House Bill 114 raises concerns

Staff members at Edison Community College build a barricade out of furniture during a safety training exercise conducted by the Piqua Police Department.

MIAMI COUNTY — Safety is always a priority in schools; but one can argue that with too many precautions, what was meant to protect may actually do more harm.

The Ohio House Bill 114, which was passed by the House and currently under review in the Senate, would allow barricades to be implemented in Ohio schools. The bill states the barricades would only be in use during training or emergency situations. What is defined as emergency situations is to be determined by the Ohio Board of Education and the Ohio Board of Regents.

Also in the bill it states that when the barricades are in use, the State Fire Code is to not prohibit the use of the devices. This section of the bill is what raises some eyebrows.

“(House Bill 114 is a) typical legislative process of trying to find the middle ground on several different interests, but ultimately the safety of the children and schools is the interest of both fire and police personnel,” Chief Bruce Jamison of the Piqua Police Department said. “We found that some of the safest things we could recommend to school buildings could potentially put them in violation of fire codes.”

Jamison trains with Edison Community College and Piqua City Schools students and staff on safety procedures in a case of an active shooter. As part of the training, school members are taught to barricade in some dangerous situations with desks, chairs, and other furniture, which can take time. With industrial barricades, it may help make a room safer, quicker.

But there are other community leaders who are concerned with amending the fire code during the use of a barricade.

“Often what happens when threats happen, it endangers people if there is a fire,” Cpt. Lee Adams of the Piqua Fire Department said. “We need to be able to get the students and staff evacuated from the school. If barricades are installed in a way that recognizes the fire safety threat, then there is no issue with barricades.”

Adams also said the Ohio Fire Chief Association and fire marshal offices have been “working to make common sense brought into this discussion,” and want to keep in mind all of the hazards that barricades could have.

Local superintendents are concerned with this bill as well and are not in complete agreement with the bill as it currently stands.

“I think this is (an issue) we have to look at closely,” PCS Superintendent Rick Hanes said. “There’s a lot of exploration and research that needs to be done before I can say if we’ll use (barricades) or not.”

“The idea (of barricades) is sound, however, it would raise lots of questions and concerns that need to be addressed,” Superintendent Todd Rappold of Miami East Schools said. “We would never put us in anything that would be in violation of a fire code.”