The Ins and Outs of Delayed Egress

With few exceptions, all doors must allow for free egress at all times. These exceptions include but are not limited to correctional institutions and healthcare facilities. Never assume the free egress rule may be suspended.

Some Locksmith Ledger readers may recall their own experiences where such rules were intentionally suspended. You may also remember doors that were so damaged that free egress rule was unintentionally suspended, and without electronics!

My own experiences with intentional suspended free egress includes a request to redesign a product for the commercial/government market - thousands and thousands of them. I often made modifications to products. It created a new option for the catalog, and opened up additional markets for our products.

This application was for the State Department. The timeframe was the 1980s when our country’s foreign assets were increasingly becoming the targets of attacks. The State Department asked if I could design a button that the Marines guarding our embassies abroad could press to lock all the doors, preventing further entry or egress until the site could be secured. Of course I could, and you bet I did. The building codes for military and government installations are not the same as those for civilian domestic localities. You usually cannot entrap people.

On another occasion, a Long Island jewelry store owner asked for a similar setup, not to combat terrorists but instead to trap shoplifters. He wanted to press a button and lock customers inside the store. Of course I could but I had to refuse. There was no way the Local Authority Having Jurisdiction ( LAHJ) would approve it, and besides, the liability and possible litigations would force us to close our own doors.

The legitimate application of delayed egress is one of my preferred areas of access control and security. In some cases the door getting the treatment is a door without access control, but it is desired to discourage use of the door to both enter, and also to leave.

Delayed egress systems are a combination of a door lock, a means to control the lock and an alarm if there is an attempt to open the door. Each situation must be evaluated and permission granted by the LAHJ. Multiple authorities may have jurisdiction over a site.

A new reference is the Allegion Code Reference Guide (, available as a free download. This guide includes highlights of NFPA 80, NFPA 101, IBC, and ADAAG. I think it’s a handy and concise pamphlet, but hardly a substitute for the source documents. You should consult the applicable code or standard for complete information.

Below is a portion of the Allegion Code Reference Guide:

Delayed egress locks ( Approved, listed and delayed egress locks are permitted on doors serving low and ordinary hazard contents in buildings protected throughout by an approved, supervised automatic fire detection system or sprinkler system, where permitted by chapters 12-42, provided that:

• Doors unlock upon actuation of the sprinkler system, any heat detector or up to two smoke detectors

• Doors unlock upon loss of power controlling the lock mechanism

• An irreversible process (such as pushing the door or touchpad) releases the lock within 15 seconds (AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) can approve a delay of up to 30 seconds) upon application of force to the release device (15 lbs (67 N) for not more than three seconds)

• Initiation of the release process activates an audible signal in the vicinity of the door

• After release, re-locking shall be by manual means only

• Signage on egress side of door (PUSH UNTIL ALARM SOUNDS. DOOR CAN BE OPENED IN 15 SECONDS)


Delayed Egress Locks

When there is a desire to control egress as well as access, delayed egress hardware may be used depending on the occupancy type and other code conditions, such as a requirement for the building to be protected throughout with an automatic sprinkler system/approved automatic smoke or heat detection system. The delayed egress lock will prevent egress for 15 seconds (or 30 seconds when approved by the LAHJ) when initiated by a 15-pound force, but will release immediately upon fire alarm or power failure. Signage, an audible local alarm, capability of remote release, limitations on the number of delays in an egress route and emergency lighting are other conditions for use of delayed egress locks.

There are variations between the IBC (2012, 2009: 1008.1.9.7) and NFPA 101 (2012, 2009: in regard to delayed egress locks, for example, the amount of time the activating force may be applied – one second for the IBC and three seconds for NFPA 101. In addition, the IBC prohibits the use of delayed egress locks on assembly, educational and high hazard occupancies, while NFPA 101 has different stipulations for occupancy classifications where delayed egress locks are allowed.


Lock Operation

When someone attempts to operate an exit device or push open a door equipped with a delayed egress locking mechanism, an irreversible alarm sounds and the timed countdown begins. The lock remains locked, preventing the door from opening, for a predetermined 15 or 30 seconds.

Note: For a 30-second delay, the LAHJ must provide the authorization in writing.

The attempt is monitored by an initiation sensor which can be a switch built into touchbar (looks like an exit device but is not necessarily a physical locking device); or a pressure movement sensor which actuates when the door moves slightly. Exit device-type delayed egress devices contain the initiation device, the electronics, the alarm, and the locking device.

The alarm continues to sound during the countdown. After the delay time has elapsed, the door can be opened by activating the release mechanism. The notification continues to sound until the mechanism is reset by a knowing act.

“Knowing Act” is a term borrowed from automatic door operator nomenclature. The alarm may also be articulated by dry outputs contacts in the delayed egress device which can be connected to a remote location or additional annunciators.

