Making the Grade: Developing Guidance for Safety and Security

The safety of students and faculty at schools has been a topic of intense discussion in recent years, given the increasing number of school shootings.

The Education Week organization counted nearly 60 school shootings between 2018 and 2020. At this time, however, building codes to protect those inside schools don’t exist. Efforts are underway to address this concern, as the building and construction industry works to develop several codes and guidelines.

The International Code Council (ICC) established the Ad Hoc Building Safety and Security (BSS) committee in 2018 to comprehensively explore and assess building safety and security. The committee includes a broad cross-section of experts from the building industry, building owners and facility managers, the education sector and security fields, code officials, engineers, architects, standards developing organizations, and the federal government.

The BSS committee is now in the final stages of developing guidelines to address building safety and security. According to Michael Pfeiffer, ICC’s senior vice president of technical services, the report should be available by the end of the summer. He says glazing plays a key role in two chapters.

“The first will be chapter four, titled ‘Facility Hardening,’ which talks about the hardening of glazing, doors, entryways, and things of that nature,” he says. “And then ‘Access Control,’ is chapter five. In both of those chapters, there are numerous references to the different types of glazing that’s out there. Also, there are references to 15 or 20 different standards for the different types of glazing.”

Pfeiffer says that while the report won’t be a designated code or standard, it will serve as a helpful tool for those in the industry to access relevant information, documents, and literature.

“This [report] is attempting to compile all this information into a single document. I think that’s what’s important about it. We’re trying to provide one spot, one location, a one-stop-shop, if you will, to deal with this in terms of compiling all the information so somebody doesn’t have to go out and try to [do it themselves].”

Earlier this year, industry consultant Thom Zaremba discussed the BSS efforts, pointing out the focus isn’t limited to schools but all high occupancy facilities. He said the report would provide design elements, devices, and protocols that hinder those intending to commit violent acts and will help facilitate quicker and more effective responses from emergency personnel compared to what’s currently available.

According to Zaremba, the report will encourage local jurisdictions to enact legislation requiring all new public or private high-risk occupancies to have a BSS assessment during the planning and design phase of construction.

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