Keeping Your School Safe

Keeping Your School Safe

The recent surge in school shootings has caused a flood of anxiety, as parents, students, teachers and administrators are all demanding safeguards to protect against hostile intruders. Not only is this a matter of life and death, but it also affects the quality of education. Numerous studies show that if students feel unsafe, they have a hard time concentrating and their performance suffers as a result. In response to this crisis, schools have scrambled to enhance their security — and to assess the available options for achieving this goal. Among these many options, one lock system stands out: the Classroom Intruder Lock. The following discussion lays out the main options and benefits associated with these locks.

As the name implies, Classroom Intruder locks make it possible to keep intruders out, but without hindering teachers, students and staff, who are still able to move around freely. The most important feature of these locks is they can be closed from either the inside or outside, with the use of a key. This means that a teacher can secure a classroom without ever having to open the
door or step out into the hall. Not only does this make locking down easier and faster, but it also protects the teacher from becoming a target.

The hardware nuts and bolts are also worth mentioning, since they reveal the capability and versatility of these systems. Basically, once the door is locked, it can only be opened from the outside with a key, but it can always be opened from the inside just by turning the knob (or lever). This means that if students and teachers need to get out quickly, they can. And yet this ability can be achieved without sacrificing even an ounce of protection. In addition to the fundamentals, there are also a number of different options worth thinking about.

First, with the system described above, the door can only be locked with a key. One good thing about this is that only people with authorized access to a key can lock the door, so an intruder would be unable to lock themselves inside the classroom. In addition, this system can prevent other undesirable things from happening, such as students locking out the teacher — either as a prank, or by accident. And as we know, students sometimes engage in fighting, bullying, drug use, or other illicit conduct. For all of these reasons, a system that can only be locked from the inside with a key has some clear advantages. On the other hand, some schools may prefer an alternative system that allows students to lock down in an emergency, even if the teacher is out of the room. This feature can be provided with a simple thumb-turn or push button. In that case it would still be possible to open the door from the outside, but only with a key.

In short, both systems are available, and they each have certain plusses or minuses that need to be considered. Doors themselves play a crucial role in school security. For one thing, doors should not have large windows which allow intruders to look inside the classroom. Depending on the school’s preference, doors can either have small windows, or no windows at all, or just peepholes. Another issue is that doors should be outfitted to close automatically. The advantage of doors closing automatically is that they are always ready for lockdown in case of emergency. Besides the basic features of any lock system, a critical factor is whether they comply with fire codes as well as ADA and life safety standards. For our purposes the main question here is whether a door can easily be opened if necessary.

First of all, the National Fire Safety Prevention Association (NFSPA) requires that all lock systems must be simple to open, without needing a great deal of force or dexterity. The Classroom Intruder lock meets this requirement. In addition, the NFSPA mandates that door knobs and levers must open from the inside without a key. This means that classroom doors cannot have a deadbolt that is separate from the main lock. And this is another big benefit of the classroom intruder system, since it comes either with or without a deadbolt — and even the latch-and-deadbolt combination can be opened from the inside, just by turning the knob.

Second, ADA standards require that door hardware must be manageable for people with disabilities. In addition to being easy to open, this means that it must not be placed too high or too low on the door (that is, it must be between 34 and 48 inches from the floor). These requirements rule out numerous security systems, such as barricades, which in any case are dangerous since they can prevent authorities from gaining access.

A third hardware feature worth considering is visual indicators, which make it possible to tell at a glance whether the door is locked or open. Some lock systems have lighted indicators, while others use written words. This may also include arrows indicating how to turn the knob in order to lock or open the door.

Finally, a truly dependable system must be always on the ready. That is, in case of emergency, it should be fully assembled so that nothing needs to be installed or even moved into its proper position. This is a major benefit of the Classroom Intruder System: since all of the necessary hardware is already in place, classroom security is almost instantaneous. Of course, in addition to gaining a boost in security, most schools need to consider their bottom line. Top quality, code compliant locks for classroom security do cost somewhat more. This is obviously a matter that calls for careful reflection, as security advantages must be weighed against budgetary constraints. Finding the ideal balance is never easy. However, having flexible and dependable locks installed on classroom doors provides a crucial supplement for any security system.