FERRIER FILES: Some Tennessee schools to use temporary door barricades after code change
PERRY COUNTY, Tenn. —
Any school in Tennessee that wants to install temporary door barricades in classrooms can do so thanks to a code change.
At least three school systems plan to will immediately install these special locks.
This change in the state fire code came after a brief but intense disagreement between the Tennessee State Fire Marshal and Perry County Sheriff Nick Weems.
There was something about watching those Parkland, Fla. school kids die so helplessly trapped in the room as a shooter mercilessly executed them. Sheriff Nick Weems said he was sad, then angry and sick of only talking about making schools safer.
The sheriff and his wife Rosanna put up the first $500 for temporary door barricades to be put in all Perry County classrooms. Not long after, the community just started mailing in checks.
“Most people sent in $125," Rosanna said. "They wanted to protect at least one classroom."
Within a couple weeks, the sheriff raised enough money for 94 Nightlock barricades, one for each classroom in the county.
Before he could get any farther, the State Fire Marshal said the locks were a violation of fire code and installation could lead to fines and court orders to remove the locks.
The fire marshal said the door locks were too complicated and took special knowledge to operate. The sheriff argued that was nonsense and it's as simple as sliding in a metal plate and then sliding it out.
America has not had a mass casualty school fire since 1958, which is what the current fire code aims to prevent. School shooting happen each year.
Fox 17 News questioned the fire marshal’s reasoning, which lead to a heated debate. So heated the Fire Marshal PIO said he would no longer do on-camera interviews with Fox 17 News Reporter Dennis Ferrier.
Last week, the state Fire Marshal changed its position on fire codes and decided to allow temporary barricades in all school classrooms in the state of Tennessee.
“Our children are not dying from fires," Weems said. "They are getting shot. I commend the fire marshal's office for finally stepping aside and realizing there is a problem."
Perry County Schools director Eric Lomax called it a victory for common sense.
“A lot of times we try to overthink things," Lomax said."Something as simple as a door lock, why such a big debate? I believe common sense has prevailed in this situation. We got the ball rolling, but I am truly surprised that it happened this fast."
Now the door is open for every school in Tennessee to used barricades that hope to frustrate, impede and slow down a school shooter.
“If it saves one, just one life, those devices were worth every penny spent," Sheriff Weems said. "Edmund Burke said it best. All it takes for evil to prevail is when good men do nothing."
The door barricades will be assembled this summer and ready for the first day of school in Perry County.