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Emergency Lockdowns & Exigent Circumstances

Is barricading the door during an active shooter attack dangerous and illegal?

There are occasionally comments on our Facebook page like the ones below regarding our temporary door barricade.  As long as these concerns are coming from teachers, parents, and school employees, and not from the Builder’s Hardware Manufacturer’s Association (who bring nothing to the table other than product promotion and a strong lobby ), these questions are legitimate and need to be answered.

A couple of examples from our FB page: Anchorman/ACT

“I’m very concerned about these barricades being used against the occupants of the room.”

“I think it could be a good and bad thing! What’s going to happen when a shooter decides to lock themselves in a room with students and teachers in there.  Sounds like an easy way to take a lot of people out.”

“Need to design it so only a Teachers key-or-code or Remote Security Personnel/Police can Activate it!  Can’t allow a Shooter to be able to Barricade themselves in a room with a bunch of innocent victims!”

The answer to the question of a door lock or barricade being used illegally to hold the occupants of a room is it could be, and absolutely ALREADY HAS been thousands of times.  Criminals attempt to prevent law enforcement from making entry, with locks and furniture daily all over this country and the world.  However, the concern of criminal ‘misuse’ needs to be logically thought all the way through. People have a tendency to approach this issue emotionally which distracts them from looking at all the other very real and practical factors involved.

Several months ago, there was a teacher who *fired a gun in his classroom and then locked and barricaded himself in the same room. He used the doors locking mechanism and then barricaded the door with classroom objects. Fortunately, there were no students in the room with him and the crisis was eventually resolved without any injuries or death.

Had this teacher locked and barricaded students in with him (taken hostages), and then transitioned into an “active shooter,” it would have been nearly impossible for the first responders to quickly get into the room to stop him.

Law enforcement SWAT does have the training and tools necessary to get in, but in the case of environmental items (furniture) being used to barricade the door, getting in will be a time-consuming process. That is once the SWAT Team arrives- considerably later than the first arriving patrol officers who do not have the same breaching capabilities.

Keep in mind, the active assailant or hostage taker, initially, is in control. The active shooter or active assailant dictates when the violence will start, which makes the first responders ability to make a positive entry a high priority.  I have been on literally hundreds of responses where criminals and emotionally deranged individuals have barricaded the doors and windows.  I would much rather deal with a known barricading device (especially one that can be “legitimately” unlocked from the outside) than have to get through a door barricaded with numerous pieces of furniture blocking it.

I could go into great detail about breaching and barricading doors and door locks.  But because we know there are potential future active assailants out there, who we know often search the Internet for this kind of information, I always remain purposely vague about the subject when writing about the dynamics of lockdowns and lockouts.

In the recent Florida school shooting, there was one room where the killer shot the teacher through the doors as the teacher was trying to close it.  The door did not get closed or locked.  As you can read for yourself from the news report posted on our FB site, the shooter could have just walked in the room and started shooting.  In fact, he could have just walked in, locked the door behind him, essentially barricading himself and the occupants. For some unknown reason, he just chose to walk by the room and look elsewhere for victims.

In another *news story from Florida, a student was angry with his teacher for not opening the door and letting more people in from the hallway during the attack.  What if the teacher would have held the door opened a little longer and the shooter, who did eventually mix in with other students, would have gotten in the classroom (dropping the rifle and sneaking in with the handgun we know he had access to) and waited until the teacher locked the door.

While discussing this subject, I always ask a quick and simple question: Was the classification of this room “temporarily” transformed during this incident?  Did it or did it not become a place of detention?  Were the students allowed to open the door and leave?  The answer among the majority of people would be yes, everyone on the side is not free to leave the room.  So who would argue that it’s illegal to barricade the door?

I’m not taking sides between the teacher and student in this story.  I will only say, from the limited information I have access to, there is no one at blame here.  The teacher did the best he could to protect as many as he reasonably thought he could. And the young man who is the student, who could blame him for being angry and outraged after hearing his friends and classmates being gunned down and wanting to open the door to provide them safety.

There is no one solution or appropriate action for every situation.  Who in their right mind wants to explain to their children and grandchildren how to hit a mass murderer in the head with a classroom fire extinguisher, and then explicitly explain they need to keep hitting the killer until he stops moving?

No One!  However, environment dictates actions!  If a mass killer walks into a room, whether the room is equipped or not with a temporary door barricade, the only real solution for the room occupants, if they are not able to safely escape, is to become indignant and attack the shooter using all necessary force and means to permanently stop the shooter.

The argument barricades “could be” misused during an active assailant attack is looking past several other far more critical points surrounding the dynamics of what we already know actually does occur in these incidents.

We can’t afford to look at this issue emotionally or from the perspective of a non-tactical, normal everyday protocol.  There isn’t a response plan or device that is going to make everyone safe from harm in every situation.  Potential solutions have to be evidence-based and be considered from the perspective of what will provide the most value and save the most lives.  We know doors are being locked and barricaded in almost every one of these events.  Barricading is ordered by school officials and is widely recommended by safety experts. The reason people intuitively barricade doors is that it’s effective.  It separates you from the bad guy!  It is a time proven tactic and has been for hundreds of years

I think we can all agree, taking active shooter response training from and adopting non-tactical protocols from “academic” non-tactical entities, persons, and organizations are not logical or prudent in the current environment.  It can safely be assumed we all want our doctor and dentist to have hands-on experience, as opposed to just book experience.

“Code Experts” with no direct expertise or knowledge of violent incidents, and large non-tactical safety associations surely have a place at the table as collaborative partners, but they shouldn’t be leading the discussion (as it appears they are trying to do).  Protocols and training as it relates to active shooters should be led by experienced Special Operations Law Enforcement personnel, Military Special Operations combat veterans,’ and Safety Experts who understand the dynamics of violence.

I am hopeful and encouraged things will get better, but we are at a place in history and time where we can’t approach the issue of violent encounters emotionally hoping things will get better.  We have to ACT Now:  Accept what is happening, face the Challenge, and respond Tactically.

 

Author: B II Deputy Sheriff Jeffrey Coates (Ret.) Jeff has 35 years of combined law enforcement and military experience. Twenty-seven years of his law enforcement experience was with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. His assignments include Patrol Deputy, Field Training Officer, Gang Enforcement Team, Major Crimes Detective, and working a Federal Task Force as a Deputized US Marshall. He served full-time on the LASD SWAT Team from 2003 until his retirement in 2017. Jeff is the Co-Owner and Chief Operations Officer of Anchorman, Inc. www.AnchormanInc.com
Article Contributor: Lieutenant Thomas Giandomenico, 30-years of law enforcement experience. Tom is currently the SWAT Commander for the world’s largest Sheriff Department and full-time SWAT Team. He is Co-Owner and CEO of Anchorman, Inc.
In addition to their formidable experience and tactical training, Tom and Jeff are both Nationally Certified Paramedics, FBI Tac-Med Provider certified, and Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support Instructor certified. Both have instructed domestically and internationally.