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Mar 21 2016

WWYD? Escape Room

Category: Egress,Electrified Hardware,WWYD?Lori @ 12:15 am Comments (10)

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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10 Responses to “WWYD? Escape Room”

  1. lach says:

    Wouldn’t it just be easier to have a secondary egress door that is clearly marked and made known to the participants that that door is not part of the room and should only be used in emergencies? That would meet egress and all codes and still have the fun looking for the hidden door.

  2. MartinB (aka lauxmyth) says:

    These have been popping up all over. There are now two in my city of a million people. I have been wanting in the worst ways to try one and take my lock picks!! I never made the assumption people were really locked in except as per the rules. And lets be real, gamers believe you are a wizard just because you rolled a dice or two and pulled the correct card in some other games.

    As far as code goes, I think something like an alarmed exit with no delay is needed. This door screams, you lost the game. The team is working to exit using some other door. If I recall, our local escape rooms limit teams to 8 so that sets the occupancy and so an ED is not even needed. For the cost of a Detex EAX500 mounted over a Grade 2 lever passage function set, I think you have compliance.

  3. Cda says:

    If a business to entertain, it would have to meet the building code.

    Now may have to do some alternative methods, such as in a haunted house, or similar

  4. rb says:

    What Iach said above is what we have at our local one. The egress door is normal storeroom function free to egress, distinct from the “solution door” which is electromagnetically locked and has a “green light” LCD over it for when you solve it. I think our local AHJ considered that a special amusement building

  5. Cda says:

    I would say special amusement does fit:::

    SPECIAL AMUSEMENT BUILDING. A special amusement building is any temporary or permanent building or portion thereof that is occupied for amusement, entertainment or educational purposes and that contains a device or system that conveys passengers or provides a walkway along, around or over a course in any direction so arranged that the means of egress path is not readily apparent due to visual or audio distractions or is intentionally confounded or is not readily available because of the nature of the attraction or mode of conveyance through the building or structure.

    In general, a special amusement building is a building or portion thereof in which people gather (thus, an assembly occupancy) and in which egress is either not readily apparent due to distractions, is intentionally confounded (i.e., maze) or is not readily available. The definition includes all such facilities, including portable and temporary structures. The hazard associated with such buildings is not related to the permanence or length of use; therefore, seasonal uses (such as haunted houses at Halloween) and portable uses (carnival rides) are included if they meet the criteria in the definition.

  6. Eric says:

    I have been involved with about six marijuana grow rooms since the stuff was legalized in my state (WA). Believe it or not, there are no specific codes written for this type of business (that I’m aware of, anyway). All I can say is you can’t make the exterior openings secure enough.

  7. Rich says:

    For a special amusement room concept, I would like to see a redundant fail safe mechanism to lock the room. If either of two monitors watching the game for rule compliance got out of their chair or took their hand off the fail safe switch, the door would unlock automatically. Two separate monitors watching over the event so that a guy couldn’t die in the chair and trap the contestants. Or maybe something like a snowmobile or speed boat kill switch with a tether to the operator’s wrist. The only way the room should be locked is if the “life guard” is committed to watching for safety issues. Really lots of ways to do it as long as the release is automatic if the monitor stops doing his job. There should also be a safe word for contestants to end the game.

  8. Rob says:

    I am currently trying to open a room in Grandview Heights(Columbus) ohio. I am planning a system to have the override button beside the door. If they give me static I simply won’t lock the door. It’s not always possible to have a second door. If you are building from ground up then you can plan for that but you usually run into structure issues and cost get out of hand. I am having a terrible time getting passed by the local building department. The biggest issue I see in my way is that this business has no specific category so they could say that I am only allowed to have 1 person per 100sqft. Which for me would mean only 4 people and that is ridiculous. There are currently about 8 rooms with 4 different owners in town right now with 3 other big companies trying to get in. I don’t know how the other people are in business since they put 10 people in a smaller room than 400sqft. On top of that their fail safe to locking people in is to have an actor in the room with a key in their pocket that nobody knows about. If something happens to that person then there is no escape without solving the puzzle or the monitor lets them out. None of this is as easy as you think.

  9. Susan Stanton says:

    I am opening an escape room and need to know where I can buy the equipment to have a panic button that will open my doors.

    • Lori says:

      Hi Susan –

      I would recommend calling a commercial hardware company in your area. They should be able to help you.

      – Lori

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