School should be a place of learning first and foremost—somewhere children feel comfortable, safe, and free to explore. In order to give our students this type of school environment, we need to address the very real issue of school security, namely classroom door locks and how they play a role in facilities management.
But first, we have to consider which of these options is truly the best school door lock to defend against an extreme situation, such as an active shooter emergency.
There were more school shootings in 2022 than there have been in any year since the 1999 Columbine shooting, according to the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education. So much so that gun violence is now the leading cause of death among American children and teens.
Nobody likes reading those facts, especially those in the educational sphere. With violence on the rise, everyone working in schools is focused on finding the best ways to increase school safety. But between the rise in physical barricade devices, door locks, and other security measures, it can be difficult to figure out the best method.
Our goal here is to take a good look at each of the security measures available, gather info from the experts, and weigh the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision for your school. Read below to discover what we’ve learned about school door security devices to protect against an active shooter.
Do schools need door security devices?
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to school door security and school door locks for active shooter emergencies. Many districts have opted to use stricter door monitoring policies, including keycard entries or visitor management systems, while others have chosen to use physical barricade devices in addition to traditional locks and deadbolts.
There are pros and cons to each, and there’s plenty to consider if you’re wondering which system might be best for your school. First, we should look at safety and legal compliance. *Note that these requirements might also vary depending on state and local laws.
What are the safety requirements for school door security devices?
As of 2018, the National Fire Protection Association’s Life Safety Code® rules allow safe door-locking devices in schools to prevent intruders while ensuring students can readily evacuate in an emergency. That said, some devices are easier to remove in an emergency than others, and not all products on the market may comply with the NFPA’s requirements.
To further drive home the importance of evacuation enablement, the NFPA requires the following:
- Exit door locks must latch with a single motion
- Door latches must be operated without “special knowledge,” and they cannot require any pinching or twisting of the wrist
- Any door hardware must be UL-listed for safety compliance, which tests strength, corrosion, and operation
Once the latch mechanism has been vetted for compliance, you then need to consider the placement. According to ADA requirements, the height of the lock and latch must be within reach for anyone with a physical handicap, which means it must sit between 15 and 48 inches from the floor.
Types of classroom door security devices
There are several types of door security devices, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. We’ll take a close look at four of these.
These door locks are mounted to the door and connect directly to the floor, similar to how a deadbolt lock connects the door to the doorframe. While floor barricades can be quick, easy to use, quiet, and strong, they rely on the integrity of the existing door and floor.
Additionally, the lock can become jammed if it isn’t maintained and cleared of debris regularly, and because it requires drilling into the door, it can harm the integrity of the door. Most importantly, not all floor barricade devices are ADA-compliant because of their reach.
Installed near the door’s lock, mid-door barricades work much like deadbolts, but they are only accessible from the inside of the room. Like many door devices, it also relies on the strength of your doorframe and, while quick, quiet, and strong, these devices can be difficult to use in a high-stress situation. They also require drilling directly into the door and door frame, which can harm the integrity of the frame.
As the name suggests, door bars are strong bar-like devices meant to physically block the door from the inside. There are different types of bars on the market that lock into place in different ways, and while they have incredible pros (quiet, strong, easy to install, strong, requires no modifications to the door or frame), they only work on inward-swinging doors.
Door close barriers
Door closers typically cover or pin the door mechanics from the inside, preventing entry for outward-swinging doors. While these devices are strong, easy to deploy, quiet, and they require no door modifications, they only work on outward swinging doors.
What should you look for in a school door security device?
Before you choose a door security device, consider the following:
- Handicap compliance: Can everyone reach the device? Consider the height, depth of reach, and the motion required to latch and unlatch.
- Functionality under stress: Is the latching mechanism simple enough to be handled by children, even children under stress?
- Usability for adults and children alike: Anyone in the classroom should be able to operate the device, which means evaluating for proper reach and ease of operation.
- Safety-compliance: In the event of an evacuation, can the device be unlocked easily, and can it be unlocked from the outside? Does it comply with ADA, NFPA, BOE, and other applicable regulations?
- Cost: Can your district afford them? Can you afford the installation cost, the maintenance, and additional training?
- Installation type: Does the installation of the device decrease the integrity of the door or frame? Most barricade devices are only as strong as the doors they reinforce.
- Approval from local authorities: Consider any other local authorities with jurisdiction over your school, including your state Board of Education (BOE).
Don’t forget proper school door maintenance
Whether you opt to install secondary locking devices or not, proper preventive maintenance care can help ensure your school doors are in reliable working order.
Regular door inspections and preventive maintenance can keep latch mechanisms functional, doorjams clear, and can detect issues, like wood rot, water damage, or standard wear and tear, early before the door becomes weakened, splintered, or otherwise weakened.
Using facilities management software can help you create preventive maintenance schedules, track completed work using checklists, and store data for reporting and compliance related to all door maintenance.
How can software help with school door security?
We know safety is your number one priority, and we’re here to help. When it comes to school door security, software solutions can help you enforce a broader security and safety plan within your school or district.
59% of school attacks involving gun violence occur during the school day, and 22% occur before school, so visitor management is absolutely key in student safety against school shooting threats. Use FMX’s remote locking feature to secure all school doors in an emergency with the click of your mouse, or schedule daily locking schedules around school events and class hours.
Once you’ve established a strong digital security system, you can shore up your physical security by setting up regular preventive maintenance tasks for your school doors. Implement a door maintenance checklist and schedule regular inspections to ensure your classroom doors, door hardware, and door frames are always in prime condition, whatever may come.