Changes to classroom fire safety rules aim to keep kids safer

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Quincy, MA -- Standards intended to protect kids from fires may have put them in danger in other situations. That's why the National Fire Protection Association is making some changes to door requirements.

Schools were, until now, required to use lock/latch sets utilizing a single releasing operation when retrofitting classroom doors, as required by the 2018 edition of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®.

This requirement caused issues for schools attempting to find ways to secure classrooms in case of an attack.

According to the NFPA, many found these rules too expensive to comply with and resorted to solutions involving barricades, door wedges, rope, and other contrivances as cheaper alternatives.

The NFPA determined those devices and applications posed risks to students, teachers, and first responders who need to quickly gain access to school classrooms and other student-use spaces during emergencies.

The NFPA decided to amend their Life Safety Code to allowi for second releasing operation when retrofitting existing classroom doors. Basically allowing doors to have something akin to a deadbolt.

This change should enable schools to use a more cost-effective door locking solution while delivering a higher level of safety to students, staff and visitors.

The newly issued TIA in NFPA 101 enables existing school doors to be retrofitted with secondary hardware, which 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 of the approach taken, 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.
  • The two releasing operations must not be required to be performed simultaneously to unlock/unlatch the door.
  • The lock must be installed at an acceptable height-between 34 to 48 inches 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.

Earlier this year, 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. With the issuance of the TIA, an updated version of the resource has been made available.


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