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!

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