What safety features are available for different portable classroom options?
Orlando station WFTV published a story discussing the safety implications of the thousands of portable classrooms in the state of Florida. “Schools have used [trailer-type] portables to deal with growth,” notes the article, but these buildings’ security and safety is inferior when compared to traditional site-built construction or precast concrete modular classrooms.
While hurricane-proof windows were installed in school buildings across the state in 1994, portable trailers “lack hurricane-proof windows and hard, solid surfaces” that can withstand storms or bullets.
It was noted that the hurricane-proof windows installed at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School withstood the February 2018 gunman’s attempts to break them – likely saving lives. The windows and doors of precast concrete modular classrooms can also be modified to be both bullet and weather resistant matching the strength of the building itself, and can be further equipped with interior locks that can be controlled electronically.
An article published by the Fort Myers News-Press also speaks to the efforts underway to increase classroom safety saying, “the commission investigating last year's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland is recommending school districts mark the safe spots in classrooms. The areas are being referred to as hard corners or safety zones and should be away from windows and doors.” Essentially, the concept is to train teachers to mark safe areas of their classrooms with paint or tape, where students would be less vulnerable to attacks.
Precast concrete modular classrooms can provide a level of safety that rivals that of traditional site-built classroom buildings. Precast concrete modular classrooms are incredibly solid, and have been designed and produced to withstand wind loads of 220 mph. Because of their durability, students may not need to be transferred to another location in the event of an incident.
School officials admit that portable trailers on the other hand, use construction materials that, “aren’t as resistant to bullets as those used for traditional school buildings.” Because of these buildings’ inherent weaknesses, “school officials said they try to take steps to protect the portables by placing them behind chain-link fences and locked gates.”
While portable trailers appear to be a quick and easy solution to overcrowding, they leave occupants vulnerable and unable to adequately protect themselves. With their quick installation times, precast concrete modular classrooms offer a viable alternative to addressing school overcrowding, and one that puts the safety of students at the forefront.