With an eye on cost, NFPA revises school door lock standardDavid Wagman | September 18, 2019
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) said that its Standards Council issued an emergency amendment to allow for a second type of lock on school doors. The amendment is intended to help schools use a potentially more cost-effective door locking mechanism.
Schools were required to use lock and latch sets using a single releasing operation when retrofitting classroom doors, as required by the 2018 edition of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code.
NFPA said that because this requirement has been reported as cost-prohibitive for some schools, many installed barricades, door wedges and even rope as less-expensive alternatives.
"These devices and applications pose significant risks to occupant safety," NFPA said. The devices also may present potential challenges and hazards to teachers as well as to first responders who need quick access to classrooms and other student-use spaces during emergencies.
The newly issued amendment will allow existing school doors to be retrofitted with secondary hardware. That hardware might include items such as a thumb-turn lock. These options can be used in lieu of single operation hardware, which combines a latch and lock together, if a school finds the single operation hardware solution cost-prohibitive.
Regardless, NFPA said that engaging and disengaging the lock "cannot require special knowledge, strength or any other unique abilities." Performance requirements related to these locking devices include the following criteria.
- The door must be lockable without having to open it.
- Engaging the lock cannot require special knowledge, a key, or tool to engage or disengage from the classroom side of the door.
- Two releasing operations must not be required to be performed simultaneously to unlock/unlatch the door.
- The lock must be installed between 34-48 in above the floor.
- The door must have the ability to be unlocked and opened from outside the classroom with the necessary key or credential.
- The staff must be drilled in the engagement and release of locks.
The NFPA 101 Technical Committees determined that a second, more cost-effective door lock and latch combination which uses a second releasing operation would continue to deliver a high level of safety to students and staff, while minimizing the need for what it said were "well-intentioned but dangerously misguided" applications.
Earlier in 2019, NFPA released a school safety and security update document for schools, code officials and code enforcers to help answer questions and concerns around safe door locking and related issues.