Locking devices fail fire code but lead to new statewide safety procedures in schools

Posted at 8:17 AM, Nov 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-04 20:14:15-05

Listening, locking and looking for ways to keep their kids safe. 

Parents and educators, fearing for their students behind school doors, are creating ways they can help. Former Treasure Valley principal Joyce Messenger was inspired to create a pepper spray device for teachers.

"When I've talked to other educators they say 'I would be very comfortable using that in case there's an event," said Messenger. 

Parent and kindergarten aid Jammie Elkins created a secondary lock after watching her school's practice lockdown procedure.
"I was like, nobody's got time for that! Because it's a lot to get these tiny little kids quiet and where they need to be," said Elkins. 

These devices are a simple fix, but the issue is still complicated. Fire code says you need to be able to get out of the room in one motion. Locks like Elkin's take multiple steps to open, which means not only are you preventing someone from getting in, you're also keeping somebody from getting out.

"Seven feet in the air, 6.5 feet in the air, and if something were to happen to the teacher say like, for a first-grade class, they can't reach that, so now they're stuck in the classroom," said deputy chief of fire prevention for Meridian Fire Department Joseph Bongiorno. 

The Meridian Fire Department didn't ignore these parents. Instead, they got moving.

"I didn't know fire code, I didn't know the federal code and what that even meant, and so it was answered by Joe, and he came to us and said great idea but this isn't something we can do, and so I said hey, my whole goal in this is just to get movement," said Elkins. 

With the help of police departments and other state agencies,they created four new annexes, which will be a statewide safety protocol everyone follows. 

Meaning teachers can switch districts, and safety procedures will be the same among police, firefighters and teachers. 

"That way if somebody in meridian, a teacher here goes up to Coeur d'Alene or Pocatello the training is the same. So these annexes we created will be distributed next summer, and all of the teachers in the whole state will get the same training," said Bongiorno. 

Middleton and Homedale will be testing the new emergency plan in January. After that, all schools will adapt the annexes after training this summer for the next calendar school year.

"These are treasures these are children they could be my grandchildren my nieces and nephews, and that's how I like to treat all that are under my care when I was an active principal," said Messenger. 

Improving safety for kids across the state.

"That's the thing I wanted was that this didn't go away, was that the topic didn't go away, that we keep nurturing it, we keep dissecting how to better it so that our kids can go to school and just learn."