Firefighters seek to change fire code to help protect classrooms from attackers

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By Tara Figurski

Staff Writer

Truro Township firefighters are advocating for a change to the statewide fire code that would make classrooms safer in the event of an active shooter situation.

Truro Township Fire Department Lt. Joe Posey said current fire code prohibits schools from barricading a classroom door. A barricaded door makes it more difficult for a shooter to enter a classroom.

“Unfortunately, a shooter is trying to hurt as many people as possible,” Posey said. “If you put something in their path to slow them down they go elsewhere.”

Posey said firefighters are advocating for a change to the fire code that would allow a barricade to be employed and have written a change to the code they would like to see implemented.

Ohio fire code follows the regulations established by the International Code Counsel. Any recommended changes to the code have to be submitted to the ICC by January 2015.

Posey has been working with the West Licking Joint Fire District to advocate for the change.

“We are working really hard on this right now,” said Kate Earley, fire prevention officer West Licking Joint Fire District.

She said fire departments, police officers and educators need to sit down together and create the safest plan for schools. There are other tools that can be incorporated to make classrooms safer until the code change is passed.

“This is one small piece of the puzzle,” Earley said “There are many safety tools and resources for (schools) to use to minimize the threat of an active shooter. The goal is for everyone to sit down and create it together.”

Earley said there are other tools and resources that school districts can use that do not violate the fire code.

“That doesn’t mean that locks and latches on doors aren’t code approved and can’t be used,” Earley said. “There are grants out there to install cameras on front doors. There is a lot that can be utilized at this time.”

There are school districts in Ohio that use the barricades to keep their classrooms safe. Devices are readily available for purchase, but Posey asks school officials to wait for the code change before purchasing one.

“There are good devices out there and bad devices out there,” Posey said.

It is important to wait until changes are made to the fire code so the correct kind of devices can be incorporated in the classroom, according to Posey.

Over the past 50 to 60 years, the number of deaths related to school fires has been drastically reduced. Nationwide, firefighters respond to about 4,000 structural fires a year.

“There is always a potential there for fire,” Posey said. “We don’t want to do anything that puts (a school) at greater risk.”

Once firefighters have recommended a change to the state fire code, they go to a code hearing to advocate for the code update. It could take up to six months for the ICC to make a code change.

Posey said Ohio is one of a handful of states advocating for change to the fire code regulations. He said New Jersey and Minnesota are also advocating for change to the fire code.

“This is putting Ohio towards the front of the movement,” Posey said.

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