Today's locksmiths are governed by basic life safety codes. Just about every state, city, and local ordinance has adopted its own interpretations of the many regulatory agencies and associations.
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA.) is the authority of fire, electrical, and building safety. It was established in 1896 as an advocate of fire protection and life safety. The codes and standards established by NFPA are a consensus of trade and professional organizations. Basic life safety codes cover over 80 trades and all aspects of building construction. The NFPA has had sufficient influence as to affect a Uniform Fire Code™ that is primarily considered the model and is used by state, city, and local ordinances when designing their own codes and regulations.
Fortunately for locksmiths, the concern can be narrowed to door, locks and egress. This article discusses the basic concepts of the life safety codes relating to exit doors that locksmiths need to adhere to regardless of where they work.
Occupancy affects which locks will be used.
Occupancy relates to the purpose in which the building or part of a building is used or intended to be used. Occupancies are classified into groups that reflect the common purpose. One type of occupancy group covers: hotels, apartment houses and residences or other places where persons dwell. Another occupancy group covers: offices, businesses; and places where service-type transactions occur. Still another occupancy group covers: retail stores; and places where goods, wares, and merchandise are displayed and sold.
There are other occupancy groups that cover places of assembly, places with special hazards, places where products are manufactured, etc.
Exit doors must open from the inside without special knowledge or effort.
Exit doors are those doors intended to be used to egress out of a building or part of a building. Exit doors must be maintained in an operable condition. If the door is part of a fire assembly, the door must be maintained in accordance to the fire assembly requirements. Figure 1 shows a door that is part of a fire assembly, where the fire gasket needs to be replaced.
Exit doors are required to be openable from the inside without a key or without any special knowledge or effort. No key-operation from inside means no double-cylinder deadbolts. This includes surface-mounted key-operated bolts.
Special knowledge or effort can be subjective. It is often left up to the local ordinance or Local Authority Having Jurisdiction (LAHJ) to make a determination.
One example is the use of "secret locks" in a bank environment. This is a lock that is mounted to a half-height gate to separate the teller area from the public area. There is a button on the bottom of the lock that is "secret" and must be pushed in to operate the latch. These gates are oftentimes between the tellers and the exit doors. Some inspectors have had them removed, citing special knowledge, and some have required special signage alerting anyone in the area as to the "secret."
Sometimes the special knowledge or effort requirement can affect the industry to such a level that a new type of device is created.
A few decades ago, defense contractors in California were cited for non-compliant hardware on SCIF (Secured Compartmentalized Information Facility) doors. A SCIF is a "closed area" where a defense contractor can perform the "customer's" services in a controlled and secured manner.
A "customer" requirement is the entry to a SCIF be protected by a lock that eliminates a surreptitious entry. At that time there were but two options:
1. Install the S&G (Sargent & Greenleaf) SM182 Padlock-locking deadbolt with the S&G 8077 combination padlock. The padlock-locking deadbolt was a surface-mounted slide bolt that was mounted on the outside of the door; then the approved padlock would secure it. Figure 2 shows a padlock-locking deadbolt with combination padlock.
Limit personal liability by knowing the codes and regulations in your jurisdiction.
There is much to share with the customer who simply wants to “buzz” in. The savvy locksmith understands what the customer is looking for — convenience — and will explain all the details...