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Non-code-compliant security devices

Discussion in 'Commercial Fire Codes' started by LGreene, Nov 21, 2017.

  1. LGreene

    LGreene Sawhorse
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    There was a discussion on the door and hardware forum that veered into this topic a bit, but I'd like to get some more insight from any AHJs. There is currently a lot of talk about the retrofit locking devices used by some schools for classroom security (AKA classroom barricade devices). These devices are not code-compliant in most states, but the manufacturers of the products are stating that it's not against the fire code to purchase the devices - and who is going to cite the school administrators for installing them when there is an intruder in the building?

    I have not found anything in the codes that says it's ok to use non-code-compliant security devices during an emergency, and these devices also get installed during drills, and during some lockdowns when there may not be an intruder. Most of them don't meet the model code requirements for egress or accessibility, they are not listed for use on a fire door assembly, and they could also be installed by an unauthorized person to secure the classroom and commit a crime. But what is the recourse when a fire inspector goes into a school and sees these devices hanging next to each classroom door? If the inspector knows that the device is part of the school's lockdown plan and doesn't do anything about it, is there liability for the inspector?

    Is there anything in the codes that gives the fire inspector power to act in this situation? It's similar to seeing a chain and padlock dangling from a school's panic hardware...it's pretty obvious that the custodian is going to wrap the chain around the other panic and lock the doors when school is over for the day. Ownership of the chain and padlock may not be illegal, the doors allow free egress when the chain is dangling from one panic device, but the intent to use it in a non-code-compliant manner is pretty clear.

    The 2018 IFC includes language clearly stating what is allowed/required for classroom locking: http://idighardware.com/2016/09/good-news-2018-ifc-on-classroom-security/.

    If you're not familiar with classroom barricade devices, there's a link to an article about them here, which includes some insight from the National Association of State Fire Marshals: http://idighardware.com/2017/10/team-effort-prioritizing-life-safety-while-addressing-classroom-security/

    Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts on this!
     
  2. cda

    cda Sawhorse

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    I think I would document to the principal, that the devices are not to be used, and might go as far to say remove them from the school.

    Than have a talk with my boss to have a talk with higher ups in the district.
     
    LGreene likes this.
  3. Sifu

    Sifu Gold Member

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    Darned if you do, darned if you don't. It seems like a no-win situation. I saw some stats a few days ago, something like 4500 school fires in 2015. Not sure how many intruder incidents there were. Either way, the first time an intruder causes harm or mayhem and it is documented that a device was prohibited that could have averted it, there will be hell to pay. Like-wise, the first time a fire occurs, and an intruder device was being used and it caused harm, that same hell will come knocking.
    It would be convenient to say that you must protect for the highest statistical chance of disaster, but perception does count, as does casualty count. If we protect against the fire and not the intruder, then a single intruder event occurs and results in a high casualty count, how does that look? On the other hand, just like most life-safety requirements, it is nearly impossible to put a number to how many lives are saved due to a safety system working as it is intended. The 4500 stat (ball-park) does not say how many lives were saved (how could it??), but I think it did say how many were lost.....one.
     
    my250r11 likes this.
  4. Builder Bob

    Builder Bob Sawhorse

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    It would have to be documented as on site, It would become a civil trial matter (lawsuit) to determine if the fire inspector acted in malfeasance. This will be an issue that is governed by the state's laws and in some cases federal law.

    It would be difficult for the fire inspector to remove these devices (even in plain view) as they their selves, do not create an unsafe act or condition until they are used. when they are used, it becomes an unsafe condition and remedial actions may be taken.

    Not any different that a drunk person with a set of car keys, until he/she drives a vehicle, they cannot be charged with DUI/DWI. State laws and federal laws have been enacted that may allow the police to charge a person with public drunkenness or disorderly conduct. But these laws were written to close the loophole for drunk driving to get these people off of the roads.

    Back in the 60's, people could drink and drive and not get pulled.... it wasn't until the 80's that these rules began to get tougher........

    Right now, we are stuck in the 70's mind set when we still had 30 minutes to get out of a house fire........see UL Legacy cs. Modern furnishings.
     
