Controlled Access Locks

Q: While conducting fire drills in the hospital, one of the questions on our drill evaluation sheet is, “Did the security doors in the fire zone release properly?” We have controlled areas where the doors are locked to control access into the unit. To exit the unit only requires the push of a button and the doors release. So are we in compliant with this controlled access not releasing during the fire alarm activation since the exit is not controlled? Or should the doors release to allow free entry and exits?

A: Doors in the path of egress in a healthcare occupancy are not permitted to be locked. However, there are three (3) exceptions to this requirement:

  • Delayed egress locks complying with section 7.2.1.6.1, 2000 LSC
  • Access-control locks complying with section 7.2.1.6.2
  • Clinical needs locks complying with section 19.2.2.2.4

By the sound of your situation, it appears to me that you do not have delayed egress locks and you do not have clinical needs locks, which leaves access-control locks. However, it also appears that your description of the security door locks may not be in compliance with section 7.2.1.6.2. Here is a summary of the requirements for access-control locks:

  1. A motion sensor must be mounted on the egress side to detect occupants approaching the door, and automatically unlock the door in the direction of egress
  2. A loss of power to the control system automatically unlocks the door in the direction of egress
  3. A manual release button must be mounted 40 to 48 inches above the floor, and within 5 feet of the door, that when operated will directly interrupt the power to the lock, independent of the control system, for a minimum of 30 seconds. The button must be labeled with the words “PUSH TO EXIT”.
  4. The door must unlock in the direction of egress upon activation of the building fire alarm system or the building sprinkler system.

So, it appears to me that you are missing the motion sensor on the egress side of the door that would automatically unlock the door when someone approaches. Also, it sounds like your locks are not interconnected to the building fire alarm system to automatically unlock on an alarm. According to section 7.2.1.6.2, these are required. Also, check the ‘PUSH TO EXIT” button to make sure it interrupts power to the locks for a minimum of 30 seconds, when depressed.