Barricade Locks - Pros vs ConsBy 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
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 [link no longer available]:
"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.
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.
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.
What do you think? Should emergency egress codes be relaxed to allow for these locks?