School Safety Vs. Fire Safety – Who Wins?

There is an interesting debate happening in the fire door safety industry right now: when it comes to schools and educational facility, what comes first — doors that lock or fire protection?

Following the increasing amount of school shootings in the U.S., many classrooms are reportedly discussing placing locks, or even barricades, on the doors with the thought that this would keep a would-be shooter or terrorist threat out.

But on the flipside of the argument, doors that lock can be a hazard to fire safety.

The Ontario Municipal Fire Prevention Officers Association (OMFPOA) recently tackled this discussion on its website.

“Kingston, Frontenac Lennox and Addington Mutual Aid Fire Prevention Committee (KFLA Fire Rescue) was approached by the Limestone District School Board with an alternative solution to impede children who attempt to run out of classrooms,” the OMFPOA wrote.

“Many departments have been approached by schools requesting to add additional locks to classroom doors, which would contravene the Ontario Fire Code.”

Instead of locks, the OMFPOA reviewed a sign that would be installed over doors with Velcro as a deterrent.

“We recognize the need to come up with solutions to address children who may attempt to flee classrooms,” the OMFPOA wrote.

They made sure that the proposed sign does not interfere with the intended operation of the door, obstruct the access to exit or exit door, impede the ability of a person to recognize the exit door, nor have dramatic effect in flame spread ratings.

And prior to granting final approval, the OMFPOA performed a test to ensure that the amount of Velcro would not prevent the door from being opened from the interior or exterior of the classroom and that the door could easily be opened with less than 90 newtons of force.

The sign has since been accepted.

The Door Security & Safety Foundation had a different take on the debate in the May 2019 issue of its magazine.

In an article titled “Opening the Door to School Safety: Lock Don’t Block,” it was reported that there were 94 acts of school gun violence in the United States in 2018 — the highest since 1970.

“To this end, school boards and other authorities are desperately seeking quick, inexpensive fixes to keep kids, teachers and administrators secure in schools,” the article stated.

“But installing barricade devices can create unintended consequences and, potentially, may cause more harm than good, and, in most cases, are not code compliant.”

DSSF has instead recommended code-compliant locks vs. barricades. They have even launched a campaign called “Lock Don’t Block.” More information is available on the campaign website:

What do you think the best solution is — or does it depend on the region? Let us know on social media. Mpengo is on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Mpengo’s Fire Door Safety Inspection App helps fire door inspectors expedite the process to save time and money. Learn more about the app and download a free trial today:


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