are able to maliciously (or accidentally) lock classrooms out through bumping a knob button. Lock-outs would be very common and problematic.

Typically, the door is only locked when a teacher detects a problem - gunshots, threats, etc. This can be a vulnerability, since the teacher must have a key and enough presence of mind to engage the lock. Plus, the first classroom to be attacked may not have enough time to lock the door. Alternatively, they can keep the door locked at all times during class. However, this creates operational problems like letting people in who are late, are returning from the bathroom, etc. As such, this is rarely if ever done.

Comparison

Typically, the additional mechanical complexity and added locking cylinder of the "Classroom" feature results in a cost difference of $50 - $100 per lock.

Take the example of the same Schlage ND series leverset below:

  • The cost is ~$225 for "Entrance" Function lock, while
  • The cost is ~$300 for "Classroom" Version of same lockset

The same cylinder/keying options are available for both functions, and the same warranty periods, grades, and finishes are available for either type.

The main cost downside is that almost all schools have existing working locks, requiring the school to replace equipment in working order. Moreover, re-selling those removed locks is difficult or unlikely to capture significant value.

However, given the cost of implementing electronic access control that typically cost upwards of $1500 per door, applying "Classroom" function hardware is one of the least costly forms of physically protecting school rooms against intrusion threats.

Are They Effective?

With shrinking budgets being the most significant problem facing schools, any money committed to security improvements need to proven its value.

In 2008, the San Mateo school district voted to spend $263,000 to [link no longer available] outfit all classroom doors in the district with the ANSI F84 "Classroom Function" type. The cost of the proposal, which involved 581 doors, cost just over $450 per lock, including installation cost.

In 2009, a school in that same district had these measures tested when a student detonating pipe-bombs and armed with knives entered his High School with the alleged aim to kill and maim at random. Several teachers locked their doors during this event, preventing the active threat from entering classrooms and detonating bombs where students were huddled together. From an article detailing the event [link no longer available]:

"Gilbert also praises San Mateo Union High School District Superintendent Scott Laurence's decision to install locks on classroom doors for preventing [attacker] from getting to any of the students.

"In times of budget crisis you have to make some tough decisions but he felt like it was really necessary," Gilbert added. "Teachers can lock the doors and secure from the inside. That's something we drill on. When I got to the hallway yesterday, looked down, and saw the smoke in the hallway from the explosions, I saw two teachers reach out, check the door from the outside and pull it shut and locked it. So the locks worked. The teachers worked and everything worked out."

In this situation, the difference in hardware (and teachers responding accordingly) was directly credited in preventing a tragedy.

Conclusion

The classroom lock is one of the least expensive and simplest improvements schools can make. Unlike spending hundreds of thousands for new card reader or video systems, classroom locks are a far lower cost and more likely means to delay and hinder those attacking schools.

2 reports cite this report:

Barricade Locks - Pros vs Cons on Dec 03, 2015
The most basic rule of access control is 'never lock people in', but is the problem of active shootings big enough to beat the code? Some in the...
Classroom Closer Lock Illegal on Oct 28, 2014
Keeping classrooms locked against intruders is one the most urgent security priorities today. With terrible active shooting events in schools in...
Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Disruptor Wyze Releases Undisruptive Smartlock on Dec 06, 2019
While Wyze has disrupted the consumer IP camera market with ~$20 cameras, its entrance into smart locks is entirely undisruptive. We have...
Access Startup Multi-Mount Aims To Streamline Reader Installs on Dec 03, 2019
Startup Multi-Mount claims it makes installing access readers 'Fast', 'Secure,' and fit 'any size frame.' The company states its bracket 'fits most...
Directory of Access Reader Manufacturers on Nov 27, 2019
Credential Readers are one of the most visible and noticeable parts of access systems, but installers often stick with only the brand they always...
Top 2020 Trend - AI Analytics on Nov 22, 2019
170+ Integrators answered: What do you think will be the top industry trend in 2020? Why? For the 4th year in a row, AI/video analytics was...
Glass Doors and Access Control Tutorial on Nov 21, 2019
One of the biggest access challenges are locking and securing glass doors. Unlike wood or steel doors that can be modified to work with...
ISC East 2019 Show Report on Nov 21, 2019
IPVM has finished in New York City covering both days of the ISC East 2019 show. Here is a 6+ minute general walkthrough: Inside this report,...
Avigilon H4 Intercom Tested on Nov 20, 2019
Avigilon is well-known for video surveillance and access, but how well does the company's intercom work? We purchased and tested Avigilon's H4...
Top Manufacturers Gaining and Losing 2019 on Nov 18, 2019
2019 has been an explosive year for video surveillance, with the world's two largest manufacturers, Dahua and Hikvision, being sanctioned for human...
Wireless / WiFi Access Lock Guide on Nov 12, 2019
For some access openings, running wires can add thousands in cost, and wireless alternatives that avoid it becomes appealing. But using wireless...
The Access Control Codes Guide: IBC, NFPA 72, 80 & 101 on Nov 07, 2019
For access, there is one basic maxim: Life safety above all else. But how do you know if all applicable codes are being followed? While the...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Honeywell 30 Series Cameras Tested Vs Dahua and Hikvision on Dec 11, 2019
Honeywell has infamously OEMed Dahua and Hikvision for years, but now they have introduced an NDAA-compliant line, the 30 Series, claiming "lower...
"Good Market, Bad Business Models" - Residential Security on Dec 11, 2019
Industry banker John Mack, at his company's annual event, took aim squarely at the problems in the residential security...
IP Camera Browser Support: Who's Broken / Who Works on Dec 10, 2019
For many years, IP cameras depended on ActiveX control, whose security flaws have been known for more than a decade. The good news is that this is...
Acquisitions - Winners and Losers on Dec 10, 2019
Most major manufacturers have been acquired over the last decade. But which have been good deals or not? In this report, we analyze the...
IP Camera Installability Shootout 2019 - Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Uniview, Vivotek on Dec 09, 2019
What are the best and worst cameras to install? Which manufacturers make it the hardest or easiest to install their cameras? We tested 35 total...
Viisights Raises $10 Million, Behavior Analytics Company Profile on Dec 09, 2019
Viisights, an Israeli AI analytics startup marketing "Behavioral Understanding Systems", announced $10 million Series A funding. We spoke to...
Disruptor Wyze Releases Undisruptive Smartlock on Dec 06, 2019
While Wyze has disrupted the consumer IP camera market with ~$20 cameras, its entrance into smart locks is entirely undisruptive. We have...
Bosch Budget 3000i Cameras Tested on Dec 05, 2019
Bosch has long had a hole in its lineup for, as it describes, "competitively-priced cameras". Now, Bosch has released its 3000i series cameras...
Anixter Resisting Takeover From Competitor on Dec 05, 2019
Mega distributor Anixter is going to be acquired but by whom? Initially, Anixter planned to go private, being bought by a private equity firm....
Security Sales Course 2020 - Last Chance Save $50 on Dec 05, 2019
This sales course is customized for the current needs and challenges specific to professionals selling video surveillance and access control...