Delayed Egress: The Fundamentals

Oct. 15, 2021
Life safety and security meet at this important locking solution.

One of the most important locking arrangements available to locksmithing is delayed egress.

Delayed egress might be something of an enigma to those unfamiliar with it, because it breaks the Golden Rule of Locksmithing — doors always must permit immediate free egress from buildings.

“Egress” is a building term that refers to a means of exit. Commercial buildings and residential homes contain codes regarding paths of egress. An egress door is any door that’s along the path of exit. If someone has to go through a door to exit the building, then that door is an egress door. This includes office doors, hallway doors, etc.

Requirements for egress doors vary with the nature of the occupancy type in which the door is located, the occupancy load and the specific building code used in the jurisdiction where the building is located.

Most important, it must conform with how the local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) interprets code as it relates to your project.

Some Basics

There are two types of egress:

  • Free means that someone can exit an egress door without any delay by using only a single motion, such as turning a lever or pushing on a panic bar.
  • Delayed means that there’s a timed delay before someone can pass through the egress door and exit. Typically, this delay is 15 seconds.

Delayed egress is used to:

  • Discourage casual use of certain doors, so pedestrians can’t leave a premises or steal merchandise.
  • Deter elopement of patients, children or inmates from a protected area of a facility.
  • Make possible access control in both directions through selected openings.

Delayed egress is offered in basically three configurations, which enable the system specifier to best use existing door hardware or otherwise accommodate particular requirements set forth for each particular situation:

  • Component systems that use separate locks, initiation stations, audible and visual appliances, related accessories and logic controllers.
  • Self-contained exit devices that have integral control and logic.
  • Integrated electromagnetic locks that have integral control and logic.

Safe and Secure

Before the implementation of modern building codes, many lives were lost because of buildings that had:

  • Inadequate means to egress — not enough doors to accommodate the occupancy
  • Incorrectly designed doors — in-swinging rather than opening in the direction of egress
  • Inappropriate door locks and hardware — locks that require multiple steps to unlock, locks that require special knowledge to operate, doors that aren’t maintained properly or doors that aren’t equipped with appropriate hardware.

As a result, codes have been developed that the AHJ can implement and enforce as law. In the United States, codes that have language used by AHJs include:

  • NFPA
  • International Code Council
  • UL
  • ANSI
  • ADA  

Because of the different codes, the fact that these codes are under constant review and revision and that AHJs can use whichever code or revision for their criteria, it’s necessary for you, the designer and installer, to confirm the applicable regulations with the appropriate AHJ before proposing or installing delayed egress.

You also might encounter situations where you’re asked to perform service on an existing system that never was approved or has become outdated. It would be in your best interests to document every step of your service call to indemnify yourself. Your insurance company might refuse to protect you in the event of injuries or loss that might be construed to be the result of the door or system in question, and you also might break the law.

Many times a facility owner might identify the necessity for a special locking arrangement, addressing a security issue but ignoring safety issues that might result from the addition of this hardware. To them, life safety might represent only extra expenses and frustrating red tape.

It’s your responsibility to protect the public from dangerous conditions in any premises you perform professional locksmithing services, or as once happened to me, even set foot in.

A few possible delayed-egress solutions follow, although this is by no means comprehensive.

SDC Delayed Egress

SDC provides several solutions that can deliver delayed egress. These include:

ExitCheck Electromagnetic Delayed Egress locks. These locks are designed to delay egress through perimeter exit doors for 15 or 30 seconds. An alarm sounds while security and personnel are alerted to unauthorized egress. ExitCheck delayed-egress locks release immediately during an emergency and comply with all national and regional building and fire life-safety codes.

101-DE Series Controllers. SDC’s delayed-egress logic, annunciation, keypad and optional key-switch control are located in an easy-to-reach box that can be located adjacent to a door. The controllers can be flush- or surface-mounted on the wall. The wall mount controller provides convenient reset and control functions and includes a status indicator.

S6000 Spectra Series Exit Devices. SDC’s S6000 Spectra Series of architectural exit devices include two models that provide delayed egress—the 101 All-In-One delayed egress panic and fire exit device and the DE Series two-piece exit device. The exit devices are available in rim mount, mortise and vertical-rod configurations and are aimed at retail-loss prevention, pedestrian control, wandering-patient control and nursery infant protection. The controller and logic are integrated into the exit device on the 101.

More info:

SECO-LARM Delayed Egress

SECO-LARM has a broad range of low-voltage accessories and products that can be used to design a delayed-egress system. Two such products are the ENFORCER Illuminated Push-to-Open Bar and the Delayed Egress Timer.

The ENFORCER Illuminated Push-to-Open Bar works with an external electric strike or maglock to provide egress from a protected area. It can work in stand-alone mode or as part of an access control system. It also can be locked open by a key. Its buzzer, output timing and LED function and colors also are customizable.

It can be used on 36-inch doors but can be cut to fit smaller doors, with a minimum width of 23-5/8 inches.

The Delayed Egress Timer has three relocking modes and has selectable manual or automatic relocking after a power loss. A bypass input would allow for immediate release of locks.

More info:

Detex Weatherized Delayed Egress

Weather or water sources can affect the operation of life-safety or security hardware. So, Detex developed weatherized delayed egress equipment to protect against loss at outdoor gates or exits. WDE EasyKits provide a secure locking system that has a 15-second delay and a 100-decibel alarm when someone attempts to exit.

WDE EasyKits are aimed for use at garden centers, amusement parks, assisted-living facilities, outdoor childcare, sports arenas and any location exposed to weather or moisture where delayed exit is required to prevent theft or to protect those who try to exit.

WDE EEX EasyKits have the same delay and alarm as previous models but have no electromagnetic lock. An Advantex Weatherized rim exit device is included.

The kits include a factory-programmed, prewired delayed-egress controller/power supply, a 10-foot flex conduit loop, code-compliant delayed-egress signage and a fire-alarm override connected at the controller/power supply.

More info:

Dortronics 7101 Delayed Egress System

The 7101 Delayed Egress System performs all functions required by the NFPA 101 life-safety code.

A three-second nuisance delay prevents inadvertent alarming of the door. After three seconds of continuous activation, the controller enters an irreversible unlock sequence. An audible warning is activated as the countdown begins. Unlocking occurs in 15 or 30 seconds, which is a programmable selection on the controller.

The door-status switch monitors door position in armed and disarmed states. This allows the immediate relock and rearming of the door after an authorized passage during an armed time schedule.

More info:

Tim O’Leary is an experienced security consultant and a regular contributor to Locksmith Ledger.