Escape RoomEscape rooms are popping up all over the world, and have already opened in many US cities.  The premise is that you are locked in a room with friends, family members, coworkers…any group of people you choose, and work together to follow clues and solve puzzles so you can escape – typically within 60 minutes.

Within the last year I’ve had several requests for help with hardware specifications for escape rooms (and also marijuana distribution or grow facilities, so let me know if anyone has experience to share on those).  The question is – how do you specify code-compliant door openings on a facility where the rooms are purposely locked to prevent egress?

The model codes don’t currently address escape rooms, so the AHJ must be consulted unless the local jurisdiction has set a policy for these facilities.  I have heard of some AHJs treating these rooms as Special Amusement Buildings, although technically they don’t meet the IBC definition because there is no device or or system that conveys passengers or provides a walkway through a course.

I found a really helpful appeal decision by the City of Portland, Oregon, which includes the floor plan, proposed products, and requested compromise vs. the current codes (click here to access the information).  In a nutshell, the building was considered a Business occupancy, and the escape room doors were equipped with electromagnetic locks with a push button release beside each door.  The building does not have a sprinkler system or a fire alarm, but the doors will be unlocked by a) the push-button next to the door on the escape-room side, b) staff members who are monitoring the game from the control room, and c) power failure.

This set-up is not compliant with the section of the IBC that addresses Electromagnetically-Locked Egress Doors because that section requires the release for the mag-lock to be mounted on the door – for the escape rooms in this facility the release is a button beside the door.  The button beside the door is required for mag-locks released by a sensor, but the sensor would not be feasible for most escape rooms.  The AHJ approved this appeal as long as the escape rooms were equipped with emergency lighting with back-up power.

WWYD?  Is this the safest method to provide egress for this type of facility?  Are there other requirements you would add?  Have you ever worked on an escape room project?

Photo: Agora Leercentrum via Flickr

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