Older burglar bars can be deadly threat to residents

Burglar bars that need a key to get in and a key to get out, like the ones that trapped Johnnye Hughes inside her burning home, do not meet code. Sebastian Robertson has more.

DALLAS -- Ray Johnson lives across the street from where a deadly fire took the life of his elderly neighbor.

She didn't have the keys to open her burglar bars around her porch from the inside.

Johnson's home has the same set up.

"It makes you think... Find an escape." Johnson said. "I leave my keys up front, so if something happens -- if the fire alarm goes off -- I can crawl to the front, grab my key, and unlock the door."

The bars are meant to keep the bad guys out, but without a key, he's stuck inside. Experts say it's a setup that violates city code.

Neunzo Thomas works at AAA Custom Windows and Security Doors in north Dallas, a shop that's been around for 35 years.

He says they don't sell burglar bars that lock from the inside, and recommends residents swap out their bars with ones that contain a keyless exit from the inside.

Statewide, the a Texas Health and Safety Code calls for security bars to have at least one "interior release mechanism" per room.

"The mesh is there to prevent someone from the outside from accessing the single-cylinder deadbolt lock," Thomas said.

While the doors that lock from the inside may be against code, the reality is, they're still found on many older homes.

That's why Dallas Fire-Rescue says they plan to walk through neighborhoods with many homes with burglar bars and offer what could be a life-saving warning.

They'll be urging residents to upgrade bars, if possible, and if not, to keep the key handy.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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