Mullaney's Word

State to City College: Uninstall 1,000 Fire Code-Defying ‘Barricade Devices’

An Anchorman, Inc. door "barricade device." Alexander Mullaney/Ingleside-Excelsior Light

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of City College as a graduate and advisor to the Department of Journalism. I’d like to work there as an employee or instructor eventually. Sometimes, the college advertises within these pages. But the quality of the campus grinds my gears.

In the weeks following an October 2015 attempted armed kidnapping on City College of San Francisco’s Ocean Campus, college administrators determined a good measure to protect students, faculty and staff in the event of another armed individual on campus was to install 1,000 special “barricade devices” — also known as kick locks — on classroom doors.

Emails show then-Chief of Police Andre Barnes urged the college purchase devices manufactured by Anchorman, Inc. and shared the company’s promotional materials with top administrators. Another email shows an administrator announcing she had found a grant to purchase and install the hardware.

Had the college performed a simple web search they would have found that the National Association of State Fire Marshals condemned these devices just months before. Not only did they not comply with the fire code, the public safety officials stated, but they may lead to dangerous situations and defy the recommendations created after the 2012 Sandy Hook slayings. “Critics say the devices could allow someone looking to do harm an easy way to cut victims off from help,” the Associated Press reported in September 2015.

Yet purchase orders show the City College paid over $200,000 for the devices.

“Anchorman was chosen because the locking system was self-contained and didn’t require additional pieces or tools to activate,” City College General Counsel Steve Bruckman stated. “The lock is initiated by stomping on the black knob.”

Emails show the college was aware of the fire code compliance issue in December 2015 when outgoing Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration Mark Zacovic told then Chancellor Susan Lamb and other administrators to get written approval to use the devices from the State Fire Marshal.

No such document granting approval was created, according to Bruckman.

I checked with the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

“[T]he reporter is correct, those devices, which require special knowledge to use, are illegal and should be removed immediately. Code compliant options are available,” Cal Fire Deputy Chief Scott McLean told me.

I shared McLean’s statement with the college administrators. “[T]here is considerable lack of clarity regarding the fire code and other related policies pertaining to the use of these types of devices,” Government Affairs Director Jeff Hamilton stated. “The [..] devices are an emergency-use-only barricade system, not a door lock. We made the determination that the installation of these devices was, on balance, the correct course of action. We stand by this decision.”

Hamilton added, “Moving forward from here, we are working with the National Association of State Fire Marshall’s to review our protocols in an effort to provide a safe environment for our campus community as well as comply with state and federal codes. We are also in the process of creating a cam – pus lockdown plan and will be sharing this with our community after it is finalized and approved.”

Aside from the issues with the fire code and the questions around training for the public, documents I obtained through public records requests show City College officials seem to have mishandled the bidding for the devices as well as the installation.

In the “sole source justification form,” a document used to make sure purchases are made in the public interest rather than a special interests, the justification used by the college appears improper. The question “What other products/services have been examined and rejected?” is answered with no concrete products. “This particular equipment was approved based on the Chancellor’s Cabinet review and recommendation from another California Community College,” Barnes writes.

Perhaps if a bit more research had been conducted, this entire problem could have been avoided.

The devices were installed by Anchorman Pro Installer, records show. A search of the state licensing board records shows that the company is not a licensed contractor in California.

Finally, I cannot find in meeting materials when exactly the Board of Trustees accepted the gift of $209,000 from the Foundation of City College of San Francisco for “increased campus security measures.”

City College can and has to do better. After all, it’s the leader for all community colleges in the country now more than ever.

* * *

We’ll see if my muckraking makes headway with the “barricade devices.” I did have luck in another area of City College’s physical safety. After making a public records request for the college’s state-required annual hazardous materials manifest and plan, the college struggled to answer my request. Eventually, they did find that they had not yet updated their manifest and plan and told me they would have it done in a week’s time. It was a beautiful thing.

That said, I’m still waiting for copies of the code-mandated annual fire inspection logs. I was owed them in May.

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