Introduction To Special Egress Locks

The 2012 edition of the International Building Code permits this new category of locking device for I-2 occupancy facilities, which are health care facilities with 24-hour medical supervision for patients, and occupants are incapable of self-preservation... Door-locking arrangements shall be permitted where patient special needs require specialized protective measures for their safety, provided that all of the following criteria are met:

(1) Staff can readily unlock doors at all times in accordance with

(2) A total (complete) smoke detection system is provided throughout the locked space in accordance with, or locked doors can be remotely unlocked at an approved, constantly attended location within the locked space.

(3)*The building is protected throughout by an approved, supervised automatic sprinkler system in accordance with

(4) The locks are electrical locks that fail safely so as to release upon loss of power to the device.

(5) The locks release by independent activation of each of the following:

..(a) Activation of the smoke detection system required by

..(b) Waterflow in the automatic sprinkler system required by Doors that are located in the means of egress and are permitted to be locked under other provisions of shall comply with the following:

(1) Provisions shall be made for the rapid removal of occupants by means of one of the following:

…(a) Remote control of locks

…(b) Keying of all locks to keys carried by staff at all times

…(c) Other such reliable means available to the staff at all times

(2) Only one locking device shall be permitted on each door.

From Annex A:

A. Psychiatric units, Alzheimer units, and dementia units are examples of areas with patients who might have clinical needs that justify door locking. Forensic units and detention units are examples of areas with patients who might pose a security threat. Where Alzheimer or dementia patients in nursing homes are not housed in specialized units, the provisions of should not apply. (See

A. Pediatric units, maternity units, and emergency departments are examples of areas where patients might have special needs that justify door locking.

These new requirements apply to buildings and facilities where the referenced editions of these codes have been adopted. For locations where other codes are used, or where funding or accreditation organizations reference another version of the code, facilities may be required to apply for an equivalency, a waiver, or a variance in order to install locks allowed by the more recent codes. Consult the local requirements and the AHJ to determine the specifics for the facility in question.


Lori Greene is manager, codes and resources, Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies. Read more about code compliance at

We Recommend