Excerpts from an attorney/client discussion explaining building fire codes and School Safe:
“Again I want to thank you for spending the time to go over the codes with me. It has caused me to delve deeper into the subject and learn more about it. it took me a while to get back to you as I wanted to study them and also wanted to consult with our attorneys in Phoenix.
We were able to set up a joint meeting with two attorneys who specialize in construction litigation and building codes. They were very helpful in understanding how the codes apply.
They were very aware of the codes you mentioned and pointed out several things in regard to the ways they can be interpreted, the reasoning behind them, and how they could apply in our situation.
The first thing they said was that the code is building code related to fire safety and construction. It is speaking to contractors and builders as to what they must do in order to be compliant with fire protection and safety. As you are well aware, Chapter 7 of the IBC deals with the prevention of the spread of fire and smoke within a building or to and from buildings.
715.3.7 says specifically that doors must be self or automatic closing.
7188.8.131.52 says specifically that doors must be provided with an active latch bolt that will secure the door when it is closed.
Technically, they say, if the door has been provided with an auto closer and has a working latch bolt, the contractor or builder is compliant with the code.
They add, however, that the reasoning behind the need for these to be provided is to help prevent the spread of fire or smoke by decreasing or eliminating the avenues of travel for the fire or smoke from space to space through the changes in pressure. This is, as you are well aware, the reason that door stops or wedges, which prop the door in an open position are not allowed.
In addressing the issue of School Safe regarding this code, they make the following observations:
1. School safe does not alter the closer or the latching mechanism. They are still both functional on the door and technically meet the requirements.
2. School Safe does not prop the door in an open position such as a door stop or wedge does. It only prevents the latching by about a quarter of an inch. The door is in the closed position and held there by the closer which must provide 15 pounds of pressure towards closing.
3. School Safe is only used when there are occupants in the room and directions are provided at the device instructing the user to release it in case of fire or lockdown.
4. They referred to rulings regarding the “Greater Good”. The “Greater Good” basically says that in areas where two safety factors seem to conflict, that the ‘greater good’ can be chosen in order to provide the desired protection. This is determined by the entity that has jurisdiction over the space in question. In this case, I believe that would be you or the fire department.
We have tried to make School Safe as compliant with the intent of the code as possible while at the same time eliminating the number one fear of teachers during a lockdown emergency, having to go out into the hall to lock their doors.”
Finally, we have a client in Minnesota who took this question before their state fire marshal. The following was a part of the correspondence with him:
One of the challenges we’ve discovered during past lockdown drills is how can a person (e.g., employee, student, or visitor) quickly secure a classroom door. This is because many of our classroom doors cannot be locked without a key. Needing a key to lock a classroom door creates two major issues. First, faculty must enter the hallway in an emergency to lock their door, and this can expose them to danger from an armed intruder. The other hazard created by this situation is when a faculty member forgets their key, or isn’t in the classroom. When this happens any student or visitor within the room has no means of locking the door to protect themselves.
In an attempt to address this issue Al Wesely and myself spent several hours over the last year reviewing and testing different lockdown products currently on the market. We finally found a product called, “School Safe.” I’ve attached a photo of what the device looks like when it’s installed on a door/frame, and a link to a product demonstration video from the manufacturer. We tested this lockdown product in a few different areas this summer and had very good results. The product proved to be durable (i.e., able to take the abuse we subjected it to), was cost effective, and met all applicable regulatory requirements. We are currently starting to install these devices on doors to classrooms, computer labs, and suite areas that require a key to lock.
Feel Free To Contact Me Anytime
Mike J. Brossart, M.S.
Safety & Health Officer
Riverland Community College
1900 8th Avenue NW
Austin, MN 55912