Printed from the blog of Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI
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Apr 25 2018

WW: Break Out

Category: Egress,Wordless WednesdayLori @ 12:36 am Comments (1)

I think these Wordless Wednesday photos may permanently affect my ability to speak.  Thank you to Jerry Davis of Allegion!

Apr 24 2018

School Security – Compartmentalization

Category: School SecurityLori @ 1:11 pm Comments (8)

Last Friday was the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School, where 12 students and 1 teacher were killed and 24 people were injured.  While working on an upcoming article, I realized that I knew much more about more recent school shootings than I did about what happened at Columbine.  I think that’s because it was the first school shooting of this scale that occurred during my career.  Although it was a horrific incident, I wouldn’t have expected other school shootings of this magnitude to occur, or for this to become such an important area of focus for me.

The only way to understand how to address physical security in hopes of reducing casualties in school shootings is to learn from what has taken place in past incidents.  Over the weekend I read a book called Columbine, by Dave Cullen and reviewed the information that was compiled by the author while conducting research for the book.  I watched videos and read articles.  It was tough, but I now know much more about the shooting.

Of the many things I learned about that day, one thing that struck me was that the assailants had access to so many areas of the school – the cafeteria, the library, the stairways, corridors, and classrooms.  The ability for them to move freely throughout the school almost certainly affected the number of casualties.

When considering physical security improvements for schools, the first points typically addressed are the exterior doors – the main entrance, secondary entrances, and doors that are intended only for egress.  Next, the classrooms – as those doors can help to create safer areas for students and teachers to wait for assistance if an incident occurs.  Doors serving large assembly spaces like cafeterias and gymnasiums are very important to consider because of the potential for many building occupants to be gathered there.

An additional point of security to consider is the use of cross-corridor doors to compartmentalize a building.  In the past, these doors were often used to deter the spread of smoke and flames in case of a fire, but current code requirements have reduced the need for cross-corridor fire doors.  However, these doors can serve an important purpose when it comes to school security.

I have seen several school projects that incorporate cross-corridor security doors to compartmentalize the building and help to prevent an assailant from moving freely throughout the school.  The least complicated way to equip these doors is to specify panic hardware that is locked on the access (pull) side, with wall-mounted electromagnetic holders.  The doors are held open most of the time, but can be released with the push of a button – typically in the main office – that cuts power to the magnetic holders.  Depending on the system, this could also be done automatically when the alarm sounds to indicate a security breach.  Since the access side of the hardware is already locked, the doors are automatically secure as soon as they are closed.  When budget permits, the panic hardware may be equipped with electrified lever trim which locks when the system is activated.

There are a few considerations when using cross-corridor doors to compartmentalize for security:

  • The school must have a means of immediately notifying building occupants that a security breach is taking place
  • In most cases, the doors must allow free egress from the push side and can only be locked on the pull side
  • Impact-resistant glazing should be used in doors and sidelights adjacent to the door hardware, to delay access to the inside lever or touchpad through broken glass
  • For some schools, magnetic holders with an increased holding force may be needed in order to reduce the frequency of students closing cross-corridor doors
  • Planned egress routes should lead out of the building through outer doors – preferably directing occupants away from lobbies and other congested areas
  • Periodic drills should address the use of cross-corridor doors and the planned egress routes
  • Keys or access-control credentials should be readily available to allow emergency access to secured areas

The floor plan below illustrates an elementary school with the cross-corridor security doors highlighted, as well as doors which control traffic flow beyond the main office.  Locked doors at these locations would deter or prevent access to relatively large areas of the school, while allowing free egress and evacuation.  Doors to classrooms and assembly spaces would also be lockable on the access side.

What do you think of this approach? 

Floor plan courtesy of: eppstein uhen : architects

Apr 23 2018

Amsterdam Free Library

Category: Beautiful Doors,Doors & Frames,EgressLori @ 12:58 am Comments (3)

When I was growing up, Amsterdam, New York was the half-way point in a frequent family trip.  It was always exciting to see the windmill beside the Thruway, giving us hope that we would – eventually – be able to get out of the car.

It’s too bad we never stopped to see the door of the Amsterdam Free Library…I wasn’t as interested in doors back then.  It doesn’t look like much from afar…

Amsterdam Free Library

But check out the metalwork (you can click the photo to enlarge)…

The reason this door came to my attention is because of an article in The Recorder, which said that the door would not be re-installed after a renovation, because “the inner and outer doorways must be the same width. The metalwork door was smaller than the inner doorway, so this violated the code.”

It sounds like the problem is that the exterior door is not as wide as the interior door or doors – the IBC states: “The minimum width or required capacity of a means of egress system shall not be diminished along the path of egress travel.”

But in reading the IBC Commentary, it seems like this reduction in width is only an issue if the smaller component does not provide the required egress width:  “The egress path is also not allowed to be reduced in width such that the design occupant load (required capacity) would not be served. Note, however, that the egress path could be reduced in width in situations where it is wider than required by the code based on the occupant load. For example, if the required width of a corridor was 52 inches (1321 mm) based on the number of occupants using the corridor and the corridor provided was 96 inches (2438 mm) in width, the corridor would be allowed to be reduced to the minimum required width of 52 inches (1321 mm) since that width would still serve the number of occupants required by the code. In the context of this section, a “means of egress component” would most likely be a door or doorway.”

I checked with a few AHJs and they agreed that it’s acceptable to have a pair of doors (leading from an executive office, for example) with a single door farther along the means of egress – as long as the single door accommodates the occupant load.

So.  Maybe the library’s exterior door does not provide the required clear width of 32 inches, minimum.  Or maybe the occupant load of the library is greater than what can be accommodated by a single door (+/- 160 occupants).  Unless one of you is in Amsterdam and wants to go take a look, we may never know.

Photos:  Building: David Schalliol (Flickr), Door: Inglenook Realty Inc.

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