Ohio School Barricade Devices Continue to Cause Concern

Fire marshals, architects and building hardware manufacturers renewed questions Monday about an Ohio law allowing schools to deploy portable barricade devices in the event of an active shooter.

The devices gained popularity after the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook Elementary School massacres and a 2012 shooting in the Cleveland suburb of Chardon where three students were killed.

Some devices used in Ohio and elsewhere slide under doors and could require that holes be drilled into the floor for security pins. Others attach to door handles. The state buildings board has an April deadline to write rules governing the devices after lawmakers approved their use in concept earlier this year.

Capt. Scott Brooks of the Westchester Fire Department told the board he’s concerned about a lack of testing standards.

“Every device that’s been submitted to me for approval is just some guy off the street that has built a device that will lock a door down,” Brooks said.

Ohio should wait for the results of the International Code Council’s work addressing active shooter situations before moving ahead, said Elizabeth Murphy, representing the Ohio chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Like many, she expressed concern that the devices could keep people from leaving a classroom as well as preventing bad guys from getting in.

The rules developed so far are poor and could lead to terrible consequences such as someone being attacked inside a classroom, said John Woestman, with the New York City-based Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association.

“That law really needs to be changed before it moves forward and the unimaginable occurs,” Woestman said.

Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio are among states that have updated their fire or building codes in recent years to allow the devices.

The Ohio board previously opposed the devices, calling them “unlisted, unlabeled and untested” in a July report. But once lawmakers approved them, the board was required to adopt new rules.

Board chairman Gerald Holland said he and other board members were equally frustrated with the process. But the board must meet the April deadline, said Steven Regoli, the board’s architect project administrator.

“The administrative agencies don’t have the discretion of ignoring what the Legislature does,” Regoli said.

Emmanuel Christian School in Toledo is hoping the board will make exceptions to regulations prohibiting devices permanently installed onto doors.

The school recently had to cancel an order for such devices after it learned they wouldn’t meet state code, Superintendent Jeffrey Wilcox told the buildings board in a Nov. 12 letter.

The latest draft of proposed rules allow almost any kind of device without consideration of existing building or fire codes, said Bill Cushwa, founder of National School Control Systems in Hudson. He took input from local fire and school officials before creating his “Bearacade” device, which slides under a door, is held in place by an anchor pin and is visible from inside and outside a classroom.