Barricade Locks - Pros vs Cons

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published 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 security market think so, and support is growing for a non-code compliant type of lock called a 'barricade lock'.

We examine these devices, discuss the risks, and why public support is growing for them in this note.

Classroom Security Problem

Shoring up security is a high priority for many school districts and facilities in light of recent shooting tragedies, but funds for comprehensive security improvements are often not available.

Barricade locks - supplemental door braces or brackets that force a closed door shut - are becoming popular options, especially considering they typically cost less than $150 to purchase and install.

And they do keep doors closed. For example, the demo video below shows one example costing $50 that withstands repeated kicks and sledgehammer blows:

Indeed, a rash of barricade locks have flooded the market in recent months with many claiming to enhance classroom security as a key selling point. Example offerings and unit prices include:

Potentially Dangerous Locks

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The core issue with barricade locks is they can just as easily pin victims inside rooms as keep bad people outside.  Whether by intentional misuse or mistake, a barricade lock can prevent emergency egress and contradicts a number of widely adopted life/safety codes like IBC 1008.1.9:

"Egress doors shall be readily openable from the egress side without the use of a key or special knowledge or effort."

For classrooms, using a barricade device requires 'special knowledge or effort' to unlock and runs the risk of trapping individuals in a room engulfed with flame, smoke, an active shooter, or simply occupants trying to keep authorities or school staff away from devious activity.

Support Growing

However, despite not being code compliant, public support for these locks are growing as 'common sense' solutions for improving school security.

The concept is even being championed by some in the traditional physical security market. Recently ASIS has suggested barricade locks as a solution, publishing 'Barring Imminent Threats' as a feature piece detailing a specific lock and its inexpensiveness, yet not mentioning any potential safety risks or compliance issues.

In Ohio, worried parents purchased more than $30,000 of barricade locks to be installed in a school district, only to be denied use by local AHJs as dangerous. After a petition for a code variance was denied, the issue was decided at the state level of government and passed as approved for school use.

Ohio's decision was made despite the protest of safety officials specifically detailing the risks of using these devices. Ohio reasoning is the 'net benefit' of barricade locks outweighed the risks.  Code experts tell us they expect other states will follow Ohio's ruling in months ahead.

Expensive Alternatives

One of the most appealing aspects of barricade locks is low cost. Unlike retrofitting comparatively expensive electronic access control solutions that cost $1000 or more per door, or even swapping out ~$300 mechanical 'classroom function' locks, barricade locks are add-on devices that often cost less than $150 each.

Still Illegal For Most

With a buyer's preference for cheap and easy improvements to an urgent concern like school security, consultants and integrators may feel pressure to recommend or resell barricade locks. However, these devices remain non-compliant and therefore illegal in most jurisdictions. 

Unless specific code variances are granted, AHJs can confiscate or even issue fines for using these devices, potentially wasting or even costing additional money beyond purchase price.

Vote Below

What do you think?  Should emergency egress codes be relaxed to allow for these locks?

1 report cite this report:

Banned: Classroom Barricade Locks on Apr 14, 2016
In this age of classroom shootings, many are looking for barricade locks - a cheap and easy stopgap to bolster door security.   Critics condemn...

Comments (36)

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For the purposes of discussion, I think we can say that all of these shooting scenarios have two basic things in common:

1) The desire in inflict great harm on a number of essentially randomly selected people

2) The use of guns as the primary weapon due to ready availability, effectiveness, and fear-inducing ability.

#1 above is the constant in these situations, the...

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My personal opinion is that if barricade locks become prevalent, the attackers will find a way to use them against the victims. Starting fires with accelerants is a likely situation. Pour gasoline on and under the door, set it on fire, trap the victims in the room.

Disagree, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, regardless of what type of barricade is...

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My personal opinion is that if barricade locks become prevalent, the attackers will find a way to use them against the victims. Starting fires with accelerants is a likely situation. Pour gasoline on and under the door, set it on fire, trap the victims in the room.

this may be true but it would most likely lead the terrorist(s) to move onto an easier...

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I am in agreement with Man 1 above.

While the cost is certainly higher, an obvious answer, to me anyway, is wireless locks with bi-directional communication. The doors cannot be opened from the outside without a credential. You always have egress. In an emergency of any kind, send a locking signal out over your building's WIFI for lockdown. It is cheaper than running cable, can...

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While the cost is certainly higher...

I believe that's the whole point, these devices are $100. If retro-fitting is an option it is hands down the best solution, whether wireless or just lock with panic bar egress.

The question is in the absence of such funds.

If communities want safety for their children and themselves, they will just have to come up with the funds. There is a price to pay for sitting on our you-know-whats and doing nothing about the proliferation of weapons of mass homicide. Just my opinion.

