Application of Delayed Egress Locks and Access Control Locks

I was recently asked to explain the difference between delayed egress (DE) locks and access controll (ACE) locks, and what are their applications.

The main difference between DE and ACE locks is, DE locks provide a measure of security in the path of egress, where ACE locks do not. The DE lock provides for a 15 second delay before the door will unlock, once the releasing device (crash bar) is activated. Although the Life Safety Code does say 30 seconds is permitted if the authority having jurisdiction allows it, don’t count on this. Even if your local and state authorities permit it, Joint Commission and CMS will not. Since Joint Commission and CMS are authorities having jurisdiction, then you would need their approval as well.

ACE locks automatically unlock in the path of egress when someone approaches the door,  and also by the actuation of the manual release button which is mounted within 5 feet of the door.

So, where would a hospital use a DE lock and where would they use an ACE lock, and why?

Delayed egress locks would be used where the security needs of the patients requires a certain level of delay in an unauthorized individual trying to flee the unit, such as a nursery, pediatrics, labor and delivery or mother-baby units. The 15 second delay can alert staff on the unit that someone is trying to leave the unit who should not be doing so.

Delayed egress locks would be used in a department that has highly sensitive materials, such as medical records, or accounts receivables, or even a large storage room with valuables where the attendant cannot monitor all of the exits. The 15 second delay can alert staff in the area that someone is trying to leave the unit (or room) who should not be doing so.

Delayed egress locks can be used in patient care areas where the patients are somewhat ambulatory but do not qualify for ‘clinical needs’ locks. (Clinical needs locks are permitted in psychiatric and Alzheimer’s units.) Areas such as emergency rooms, radiology, physical therapy, and even some acute care nursing units may use DE locks to discourage those patients who are able to get up and walk around on their own, from unauthorized leaving against medical advice (AMA).

NOTE: In order to qualify to use DE locks, the entire facility needs to be protected with automatic sprinklers, OR be protected with smoke detectors.

Access control locks are typically used where access into a unit or department is desired to be locked. Consider the situation where there is a single leaf entrance door in the corridor to a laboratory which swings into the lab when opened. Access into the lab is desired to be controlled so ACE locks are installed in conjunction with a card swipe reader. The function of the ACE lock would have the magnetic lock preventing unauthorized individuals from entering the lab, but authorized individuals could swipe their ID card on the reader, which would deactivate the mag-lock and the door would unlock and they could enter. Individuals who wanted to exit the lab would approach the door and the motion sensor would sense their presence and automatically deactivate the mag-lock and the door would unlock and they could egress the lab.

Access control locks are frequently misapplied and misused throughout the healthcare industry. Often times portions of ACE locks are installed on cross-corridor doors attempting to limit access into a certain area, and the organization fails to install the motion sensor and the ‘Push to Exit’ button on the wall. All they have is a card swipe reader to release the mag-lock. This is not permitted if the locks are installed on a door in the path of egress. Take a look at the ‘Exit’ signs. If the ‘Exit’ signs direct you through a door, then it is not permitted to be locked without the delayed egress locks or the access control locks.

These comments are based on sections and of the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code. Please refer to these sections for further details on installation and operation requirements. Also, consult with your lcoal and state authorities for other requirements concerning DE and ACE locks.