According to ANSI/BHMA A156.10 - 2011 Power Operated Pedestrian Doors Section 9: A knowing act door is an automatic door that requires a “conscious act” to activate the door. Push plates, card readers, key pads all fit in the category of knowing act devices. In the context of a delayed egress system, the knowing act device is a manually activated device, such as a keyswitch, a pushbutton, a keypad, a card reader, etc.

In an emergency, a signal from the fire/life safety system will release the lock for uninhibited egress.

Connection of the delayed egress lock to the premises fire alarm is nearly always required. Once the LAHJ let us connect to the sprinkler valve because there was no fire alarm in the building. We got the LAHJ to write us a letter, give the client a copy, and place a copy in the fire department’s file for the premises.

For hospitals and healthcare facilities, delayed egress locking mechanisms can provide an additional level of safety for newborn and infants. For patients in psychiatric wards or Alzheimer’s units, delayed egress locks can alert staff to the movements of individuals who are a danger to themselves or others.

Many hospitals and healthcare facilities use delayed egress lock mechanisms to prevent individuals from leaving sensitive areas through stairwell and secondary corridor doors. When there is an unauthorized attempt to leave, an alarm is activated and persons are delayed from leaving either 15 or 30 seconds before the door can be opened.

A few years ago, I installed a delayed egress lock on the inner lobby door of a nursing home. During business hours, a receptionist was stationed there to admit visitors, healthcare personnel, EMS and gurneys. To leave, you either caught the receptionist’s attention through a small window, or you entered a code into the keypad on the inner wall, and the delayed egress maglock momentarily unlocked. After hours if the visitor had the ability to enter the outer lobby door, he or she could press the button on the video intercom; otherwise, visitors had to use a cellphone to reach the main nurse’s station which was attended 24/7.

This site had three other delayed egress systems, but the doors were not high usage, and there were rarely problems. The Securitron iMXDa was used on all these doors. Keypads were used for authorized passage and to reset.

Whenever one of these doors went into alarm, it was necessary for someone to go to the door every time to see what/who triggered the alarm, and to reset the alarm and the device. The staff was self-policing where the proper usage of the delayed egress locks were concerned.

However this lobby door, the busiest door in the building, was under constant observation and review. It was sort of an email forum they had going where everyone up and down the chain of command could post suggestions as to how they thought the system should work. (I never saw it because I’m not an employee, but the facility guy complained about it so often I feel like I did.)

Ultimately the most problematic issue on this door was excessive alarms caused not by employees, but primarily by EMS transporting patients in and out of the facility.

The receptionist would initiate the unlocking of the door, but often the door would remain open beyond the allowable time; the alarm would sound and then the door would remain unlocked until manually reset.

Because I always document my designs, I was able to evaluate the issues and with tech support from Securitron was able to implement an unpublished configuration for the iMXDa which permitted the door to remain ajar beyond the programmed time without an alarm, and automatically relocked upon the door’s closing.


Securitron iMXDa

iMXDa is a self-contained integrated delayed egress solution designed to provide NFPA 101 compliant door control on doors with pre-existing latching hardware. The core of the device is a 1200 lb. Securitron electromagnetic lock with a specially designed armature mounting system which enables the installer to adjust the sensitivity of the integral movement sensor which actuates the delayed egress.

The iMXDA is labor saving, streamlined and easy to maintain when compared to delayed egress systems utilizing discrete components.

However the iMXDA has several other features which differentiate it from other products in this category which lend themselves to custom system designs.

Installation requires no alteration or replacement of existing fire-rated or non-fire-rated latching hardware reducing costs and appealing to LAHJs.


Product Features include:

  • 1200 lbs. holding force Magnalock
  • New shorter 12.5” overall length will fit doors with closers installed
  • Automatic dual voltage - no field adjustment required
  • Bracket-mounted design improves strength and installation time
  • Tamper switch for access chamber cover removal/placement monitoring
  • Microprocessor monitored BondSTAT magnetic bond sensor (MBS) and integrated door position switch (DPS) standard
  • Reverse action plunger allows for adjustable alarm initiate gap from 1/8” to 1”
  • Bright LEDs indicate unit status from the secure side of the door
  • DIP switch selectable options: - Nuisance alarm times:- 0 to 3 seconds
  • - Irrevocable delay times - 15 or 30 seconds - user selectable
  • - External bypass delay times - 0, 5, 10 or 15 seconds
  • - Post alarm reminder - user selectable
  • - Bypass expiration alarm - user selectable - Manual relock or delayed automatic relock (BOCA) - user selectable
  • External alarm relay isolated dry contact (1A at 24VDC)
  • External reset
  • Alarm initiation via external panic device (iEXD version)
  • Indoor use only
  • UL Listed FWAX.5A6635 Special Locking Arrangements

For more information, contact your local locksmith distributor or visit