Here’s the second draft script for the upcoming whiteboard animation videos on codes.  If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the reply box below!

Controlled Egress vs. Delayed Egress [Draft Script]

Ensuring the safety and security of occupants is the foremost concern in any building, but perhaps nowhere more so than in healthcare facilities.  Certain types of areas such as memory care, maternity, pediatric and emergency care units face unique security needs, but until recent years these were not specifically addressed by the model codes. Delayed egress locks or alarms were typically installed in these units, but they are not always enough to deter patients or visitors from using the doors. This puts the patients at risk of elopement or, in the case of infants and children, possible abduction. However, controlled egress locks, if installed and maintained appropriately, can be an effective way of enhancing patient security in these areas without jeopardizing life safety.

The terms delayed egress and controlled egress are frequently confused, partially because of terminology changes made in the 2009, 2012, and 2015 changes to the International Building Code (the IBC).  Although the actual requirements for controlled egress locks in healthcare facilities didn’t change much from one edition to the next, it took a couple of revisions to settle on the term “controlled egress lock,” clarifying that delayed egress locks and controlled egress locks have different requirements.

A delayed egress lock operates like this:  when a 15-pound force is applied to the hardware for up to 3 seconds, an irreversible timing sequence begins (before the 2015 edition of the IBC, the time to initiate this sequence was limited to 1 second).  The door remains locked on the egress side for 15 seconds (30 seconds with approval from the AHJ), and then releases to allow egress. Both NFPA 101 and the IBC contain similar requirements for delayed egress locks, but there are some slight differences – particularly with regard to the occupancy types where delayed egress locks are allowed.

There are several other important requirements that must be met to ensure occupant safety when delayed egress devices are installed. An audible alarm in the vicinity of the door must be activated once the irreversible process has been initiated. The device must be rearmed manually and must allow immediate egress (no delay) upon actuation of the automatic sprinkler system or automatic fire detection system. The IBC requires the capability of release from the fire command center or other approved locations and the NFPA 101 specifies that doors allow immediate egress (no delay) upon actuation of the sprinkler system, not more than one heat detector, or not more than two smoke detectors. Doors must also allow immediate egress (no delay) upon loss of power controlling the delayed egress lock.

Lastly, emergency lighting is required on the egress side of the door and signage is required to be mounted on the door, adjacent to the release device (the IBC specifies above and within 12″ of the door exit hardware), stating: “PUSH [PULL] UNTIL ALARM SOUNDS. DOOR CAN BE OPENED IN 15 [30] SECONDS.”  NFPA 101 further specifies a visible, durable sign with letters 1″ high minimum with 1/8″ minimum stroke width on contrasting background.  The 2015 IBC has added a requirement for the signage to comply with the visual character requirements of ICC A117.1.  The 2015 IBC also includes an exception for Group I occupancies where the care recipients require restraint or containment – installation of a sign is not required.

While delayed egress locks must automatically unlock 15 seconds after a building occupant actuates the device, a controlled egress lock allows the egress doors serving certain areas to remain locked until they are unlocked by staff, the automatic fire protection system, or power failure. The model code requirements addressing controlled egress in certain areas of a healthcare facility do not require the door to release automatically after a building occupant attempts to exit by pushing or pulling on the door or hardware.

The IBC does not specifically state which types of health care units can be equipped with controlled egress locks, but limits their use to Group I-1 and I-2 facilities where patients’ clinical needs require their containment. The 2015 IBC Commentary states, “The areas where controlled egress may be permitted include psychiatric areas, dementia units, Alzheimer’s units, maternity units, and newborn nurseries. Code officials may also permit these provisions in other areas such as emergency departments or pediatric areas where the safety and/or security of the occupants are of primary concern.” This helps to establish the intent of this section of the IBC, but the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) may provide additional guidance.

Beginning with the 2009 edition, NFPA 101 includes similar controlled egress requirements in Chapter 18 – New Health Care Occupancies, and Chapter 19 – Existing Health Care Occupancies. Chapter 7 of NFPA 101 also includes a section addressing delayed egress. There are variations between the model codes with regard to these two applications, so be sure to evaluate each of the criteria for both delayed and controlled egress when deciding which system is appropriate. If these requirements are carefully followed and the appropriate system is installed according to the code adopted in the project’s jurisdiction, patient security will be enhanced without jeopardizing life safety.

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