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  5. LGreene

    LGreene Sawhorse
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    How about if the locks used to prevent an intruder from entering were compliant with the fire code? That seems like a win-win!
     
  6. fatboy

    fatboy Administrator

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    That would be great, if.......if...... you could get the powers that be to go that route, rather than a cheaper non-compliant device.

    Otherwise....strongly advise........ and document, document, document......and document again.
     
  7. VillageInspector

    VillageInspector Sawhorse

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    I agree about user awareness and documentation but at the same time lets face it in the time of a general intrusion alert what's to stop a quick thinking teacher from shoving a door chock under an in swinging door thereby rendering the door inoperable from the outside ? Unless I'm reading this wrong I'm not certain there's a right answer to this one.
     
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  8. LGreene

    LGreene Sawhorse
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    I think it's one thing to do what you have to do in an emergency, and another thing to plan ahead to use a product that is not compliant with the fire code. School administrators should be proactively creating plans for active-shooter situations that comply with the adopted codes.
     
  9. mark handler

    mark handler Sawhorse

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    Or Modify codes for Both safety issues, That's why we have code cycles to allow for "new" innovations. when the current codes were written, no one could imagine the school shootings would be commonplace. Maybe we need to modify the current codes.
     
  10. mark handler

    mark handler Sawhorse

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  11. fatboy

    fatboy Administrator

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  12. mark handler

    mark handler Sawhorse

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    There is always a risk/benifit issue
     
  13. tmurray

    tmurray Sawhorse

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    In Canada, bars can be held liable for overserving a driver or allowing someone drive when they are clearly not able. Fire officials would likely be held liable for not removing the devices here. There is plenty of discretion in the fire prevention act in my province that would allow them to first write an order, then enforce it if voluntary compliance was not achieved.

    As Mark implied, would you rather have the lawsuit from removing barricade devices or from not removing them and someone getting hurt or killed through the use of these devices.
     
    LGreene likes this.
  14. tmurray

    tmurray Sawhorse

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    Understanding that there are plenty of these in the wild already, how many have been used to successfully save students?
     
  15. LGreene

    LGreene Sawhorse
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    The IBC, IFC, and NFPA 101 were changed in the most recent code development cycle, after much discussion about whether the current requirements should be relaxed, maintained, or strengthened. The classroom locking sections in the 2018 model codes include all of the requirements that have been there for decades, with an added requirement for the door to be openable from the outside with a key or other approved credential. Here's the 2018 IFC language: http://idighardware.com/2016/09/good-news-2018-ifc-on-classroom-security/.
     
  16. LGreene

    LGreene Sawhorse
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    I haven't heard a success story yet...I'm more concerned about someone using one to lock the door and commit a crime. Code-compliant locks can prevent access while allowing free egress, can prevent unauthorized lockdown (depending on the lock function), and allow access from the exterior with a key or credential. What's not to love? And before someone says, "the price tag," I don't think the cost should be the driving factor here. Panic hardware is expensive, but it's required by code in certain locations and I don't see AHJs allowing cheaper alternatives. Wood wedges are much cheaper than hold-opens that release upon activation of the fire alarm to ensure that fire doors are closed and latched. I know several AHJs who have a collection of wedges they've confiscated. Why are some AHJs willing to confiscate wood wedges but hesitant to enforce the codes when it comes to classroom security?
     
  17. LGreene

    LGreene Sawhorse
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    You're absolutely right...it has been well documented by the CDC and FBI that the most frequent perpetrators of school violence are students.
     
  18. Builder Bob

    Builder Bob Sawhorse

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    Although your jurisdiction may allow you to remove these devices, the fire inspectors in most jurisdiction are not recognized as law enforcement and taking someone's property in this case would be stealing.... Not a crossroad that I would care to cross with the political connections in the area I last served.... So Mark and others, if you will pay the attorney's fees (the fire chief won't) and job pay while they wait for trial, they will have to continue working in the format as posted.

    I am glad that your areas are more proactive in allowing you to grab and remove private property........not a legal crossroad that we are allowed to cross. We do have procedures that we can follow for writing summons and fire code violations - however, every case I have been involved in required writing up deficiency, giving time to remediate deficiency, and reinspection. IF we failed to follow protocol, the case was kicked out ---
     

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