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Low Tech (“KISS Rule,” keep it simple).

Put Appointed Bureaucrats On A Leash!

One of the Best Practices recommended for active assailant incidents is door barricading.  It is recommended and approved by the FBI, DOJ, FEMA, the Department of Education, the Association of Chiefs of Police, NASRO, and the A.L.I.C.E. Institute to name a few.  This list also includes multiple states and local jurisdictions where legislatures and code officials have enacted code revisions and variances for the use of temporary door barricades. This includes jurisdictions in Canada and Central America.

National Association of School Resource Officers Best Practices Guide

“The premise of options-based drills is to allow participants to make independent decisions including when and whether to evacuate, barricade classroom doors, or as a last resort, counter the attack of the armed assailant.”

A question I am asked over and over:  Why, knowing that barricading a door during an active assailant incident is an effective countermeasure to a violent attack, do SOME “appointed” code bureaucrats, without explanation continue to resist when asked to approve safer alternatives other than the use of furniture for lockdowns.  In my opinion, there are three not so subtle key human characteristics in motion.

One: Complacency. Lack of an initiative, or just plain laziness. We have always done it that way.  Also known as “Institutionalized inertia.”  It is a natural human condition to want things to stay the same because it makes us feel safe. Most would agree we are all born with a reluctance to stepping outside of the known.

This is common among civil servants.  However, there are many who seek change and progress; but they are often held back by career focused and tenured superiors who are the epitome of the Peter Principle. This principle states some institutional members of a hierarchy are promoted until they reach the level at which they are no longer competent.

Before any of you go high and right on me, I was a civil servant for thirty-five years.  Some of the most talented, professional, and awesome people I call friends are public servants.  But, until you are able to challenge hypocrisy within “your own,” you will never have credibility.

Two: Ego. These are people who, through appointed positions, are overtaken by a nonpharmaceutical drug called Power.  Once drugged by the power they start believing no one is allowed to question them or their proclamations. They are used to having the authority ring kissed, and kissed it shall be, or you will be unceremoniously dismissed as a fool!

Many times victims who suffer from Ego-itis, start to believe there is no authority over them.  An example I recently heard rumor of was a code official, who after hearing his state legislature had gone through the legislative process of updating a life safety code, took it upon himself to tell an entire room of his subordinates they did not have to comply with the new law.  Apparently, he even started quoting codes and regulations which are not even within his scope of authority.  It was evident to everyone in the room, other than himself, he was suffering from a nonpharmaceutical Power overdose.

This is exactly why there is a national movement to include law enforcement in life safety protocols, training, and standards.  Code officials should not be the sole dictators of the standards and tools needed for active assailant response and training (currently approved by using fire safety standards only).

Time will tell how this official’s hissy fit plays out.  I’m sure the Senator and House Representative who sponsored this life safety code update will not be happy to hear they wasted their valuable time crafting an amendment this code official has decided he will not comply with.  The thought of a self-appointed code guru usurping the law was enough to fire me up to write down a few thoughts of my own.  I’m sure the elected officials who wrote the law might have some thoughts on it too.

Until then, there continues to be a rise in incidents and we are told there is a high probability of more to come.  We hope and pray it will not happen again, but hoping isn’t a strategy, nor does it create any mitigating factors.    See linked FBI Active Shooter webpage. Active shooter referenced reports are linked at the bottom of this page: https://www.fbi.gov/about/partnerships/office-of-partner-engagement/active-shooter-resources

Personally, I’m tired of hearing there are better options like changing the door locking mechanisms to be “like the ones used on hotel room doors, which are compliant with one motion and no special knowledge codes.”  There is no one motion, no special knowledge, ADA code compliance when the door is barricaded with furniture.  Get it, the door is barricaded!  Code officials, please, while explaining out of context codes and standards (temporary barricades are just that, temporary-not permanently affixed), stop conveniently forgetting to mention it would minimally cost $2000 a door and take at least six months to retrofit just one large school with the same kind of locks used on hotel doors.

What should I do?  Reference the screenshot of the above-posted tweet from an active shooter incident less than a month ago. Authorities approved barricading the door with furniture in this incident, as they do in ALL incidents where you cannot safely escape.  Then why not use a pre-fabricated, pre-staged barricade?  One which is easy to put in, easy and fast to take off, and is minimally invasive when disengaged and will not block a quick and efficient evacuation of wheelchair or walker bound individuals. AND, it can be disengaged from the exterior by school authorities and first responders with a universal master key.  A barricade that ENABLES the handicapped to easily barricade the door (because they can’t get away fast enough), and enables them to evacuate the room relatively easy, as opposed to the door being barricaded with furniture.