The most basic rule of access control is 'never lock people in'.

It only 'locks you in' if you buy it. ;)

As in access control vendor 'lock in', meaning proprietary hardware. Poorly worded, sorry.

Lori Greene's blog linked to this AIA Brief that details code variances several states have accepted or proposed for using barricade locks (

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Colorado, ****

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Nice Material Brian. I will have to look for our State to see if they have gotten off the dime.

The example video looks interesting but a bit strange. Do not you think that something like a door stopper that will fit into the floor notch but will be released in the attempt of opening door from the inside (the doors must swing out of the room) will make the same job but won't compromise safety? And it will be affordable as well. I do not think that it is usual for an active shooter to...

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delete

As far as I understand, the goal is to prevent/delay the door knock out and make it cheap. The typical classroom door is like this

Thus, it should work or I miss something?

Is that shot from inside the classroom, or out in the hall?

It is from outside the classroom.

It is from outside the classroom

Doesn't that particular door open the wrong way then?

Why? It opens outside the room.

You'll find classroom door swing varies based on number of egress paths, number of occupants (occupancy code), and year of construction (potentially grandfathered rooms).

Unfortunately, its a pretty broad range for schools.

Thanks, then it seems that there is no cheap way to make it right.

NFPA 101 requires doors leading to an exit enclosure to swing in the direction of egress travel.

It all comes down to strength. A pivoting 'barricade lock' is probably possible, but will that pivot point withstand shear and blows?

Keep in mind, the door itself plays a key role in how strong a barricade lock performs. A solid core wood door is going to be tough. A hollow core metal door can be folded open in a few seconds, and even kickdowns like you show are broken off easily.

Brian, I fully agree that the doors should be properly reinforced and there should be a respective access control system with the lockdown function. But if customers want it cheap won't it be more safe at least to use a pivoting "barricade lock", or something that helps to secure door from knocking out (regular lock should provide enough security from pulling) like Haven but simpler, to...

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I'm not arguing that doors should have "a respective access control system with the lockdown function".

In this update, I am also not arguing 'for' or 'against' barricade locks. The point of this post is elaborating they are not permitted in the majority of areas.

If you can design a code compliant barricade lock that is strong and cheap, then...

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Here is what I had in mind - B2 from Bearacade It helps from external force but as I can see it does not prevent from opening door from inside. Does it meet egress code?

That device only barricades inward swinging doors, and would block egress if used.

I agree, it used to work only on inward ones, but somehow they have modified it:

Does Bearacde work on all doors?

Bearacade was developed for interior office, classroom, and other interior rooms. The device was designed for inward and outward swinging doors. While it can glide over simple floor transitions, it was not meant to glide over...

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The original unit works on either in/out swinging doors. B2, or '2nd generation' units only work on inward doors.

The difference with 'gen 1' units are that users must first open and then slide the device under the door leaf, shut the door, and then pin the device in place into a pre-drilled hole in the floor:

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I understand that it blocks the inward movement. But in case we have an outward opening door then this device helps to deal with the external force. The attempt to open the door by pulling is prevented by locking the door lock (if there is one of course). I do not believe that a regular person can easily break a standard lock by pulling.

Why not just change the door hardware to classroom function? It will cost more than 50.00 but it will meet code. A code on the school intercom and the teachers can lock the door and no one gets it regardless of the swing.

I think best advice in this thread is “Don’t bring a barricade to a gun fight.” The reason being, is most classrooms have glass door lights and or side lights. How many rounds from a firearm are needed to shoot out the glass to allow the shooter to reach in with his firearm and do his damage from outside the classroom? No special tools needed here!

I fear more damage by students...

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I agree Mr. Hammond. My wife is an administrator with our local school system. I broached this topic with her after having looked at our State code on all types of emergencies and lockdowns.

I know what Ohio did, and a few other states have done it or are considering it. Our state considered it briefly but the State Fire Marshall won the day here.

Our local system uses one...

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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?

I was always taught the most basic rule of access control was, "Life safety before all else." ;)

And though it's tempting to offer a third option, e.g....

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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?

I was always taught the most basic rule of access control was, "Life safety before all else."...

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These statements are not at odds with each other.

Not normally no. But in this case the slight difference in those two statements is the crux of this discussion.

And the rules would be at odds if it were shown that people were safer with these devices than not.

Which is what we're debating I believe.

You are misquoting 'life safety' to mean something access control, nor the update you linked, does not address. Life safety codes do not address stopping active shooters.

You are misquoting 'life safety' to mean something access control

Here's the quote in question:

In Electronic Access Control, there is one basic rule: Life safety above all else.

Are you saying that this rule only applies to Electronic Access Control, not Access Control in general?

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