Life Safety Code
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) announced that after passing technical committee ballot, the NFPA Standards Council issued a Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA), or emergency amendment, to allow for a second type of lock, enabling schools to employ a potentially more cost-effective door locking solution while delivering a higher level of safety to students, staff and visitors.
The TIA is aimed at better protecting students and staff against targeted acts of violence. 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®. Because this requirement reportedly has been considered cost-prohibitive for schools, many resorted to solutions or installations involving barricades, door wedges, rope, and other contrivances as cheaper alternatives. These devices and applications pose significant risks to occupant safety and also present potential challenges and hazards to teachers on a daily basis, as well as to first responders who need to quickly gain access to school classrooms and other student-use spaces during emergencies.
“Over the past few years, the NFPA 101 Technical Committees have continued to learn of schools’ efforts to protect students and staff that, in reality, imperil their safety – whether in the event of an active shooter incident, a fire, or other emergency,” said Gregory Harrington, principal engineer at NFPA. “It was determined by the Committees that a second, more cost-effective door lock/latch combination utilizing a second releasing operation would continue to deliver a high level of safety to students and staff while minimizing the need for well-intentioned but dangerously misguided applications.”
As with all NFPA codes and standards, the NFPA 101 Technical Committees are comprised of individuals from a cross-section of backgrounds and professions that reflect the building and life safety scope addressed within NFPA 101. The committees oversee updates, additions, and changes to the code over a three-year period in an open-consensus process, which includes careful review and consideration of all public inputs and public comments.
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. For more information about NFPA’s efforts to address building security and safety, visit www.nfpa.org/security.
For this release and other announcements about NFPA initiatives, research and resources, please visit the NFPA press room.
About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
Founded in 1896, NFPA is a global self-funded nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. The association delivers information and knowledge through more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach and advocacy; and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission. For more information, visit www.nfpa.org. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed online for free at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.