Those who approve lockdown plans and recommend the use of furniture, and immediately start finger pointing and screaming handicap student endangerment when they are asked to approve a temporary door barricade device, and then follow with the “potential for criminal misuse” talking points, need to look at the three fingers pointing back at themselves.  They, because of their inflexibility to consider current threats, are the ones endangering physically challenged individuals.

The picture left is an active shooter incident that occurred in 2013. Numerous people were injured and murdered by an “empty vessel” who should never have his name spoken in public again.  I use this picture to answer the door barricade misuse question because I was there, and there were many issues getting to the students who had barricaded the doors (which was the right thing to do).  These same issues come up in every incident where there are numerous rooms locked down and barricaded with furniture.

Students barricaded one of the doors at this college with furniture.  What if there would have been a second shooter in this room, after barricading, waiting for the right moment to carry out his attack?  What if one of the occupants of this room decided to take advantage of this situation and sexually assault another student?  How would that happen with other people in the room I have been asked.  There were other small private rooms within the big library room. There is no perfect plan or strategy that fits all scenarios.  Criminal predators are cleaver and have been committing crimes and barricading doors for thousands of years.

Again, a well designed, temporary use only door barricade that you can easily open from the inside, and can be opened from the outside by first responders, is a much better option than just telling people to retrofit doors with one motion, no special knowledge compliance locks. Then in the same breath telling them they should barricade the doors with furniture if there is a violent incident.  Mitigating deaths and injury during violent incidents, while in the eye of the storm, require flexibility and pragmatic options, not inflexibility and rigid codes.  

People barricade doors because the physics of doing so are undeniable.  They intuitively know barricading a door substantially increases the lock strength and is a force multiplier.  At a minimum, it slows down the attacker’s ability to get in the room and carry out wild acts of violence. People are demanding pragmatic physical security solutions, not because there isn’t a lock already on the door, but because they know standard door locks are inadequate. Even when there is a lock on the door, it provides minimal resistance to being breached.  So code bureaucrats, again, please stop telling people no door has ever been breached in an active shooter incident. A simple Google search on active assailant incidents will immediately prove you wrong.  I would say you are misstating facts, but I’ve seen far too many people physically and emotionally injured who relied on advice and training from self-proclaimed subject matter experts, or code authority officials who had a competing interest.  So shall we just call the ‘misstatements’ what they are?

Three: Self-promotion and money.  In my state, there was a safety committee set up to find a solution to this issue of door barricading.  The committee consisted of law enforcement, firemen, code bureaucrats, and professional safety directors.  My understanding, from a safety director who was on the committee, is there were a lot of questions as to why a simple and cost-effective solution couldn’t be agreed on.  Oddly enough the committee was disbanded abruptly weeks after it started.

Seems lobbyist, many who are retired code bureaucrats did not like the idea of a low cost quickly installed solution.  I’ll leave it to the reader to make his or her own judgments.  A lack of initiative, fear of the unknown, and losing temporary control one’s ego are all forgivable because they are mistakes of the heart.  But characteristic three is a mistake of the mind.  Mistakes of the mind, especially when it comes to the safety of our children and families, are not forgivable!

Without a doubt, there are many well-intentioned code officials who disagree with door barricading.  I respect that and am always willing to have a civilized debate about the pros and cons.  With that being said, the debate has to be in the context of door barricading for an imminent and immediate danger of violence.  Not in the context of routine everyday use of door locks during normal school, business, and places of worship operations.  Fire safety and ADA is a huge consideration in this discussion, but it is no longer the only consideration.  The threat dynamics our kids and families face have changed, and it’s time to think outside the box.

If someone believes such devices would create a fire hazard, then just say that.  There are many solutions to fire hazard concerns regarding the when, where, and how people could use safe rooms and barricades during an active shooter/assailant incident.

The only options offered for active assailants door barricading can’t just be the cookie cutter solution to retrofit doors with one motion no special knowledge locks.  Answering questions not being asked is patronizing at best.  Avoiding the question is even worse.

For those who will need a lockdown solution today, tomorrow may never come!

 

 

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.