Students entering and leaving classrooms in a newly constructed addition at Winds West Elementary School in Oklahoma follow routine procedures: gently turn the door handle or push the exit device (depending on the door), open the door and with the same minimal effort, close the door behind them. Nothing out of the ordinary—just typically operated mechanical doorways similar to any garden-variety opening.
Although the effort to open the door is ordinary, the function and construction of the openings are anything but. The school’s location in the heart of tornado alley has something to do with that. The 50 square mile area surrounding the school averages about 11 tornados a year. In fact, the highest wind speed ever recorded occurred within six miles when a tornado producing winds of 318 mph struck in 1999.
To address this geographical hazard, all classroom doorways in the newly constructed wing are equipped with products from ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions brands, including StormPro doors from CECO, heavy duty hinges from McKINNEY and either FE 6800 locks from CORBIN RUSSWIN or FM 8700 exit devices from SARGENT.
These doorway assemblies are built to withstand the destructive forces of tornados and are used in the construction of safe rooms and emergency shelters designed to FEMA 361 Design and Construction Guidance for Community Shelters. The FEMA guidelines call for reinforced construction throughout designated shelter areas, including openings.
The extra sturdy door assemblies are used on all classroom doors, utility closet doors, and even as storm shutters on windows at Winds West Elementary. The doorway products used at the school are designed to FEMA 361 guidelines and have undergone static load testing (hold firm against a force of 252 psf for 10 seconds) and impact testing (withstand impact from a 15 pound two-inch by four-inch piece of lumber fired from an air cannon at 100 mph).
On top of these requirements, the hardware also complies with UL 305 standards that stipulate no more than 15 lbs of force be necessary to unlatch the hardware.
Despite the robust construction of the FE 6800 and FM 8700, both can be opened with under 15 lbs of force—an important feature considering the age of the school population. So while little effort is needed to open the doors, the children will still be protected from the all-too-real dangers of a tornado. The storm shelter assemblies from ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions show that enhanced life-safety should not come at the expense of convenience.