Multiple studies have linked students’ physical learning environments to their achievement. Since most public school districts must rely primarily on locally approved bonds to repair, or replace buildings and hardware, thousands of public schools across the nation stick students in school buildings that are outdated and potentially unsafe. School districts are beginning a long-overdue process of replacing or restoring outdated safety hardware.
In 2014, the Assistant Secretary for the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon summarized the findings, writing: “Structurally sound and well-maintained schools can help students feel supported and valued. Students are generally better able to learn and remain engaged in instruction, and teachers are better able to do their jobs, in well-maintained classrooms.”
As districts across the nation are looking to replace their outdated hardware, it is important to define a clear framework for school safety and set clear requirements for how districts should move forward with replacements.
What is ‘Good’ Hardware for Schools?
Student safety is the #1 priority in any learning environment and the physical security of school buildings and campuses should constantly be optimized. Every state enforces strict codes and standards to ensure that safety mandates are met. It is imperative to the safety of students and staff that when security measures are implemented, the state requirements for safety in areas such as egress, fire protection, and accessibility are also considered. These code requirements help to protect building occupants from fire, dangerous intruders, as well other types of emergencies and hazards. In addition, it is important to look for hardware that passes Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements so that buildings are accessible and usable by people with physical disabilities.
Securing all entry and exit points in school buildings and campus premises is essential to prevent unwanted access. However, keep in mind that all hardware used to secure the area must be designed to streamline exiting in case of an emergency. In other words, exit devices must be designed to be utilized with no special knowledge required and with single motion operation. For example, pulling the lever down or pressing the push bar are operations that are intuitive and meet the criteria previously defined. Replacing outdated safety hardware with new products that pass industry safety standards is essential.
Why Does School Safety Rely on Great Hardware?
Great hardware will toughen up security at all entry points and simplify exiting for quick and smooth passage outside. Modern-day push bars are designed to require one simple motion needed to exit, nothing less and nothing more. The history behind this stems from the worst single-building fire in U.S. history, Iroquois Theater Fire. A fire broke out on stage trapping all of the occupants inside the theater by doors barred designed to prevent access to freeloaders. As a result, 600 lives were lost and the importance of safe door hardware has been crucial ever since. Today, exit devices are required to permit unrestricted exits via single egress motion push bars that are operated easily by users experiencing pressure. The need for safety does not negatively impact security measures if the two are engineered in tandem.
The National Association of State Fire Marshals’ Classroom Door Security & Locking Hardware Checklist, advises districts to use hardware that effectively secures from the inside of the classroom and avoid locksets that unnecessarily expose staff when locking the entryway. The Department of Homeland Security advises using a push-button mechanism instead of scrambling for a key during an emergency. If an unauthorized person comes onto campus, the last thing anyone should do is leave the classroom. All students and staff should be secured in a locked room that can be remotely locked by the press of a button. This way, any dangerous intruder is locked outside while students and staff remain safe inside.
The Safety Solution
The XME 9000 is a Standalone Electronic Classroom Security function lock that provides a remote lockdown along with the security afforded by using a grade l heavy-duty mortise lockset. Lockdown is accomplished using a Remote Control Unit (RCU) that is paired with one or more locks within the RCU’s 75-foot range. The RCU is specific to the paired lock or locks. With a simple push of the RCU button, the lock is secured against unauthorized outside entry. Lockdown is further indicated by red LEDs on both inside and outside portions of the lock that signify a lockdown is in progress. The RCU is normally controlled by a teacher or other designated individuals that are granted responsibility for that room. The RCU will be carried at all times by the designated individuals of the room, much like any other small piece of security or safety equipment.
The room will remain in lockdown until a lockdown cancellation code is entered from outside. The lock is always able to be opened from the inside to allow for a safe evacuation when necessary. During a lockdown, a user code, office code, or key override may be used to gain access to the room. The locking system is operated by batteries and is not affected by power outages. Overall the system is a secure, safe, practical, and simple method to ensure the safety of the room and especially children.
As districts are looking to replace outdated safety hardware, there are many resources available to help ensure that school safety is not compromised by school security efforts. During an unpredictable active-shooter event, unrestricted egress and fire protection are crucial. In any jurisdiction, the adopted codes should be consulted for specific requirements, and school districts should install hardware that meets all safety standards and requirements to maintain a balance between safety and security.
TownSteel creates hardware that ensures school safety is not compromised by efforts to toughen school security. Through school lockdown mortise locks, Grade 1 fire-rated panic devices, and electronic access control systems, schools can provide the security that gives students and staff the peace of mind that they deserve.