Locked Mechanical Room

Q: The computer server is located in the mechanical room. IT wants the room locked for HIPAA compliance. Is it permissible to lock a mechanical room? Doesn’t locking compromise access to electrical panels, fire panel, water shutoff, etc. in an emergency?

A: Yes… you can lock a door into a mechanical room, as far as NFPA is concerned; you just can’t lock the door in the path of egress. Does a locked door to a mechanical room restrict access to electrical distribution panels? Yes it does, but that is a good thing. According to NFPA 99-2012, section 6.3.2.2.1.3 access to overcurrent protective devices (i.e. circuit breakers) serving Category 1 or Category 2 rooms must be secured to allow access for authorized individuals only. So, having these distribution panels inside a locked mechanical room meets the requirement of NFPA 99.

It is expected that authorized individuals will have a key or device to access this room in the event of an emergency. Make sure any locks that are installed on the door does not lock the door for those individuals exiting the mechanical room. It is not uncommon for Information Technology to place intermediate distribution frames containing servers in various locations around the facility. The challenge is to meet all of the requirements for limiting access for HIPAA compliance and still allow regular access for other items in the room.