Printed from the blog of Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI
Email:, Blog: or

Oct 11 2016

WWYD? Communicating Bathroom Locks

Category: Egress,WWYD?Lori @ 12:33 pm Comments (10)

Yesterday, an engineer from a state fire marshal’s office asked me about locks on a shared bathroom in a college dorm.  In a single family home, these “Jack and Jill” bathrooms (our house has one) have privacy sets that are lockable from inside the bathroom, so there isn’t an egress problem – it’s just inconvenient when someone leaves the bathroom and goes back to their own bedroom, leaving the other door locked so there’s no access from the other bedroom.

The engineer mentioned an incident that occurred in 2009 at a university in Tennessee, where a student became locked in a shared bathroom.  I have not found details online about what type of locks were used, but apparently the doors could be locked from the bedroom side, so that someone could not pass from one bedroom through the bathroom and into the other bedroom.  The student attempted to climb through the ceiling to escape from the locked bathroom, and was electrocuted.  The university later removed the locks.

Shared bathrooms in a dormitory or health care facility are not ideal, but they do exist.  The locks at the university where the student died had reportedly been there for 40 years.  I would bet that if the doors are not equipped with locks to provide privacy AND security, the students will find their own method of accomplishing this.  There are electronic systems available, but they can be difficult to retrofit and fairly costly.

  • If you have worked on a project with a shared bathroom, what hardware was used to provide privacy and security?

  • If you have seen an existing shared bathroom, what steps were taken to ensure free egress while addressing privacy and security concerns?

  • If you’re an AHJ, what type of locks do you allow for this application?

  • WWYD?

And if you have a photo or graphic that you’d be willing to share, showing a shared bathroom or a floor plan, please send it to me!

10 Responses to “WWYD? Communicating Bathroom Locks”

  1. lach says:

    What about the L9466. If it is kept locked at all times they would need a key in and key out (if they throw the deadbolt). And they can be keyed to the same room key that they would already have going in and out of. Best mechanical solution I can think of. Not to sure on the code requirements though.

  2. David DeFilippo says:

    We had these toilets that could be approached from either side in some out-patient medical facilities. We used a type of pre-made communicating Bathroom system by ASCI, SDC or DYNALOCK . They have all worked very well with no issues- There are back-up opening systems too. Using pivot hinges you can use a emergency strike release and get in that way.

  3. Bill Cushman says:

    It’s a Trap!

  4. Gary J. Bakken, AHC says:

    There really are many ways to accomplish this. However, I believe the best way is to utilize electronic Fail Safe Locksets with an RX switch, a push button switch for inside the bathroom, and a power supply with relays. I would create a bistable (latching) circuit. In this scenario, the doors are always unlocked. Pushing the push button switch on the inside of the bathroom would lock both doors on the secure side. Egress is always available. Upon egress, the circuit is broken by the RX switch and both doors are put back into an unlocked state. You can also use an LED monitor (recommended) on each bedroom side and/or inside bathroom to indicate if door is in locked/unlocked state. You can also use DPS switches in lieu of RX switches, difference being that both doors would have to be in a closed position to lock the doors if using DPS switches.

  5. Ed Dueppen says:

    I was a project architect on a dormitory renovation project about 15 years ago with rooms/suites as you describe. After several meetings with the University’s housing architect, fire marshal, code official, and door hardware supplier, we finally determined that we could not meet life safety requirements (free egress from the bathrooms) while providing security (preventing suitemates from access to each other’s bedroom). I forget what kind of locksets we installed, but they may have been passage sets. The University determined that they would deal with this via policy. They made potential residents aware of the communicating bathroom and encouraged residents to respect each other’s bathroom privacy and bedroom privacy. Over the long term I do not know how this has worked out for them.

  6. Jim Elder says:

    NEVER, NEVER, NEVER design that kind of bathroom. This condition can create trust conflicts and allegations among suite mates. I have worked on many situations just like this, and my first recommendations is DONT DO THIS. Instead, make shared bathrooms more like a bathroom in a multi-bedroom apartment (single access Off a common corridor).

    Yes you could use a hotel room lock, but anything you do mechanically simply will not work…. particularly things that rely on a key. Now there are some electronic solutions you could use, an innerlock for example. But there are all kinds of coordination issues involved and the solution could be more expensive then a redesign

    Post a sample of the floor plan.

  7. Sergio Enriquez says:

    I think a couple of mortise privacy locks with bolt monitor [“C” form switch], then if you turn the bolt-1 the switch will energize the maglock-2…

  8. Brian Payne says:

    My wife’s dorm had standard jack&jill privacy sets. They would get locked out occasionally.

  9. Stuart Macdonald says:

    Hi Lori

    Allegion ANZ make a product specifically for this application and it’s an ideal solution
    Check the web site link to the Legge Pricacy Plus Lock System

  10. David Webb says:

    We use the ASCI system mentioned above by Dave DeFilippo. We use it in conjunction with the Schlage mortise lock modified for electric locking. We have them in many locations all over the Hospital. Barring occasional circuit board failures, (two in 16 years) they are very reliable. Exiting either door unlocks both by means of a jamb mounted door position switch.

Leave a Reply