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  Lockdown Lesson: Peoria, Arizona Unified School District

School was once considered a safe haven, a place where tough teachers were respected and tough students were disciplined. Safety was once assumed, not practiced. School buildings were wide open. Walking onto a school campus was rarely considered a precursor to an act of violence or terrorism. And the mindset of "it can't happen here" was widespread. 

The 33,000-student Peoria Unified School District #11, with schools located in Glendale and Peoria, Arizona modified school classroom doors and locks to facilitate “lockdown” security.In recent years, schools have raised the bar and made meaningful safety improvements in response to school shootings, random acts of violence and world terrorism. But many schools still lack the physical security barriers that can make the difference between safety and tragedy.

According to a July 2002 survey conducted by the National Association of School Resource Officers, 95 percent of school-based police officers believe their schools are vulnerable to terrorist attack. Yet a substantial percentage of officers (79 percent) surveyed say they do not feel that the schools in their districts are adequately prepared to respond to a terrorism attack. 

The 33,000-student Peoria Unified School District #11, with schools located in Glendale and Peoria, Arizona, recognized the need to reduce the risk of tragedy by modifying school classroom doors and locks to facilitate "lockdown" security.

Dave Demchik, AHC and Gilleland Brubaker, a school district architect developed the specification and hardware sets for Pioneer Elementary School, the district’s first retrofit.Lockdown - a word most frequently associated with prisons - is now commonplace in our schools as well. Basically, lockdowns secure and limit access to buildings. In the school environment, lockdowns may require students to return to classrooms, or in the most dramatic situations, restrict students to the classroom to keep them out of harm's way.

"Locking down" a school may be done to contain a violent situation, such as at Columbine; restrict entry by a violent or armed individual, such as an escaped criminal or sniper; or even limit access by an estranged parent or spouse in a domestic situation. But regardless of situation, the appropriate physical security barriers must be available for a lockdown to be effective.

Corbin Russwin rim exit devices with cylinder dogging, along with additional products by McKinney were selected to control the lockdown function. Security Hardware, a YSG Door Security Consultants sales agency in Phoenix, Arizona, met with Peoria Unified School District officials to establish a "district standard" approach to lockdown. Dave Demchik, AHC, a specification writer with Security Hardware, worked with one the school district's architects, Gilleland Brubaker, to develop the specification and hardware sets for one of the district's first retrofits, Pioneer Elementary School. 

Because schools vary greatly in types of door openings and types of locks, a variety of products were proposed for retrofitting and modification to existing hardware.

McKinney heavy-weight butt hinges and Corbin Russwin door closers were used in the school upgrade.Three types of Corbin Russwin classroom security locks were proposed: the ML2072 mortise lever lockset, the CL3352 cylindrical lever lockset, and the ED5200S rim exit device with security deadbolt function and auxiliary trim. All of these classroom security locks allow the classroom to be locked from either side, unlike other locks that must be locked from the outside. Students and teachers can be secured inside the classroom if needed, but they always have the ability to open the door from the inside. Because the outside remains locked, those inside the classroom are protected.

Security Hardware then referred the school's construction management company to several qualified Corbin Russwin distributors in the area to provide door hardware, installation and keying. Nelson Holland, a Phoenix distributor headed by Dan Heinz, was awarded the contract. 

The school district elected to go with Corbin Russwin ED5200S x 630 rim exit devices with M52 IC cylinder dogging, to control the lockdown function. When the exit device is dogged down, the door is in the unlocked position and the function is push/pull, with no latching. When they need to invoke the "lockdown," the teachers simply use their key to release the dogging and the door is secure from the outside. The door always remains open from the inside.

With the use of the pull trim and the exit device in the dogged down position, the latch life is prolonged, with less wear-and-tear on the push pad. The pull also provides a more vandal-resistant option than an active trim such as a lever.

Additional products used on the project were McKinney T4A3786 heavyweight butt hinges and Corbin Russwin DC2210 door closers with A3 or A4 arms. Corbin Russwin IC rim cylinders were used for outside access.

The project was completed during summer 2003. Six additional schools are under consideration for immediate upgrades, with a possibility of 23 schools district-wide, contingent upon funding.

The mere existence of physical security barriers used for this school and others in the Peoria Unified School District will not prevent tragedy. But they will provide a foundation from which a set of specialized procedures may be established and practiced - that will improve the outcome of violent situations.

For more information on Corbin Russwin classroom security products, call 800-543-3658 or visit the website at www.corbin-russwin.com.


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