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 (37)

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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 core components of this are unlikely to change. #2 is a short-term decision that will very probably evolve over time.

The 9/11 attacks are an example of how terrorism via planes changed. We no longer hear about plane hijackings or hostage situations, it's assumed that a terror threat involving a plane has the end game of eliminating the plane and all passengers.

What does this have to do with barricade locks? 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.

If barricade locks become widespread we'll likely see a few instances where the attackers are using the old methods against the newer security, and the effectiveness of their methods will temporarily decrease. People will see this as a win and heavily promote barricade locks. The attackers then will quickly adapt to methods that exploit the prevalence of barricade locks and we're worse off than before.

The people developing and promoting these devices seem to be very reactionary in their thinking and short-sighted in the larger cat and mouse game going on. You can't blame them for wanting to make these buildings and facilities safer from attack, but they lack the proper understanding to do that (IMO).

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 used, barricades of some sort will be used by frantic students and staff in an effort to stop entry.

If you can make a judgement call on whether one of the devices, whose operation is known to a couple people in the room, (as well as instructions on the device), is more of a fire hazard than a bookshelf, a teachers desk and 3 students desks along with various ad hoc door stoppers and other flammables wedged into a door, then go right ahead. I will not.

Also, these classrooms if I'm not mistaken often have windows or other egress to other rooms, so in either case they may be survivable.

But the main reason I disagree is because you are making the easy mistake of thinking that the shooter wants the most people dead. There is nothing that I see that indicates that. Instead the active shooter wants to actively shoot as many as possible. Knowing that some number of unknown people will likely die in a fire is not his goal. Furthermore, to that end, fires hinder the AS shooter himself as he looks to obtain targets and destroys his battlefield legacy.

The active shooter may respond to countermeasures, but only in ways that serve their needs, e.g. a bigger gun.


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 target(s)...

the products listed above are great ideas in attempts to save lives and most likely have the capacity to provide more help than harm, in my opinion however we may be approaching the issue the wrong way... don't bring a door barricade to a gun fight...

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 usually work in a retrofit, install time is minimal, and they meet code, now.

Edit. I take that back. There does not seem to be a WIFI ready lock that does not use a manufacturer's gateway on the market. Interesting.

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 (Link to her post). I am surprised at the number of variances on the books.

Some of those variances still outlaw most forms of barricade locks, but accept use of types that meet specific criteria. Others accept classroom function hardware, but not barricade locks.

Current Status of Barricades in State Codes:

California, 2010

“On and after July 1, 2011, all new construction projects submitted to the Division of the State Architect pursuant to this chapter shall include locks that allow doors to classrooms and any room with an occupancy of five or more persons to be locked from the inside.”

New Jersey, 2013

“Classroom doors can be locked to prevent entry from the outside of the classroom if in compliance with Section 1008.1.8 which requires the door to be openable from the side of egress without the use of a key or special knowledge or effort. A device that slides under the door to prevent entry can be acceptable if staff is trained in its use and is constantly positioned inside to remove it if necessary. The installation or use of a hasp lock mechanism, a slide bolt or a door wedge is absolutely prohibited. Another device that is being used on classroom door frames is magnetic strips that cover the latch opening. This strip prevents the door latch from latching or locking and is removed in an emergency allowing the door to latch and lock. This is permitted as long as egress can be made from the occupied side and the door is not part of an opening protective in a fire rated assembly. In any case where the actual door hardware is being altered or changed, a construction permit is required.”

Arkansas, 2015

“A person may install and use a temporary door barricade device or security lockdown device for security purposes to protect individuals during active shooter events or other similar situations.”

Colorado, 2015

“In classrooms within group E occupancies, hardware shall include a means to manually lock egress doors from inside the classroom. Such means shall not prevent these doors from being readily openable from the egress side without key or special knowledge or effort.”

