Door locks reinstalled at Carrsville Elementary

Published 6:24 pm Monday, April 1, 2019


Door locks that Isle of Wight County Schools purchased and installed in 2018 — but later removed when the locks were found to be potentially in violation of state fire codes — are once again in use at Carrsville Elementary School.

The division had purchased enough locks to equip every school in the division, a total of 718 doors, for a purchase price of $64,658. This money had come from roughly $820,000 in savings from school roof repairs, which the Board of Supervisors had re-appropriated to Isle of Wight County Schools earlier that year for security upgrades.

The locks, known as “Lockdown 1” models, are manufactured by the Michigan-based company Nightlock, and consist of an aluminum locking handle, floor plate and door plate. According to Nightlock’s website, each device when dropped into place can withstand force of up to 2,000 pounds on a door that opens into a room and up to 1,600 pounds of force on a door that opens outward. However, there is also a disclaimer on the website informing buyers that they must obtain approval from local code officials or the fire marshall before the devices can be installed and used.

It was this requirement that led to IWCS needing to remove the devices last year. Division personnel had checked with the county’s chief of emergency services and fire marshal, Jeff Terwilliger, but he had told them to also check with Art Berkley, the county’s director of inspections. This did not happen prior to the locks being installed, and as a result, the county instructed the division to remove the locks in early September. Around this same time, the division also received an email from the Virginia Department of Education’s superintendent of public instruction, Dr. James Lane, on the matter. This email stated that, “The Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office has notified the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) that some school divisions have installed temporary door barricade devices on school doors to increase the security of school buildings during an emergency lockdown situation,” and that, “While we all are striving to increase security measures in our schools, these efforts must be balanced with current fire and life safety code requirements. The installation of some of these devices requires modifications to the door which may adversely impact the listed fire resistance of the door and any warranties in effect. The State Fire Marshal indicates that some of these devices may be in conflict with provisions in the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC) and the Statewide Fire Prevention Code (SFPC) regarding requirements for door locking operation and locking hardware….”

The email added that, per the State Fire Marshal Office’s instructions, any such door barricade devices installed in school facilities without the review and approval of the appropriate fire official must be removed, and reminded school division officials that any special locking arrangements must be approved by either the local or state fire marshal, since not all localities have a local fire marshal.

Isle of Wight County, however, does have a local fire marshall, and as such, is permitted to resolve this situation locally. As such, Isle of Wight County Schools has begun taking the necessary steps to rectify its initial oversight in not contacting Berkley, and get the locks reinstalled inside each school building. A few weeks ago, Carrsville Elementary invited Berkley to observe a lockdown drill using the Nightlock devices, which resulted in his signing off on the installation of the locks and their being left in place following the drill.

According to Lynn Briggs, the division’s director of community and media relations, the division will need to repeat this process with Berkley for each of its nine schools. The purpose of having him observe lockdown drills using the devices, she said, was so that he can see that school personnel know how to properly use the locks and that law enforcement and emergency personnel know how to release the devices in the event of an actual incident. When all the locks have been reinstalled in every building, the division will submit a final letter of reinstallation to Berkley, which Briggs said Berkley has indicated he will approve.