‘Guardian Angel’ barricade system makes its way into schools across the country but not in Alabama

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A device to protect students and teachers in the event of an active shooter situation is being installed in classrooms across the country. However, it isn't allowed in Alabama schools under the current fire code.

Former school teacher Lance Sargent from Missouri designed the 'Guardian Angel' barricade system to help make students and teachers feel safer.

"Basically it has a key that you unlock. Inside of that key, it has a wench with a cable on it. You hit the release and goes onto it. It goes onto a ring that goes through the door. It has a hardened bulletproof, steel plate on the backside. When you hook that to it - it has a ratchet that you can crank to it," explained Sargent.

Sargent said it would take a trained teacher seven to nine seconds to get the barricade system in place.

"There's been a question of do I run? Do I hide? Do I fight? When you have a Guardian Angel on the wall you don't really have to do that," said Sargent.

Each teacher would have a lock key. The only person who could engage it would be someone with a key.

"It doesn't matter where you are in the school," explained Sargent. "If you've got one of those keys and you have a guardian there you can run into the library or anywhere and lock that down."

Sargent admits this isn't a solution to preventing an active shooter from coming into a school. However, he thinks it could help prevent the number of lives lost in a potential school shooting.

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Nearly 80 schools in Missouri have had the Guardian Angel installed. This week Sargent said they've installed devices in Tennessee and North Carolina among other states.

When the superintendent of Guntersville City Schools caught wind of the idea, he wanted to learn more about it so Sargent made a trip to Alabama. He quickly learned that the system didn't meet Alabama's fire code.

Huntsville Fire Marshal Dan Wilkerson said the code only allows one lock on the door.

"You shouldn't have to have a key or special knowledge to open that door to get out," said Wilkerson. "From fires in history, there were situations where people were locked in rooms and then a fire occurred and there was a large loss of life. So, that's why you're only allowed a single lock on the exit door."

"Active shooters are real. And there needs to be a variance put in place," said Sargent. "So if schools want to protect their kids by putting in another layer they can. This is not a solution, it's just a layer of protection."

Wilkerson said the codes are rewritten every three to five years and that suggestions regarding the code can be submitted to the State Fire Marshal.

"Those situations have to be evaluated carefully and make sure that we have safety across the board and not just for one particular situation," explained Wilkerson.

The Guntersville City Schools superintendent said he hopes officials will create a variance that would allow them to use devices like the 'Guardian Angel' system.

Our school system along with others across the country are having deep conversations focused on safety and security measures because of the recent outbreak of violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.  In our school system, these deep conversations have guided us toward the importance of building upon layers of protection for our schools.

As we reviewed different means of providing additional layers of protection for our schools there was the realization that utilizing a school door security system was one means of accomplishing our goal.  We soon determined one school door security system appeared to stand out from the others for a variety of reasons, but most importantly realized this system provided another desirable layer of protection for our schools.  In addition, we believed this product would be permissible for installation in our schools because it was advertised to be fire code friendly with satisfied customers in school systems located in other parts of the country such as Missouri.

As we continued exploring this possibility in order to provide another layer of protection for our schools we were notified by the local Fire Marshall this and other school door security systems of a similar nature do not meet the Alabama Fire Codes and are currently prohibited from being installed in schools within our state.  Therefore, my desire is for some type of variance be provided within the Alabama Fire Codes allowing school door security systems to be installed for the purpose of adding another layer of protection for our schools and others across our state.

Brett Stanton, Superintendent

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