Delayed Egress: What, Where, Why And How?

Common applications include retailers wishing to reduce shoplifting and school and healthcare facilities needing to prevent children or patients from wandering out the door.


Delayed egress systems are door locking systems which prevent a door from opening immediately when egress is attempted in a non-emergency situation.

One of the golden rules is that a lock is never supposed to impede egress. However, there are specific situations where it is allowed with special approval from the Local Authority Having Jurisdiction (LAHJ), as long as the application is in accordance with the relevant building codes which consider both core requirements and building occupancy.

Delayed Egress locking arrangements fall under the category of NFPA 101 Special Locking Arrangements, but specification may also be subject to other codes such as:

NFPA 80 Standard For Fire Doors And Other Opening Protectives

NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm And Signaling Code

NEC National Electric Code.

Delayed egress has many important uses.

  • For healthcare facilities, it can alert staff to a patient attempting to leave the premises.
  • In commercial applications, doors may be equipped with delayed egress to discourage shoplifting.
  • At airports, doors leading to hazardous and flight line areas will be equipped with delayed egress to further secure these areas against unauthorized movements.
  • In schools and childcare, delayed egress systems will deter abductions, delinquency, etc.
  • In security environments where it is desired that a credential be used for passage in both directions, a delayed egress lock will allow locking of the door, encouraging the use of a credential, without potentially trapping individuals if there is a legitimate reason for them to exit.

It is imperative that the installer confirm the acceptability of a delayed egress system with the LAHJ prior to installation. In some geographical locations, and in some types of occupancies, more than one authority may have jurisdiction, such as both Fire Marshal and Building Inspector. It is the responsibility of the installer to determine the hierarchy of LAHJs for a particular situation, and to take the necessary steps to assure compliance.

Delayed Egress systems are typically configured in several ways:

  • An integrated Delayed Egress electromagnetic lock in which all logic and locking components are built into a single device
  • A Component System with separate locking, logic, annunciation and control components
  • A Positive Latching Exit Device with integral delayed egress circuitry

Depending on the design, the delayed egress may be triggered by door movement pressure on the door or pressure on a separate triggering device. In some cases, the triggering device is a switch built into a mechanical exit device or a pushbar designed for use with electromagnetic locks.

Building Code Requirements

Building Codes vary with respect to requirements for Delayed Egress locking arrangements. However they all have a similar set core of rules:

  • The delayed egress lock must be approved or listed and shall be permitted for installation on doors serving occupancy levels as specified per prevailing code (refer to your prevailing code and consult your LAHJ for complete details).
  • The doors must unlock upon activation of an automatic sprinkler system or automatic fire detection system.
  • The door(s) must unlock (allow immediate egress) upon loss of power controlling the delayed egress locking device.
  • The delayed egress locks shall be unlocked by a signal from the fire command center.
  • Important Note: Some localities may also require a remotely located manual reset station attended at all times by trained personnel.
  • Applying not more than 15 lbs of pressure for a maximum of 1 second (1 second nuisance delay) will start an irreversible process to unlock the door in 15 seconds. *The LAHJ may permit up to a 30 second delay and up to a 3 second nuisance delay, while in some cases no nuisance delay is permitted
  • A local (at the door) alarm must sound at the opening upon initiation of the release process. *A remote signal may also be required
  • A sign must be applied to the door stating, “PUSH UNTIL ALARM SOUNDS. DOOR CAN BE OPENED IN 15 SECONDS.” Letters must be 1 inch high by 1/8” stroke. The sign shall indicate 30 seconds where applicable.
  • Emergency lighting is required as prescribed per code.
  • The lock must be manually reset at the door. *not a universal requirement
  • A building occupant shall not be required to pass through more than one delayed egress equipped door in order to escape the building.
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