Emergency Exit Door Locks: Selecting the Proper Level of Protection
Emergency exit door locks exist for several reasons. Generally speaking, these locks are placed on doors to provide fast exit from the building. Local building codes and fire prevention laws often require them. Yet, when building or business owners wish to make changes to these locks, they must do so within regulations and safety codes. There are various factors to keep in mind when making such changes or installing new locks on existing doors.
Selecting Fire or Panic Devices
A key first step to make is in determining the need for the lock. There is a difference between panic devices and those meant for fire use. Specifically, fire devices must carry a specific label indicating it is a fire exit. Fire doors must also have latching devices and must be self-latching. And, the bolt cannot be retracted to prevent the door from latching closed. These doors also require a door closer since most fire safety requirements state the door must be self-closing. It is possible to use electric latch devices when they are linked to the fire alarm system. In short, fire doors must provide fast exit out of the building while also closing behind the individual to maintain building separation. Panic doors don’t have the same requirements.
Panic bars are push bars installed on exit doors to allow for a fast exit. Again, these are often required under OSHA rules. They must allow for an unobstructed path of exit from the building. Panic bars are the most common locking system for doors leading to the exterior of commercial buildings. The user simply pushes on the door’s bar and it opens without any need to open a lock separately. However, these doors generally do not allow people to enter into the building.
Selecting Locking Devices
Local building codes dictate the type of locks you can use on any type of panic door or fire door. Most building codes do not allow for additional locks to be placed on doors that host a panic device or a fire exit device.
Exit locks for emergencies often have a similar design. Most feature a paddle with a deadbolt. When the individual presses the paddle (such as the bar) this causes the deadbolt to retract. And, when this occurs, the person is able to walk out of the door. In most situations, when this occurs, it will trigger an alarm to alert others of the risk. Other exit locks do not have an alarm.
When selecting locking devices for commercial doors, it is essential they meet specific requirements:
Even in low occupancy settings, fire and exit devices must open in one simple motion.
Placing even a chain or latch near or on the door with the purpose of locking the door is a violation of most building codes.
On doors that do not require a panic or fire device, hospital latches (as they are commonly called) can be effective. These provide the same ease of egress from the building but do not have a full width bar across them.
The doors and locks must be easy enough to open by children (though the age and height requirements differ based on local building codes.)
In short emergency exit door locks must allow people to leave the space quickly and in one fluid motion. This ensures that – no matter if it is dark in the space or the individual is disoriented – he or she does not need to locate a bolt or key to turn to leave the space.
What Are Special Locking Arrangements?
In some situations, special locking arrangements are a secondary option. These types of devices can be added to the door to help reduce the number of times people use the door mistakenly, and thus set off the alarm. There are very specific rules about these arrangements. Generally, these are attached to the door in addition to fire or panic devices. When considering these investments, business owners need to factor in specific building codes before investing.
Securing Your Exit Doors Properly
For those business owners in need of updated exit door hardware, there are several steps to keep in mind.
First, the business owner should work with a licensed locksmith that knows the specific location well. This ensures he or she understands local codes applicable to the building’s needs.
The business owner should also take the time to better understand these rules and laws.
When installing new emergency exit door locks or devices, consider updated products that offer effortless opening of the door in just one direction.
Always insist that the specialized fasteners and tools described by the manufacturer are used during the application and installation of new door locks as these can be critical to proper operation.
If security risks exist and standard emergency locking systems are ineffective for any reason, work with local building code officers and OSHA representatives to determine the best workaround.
Most importantly, do not make changes to your building’s locking system without first talking to a local locksmith about all of your options. Mistakes related to emergency exit doors can lead to costly liability claims even if no one is hurt in an event. Your local professionals can help ensure your door remains easily accessible from the inside and securely locked from the exterior.
Great Valley Lockshop is your experts in emergency exit door locks. Turn to our team today for an estimate on the best lock solutions for your business’s unique needs and features. Call us now at 610-644-5334 to schedule an appointment or to request service.