Minnesota, May 2015

“Classroom security concerns during a lockdown emergency are well understood, and fortunately this problem is easily addressed via the use of code-compliant egress/security hardware. Proper door hardware eliminates the need for security and barricade devices while maintaining free egress. Commonly known as a classroom security lockset, this type of hardware allows exit doors to be quickly and securely locked from the classroom side, and may even include a deadbolt feature for added security. Activation of the locking hardware is quick and simple by operation of a thumb-turn device or key from the classroom side (these locks are available in either configuration). Such hardware fully complies with both the state fire and building codes because normal operation of the handle on the classroom side automatically releases the latch and deadbolt, allowing for free egress.”

Ohio, pending 2016

“Temporary Door Locking Device …. to prevent ingress and egress. A temporary door locking device shall be permitted when approved by the building official only in school buildings where: The device is engaged only by a staff member of the school building; and The temporary door locking device shall only be engaged for a finite period of time …. and The temporary door locking device shall only be used in an emergency situation …. and …. the administrative authority of a school building has notified the police and fire officials prior to the use of the temporary door locking device; and …. training on the use of the temporary door locking device is provided

Operational requirements: The temporary door locking device shall not be permanently mounted to the door (see exceptions). The removal …. shall not require more than one operation. Two operations may be permitted …. if the school building is equipped throughout with an automatic sprinkler system"

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 have a sledgehammer and /or a breaching tool on hand. Can somebody with the expertise comment on it?


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 comply with codes?

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 you'll have a better idea than the competition and have a good shot at commercial success.

Note: If a barricade lock pivoted up/down into place like you describe, it wouldn't meet egress code without a variance.

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 significantly raised exterior door thresholds.

Gotta love this cleverly worded question as well:

Does purchasing Bearacde violate Fire Code?

No. The mere purchase or presence of Bearacade is not a violation of building or fire code. The device is not a part of the door 24/7/365. The device is not a permanently mounted deadbolt, slide bolt, flush bolt, or incorporated operating mechanism. The device is only deployed under controlled administrative protocols for a well-defined, finite period of time when the room use has changed to a Place of Detention or Restraint for the benefit of the room occupants.

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:

Opening doors and exposing occupants to danger (as would be required with an outward swinging door) means the 'bearacade' turns sour to users pretty quickly.

Alternative products like "The Sleeve" may be more appealing, but they are still illegal for the same reasons.

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 using the barricade to keep staff and teachers out, not to mention threats from fire or other hazards. A good classroom lock, which locks from the inside, is the best deterrent to keep a shooter out of the classroom. A shooter is on a very tight timeline, they can’t spend a lot of time trying to breach a door. Even if classroom locks are twice the price of a barricade, they are a better, safer and just as effective at keeping crazy shooters out of a classroom.

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 of two scenarios. A lockdown - All doors (including classrooms) locked from the inside with egress; and blackout, which is lockdown and cover all windows and doors.

As to his timeline, studies will show that shooters don't really have a timeline. Most active shooter incidents are over in a matter of just a few minutes. But I agree, this can be dealt with safely using readily available hardware. Systems that want to circumvent the building code with cheap, unsafe, unapproved technology are asking for trouble somewhere down the road. School officials have several types of emergencies to deal with, not just active shooters.

What happens if a shooter should get into a classroom and use one of these devices to barricade himself in with the students??

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. classroom locks, this poll question is specifically in regards to allowing barricade locks or not.

Keeping both of those in mind, I really have a hard time believing that more people are at risk with these being available to a teacher to deploy only in times of emergency.

Admittidly, I have no 'feel' for the likelihood of danger of malicious or accidental deployment, so maybe that's where the main concern lies.

But if there was a shooter coming down the hall, I would prefer the non-compliant barricade over none.

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." ;)

These statements are not at odds with each other.

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?

Note: unfortunately, this post is getting a spike in traffic, likely related to the most recent school shooting tragedy and resulting interest in the use of barricade locks.

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