This question has come up several times lately, and I have not yet found an answer in the codes; I’m hoping one of you might know where to look.  The model codes are clear about egress, but what about emergency access to a building?  Some codes require a key box mounted outside of the entrance that contains the keys or cards needed for firefighters to enter the building.  But where do the codes state which exterior doors need key cylinders or another means of emergency access?

Doors that are not typically used for access are often specified as “exit only,” with panic hardware that has no outside trim, or an exit lock with no exterior lever.  Reducing the number of access points can have a positive effect on security, but it can also limit the emergency access for firefighters, or for law enforcement responding to an incident within the building.

Which exterior doors are required to have key access, and how do firefighters identify the doors that can be used without wasting time searching for a way to enter the building?  I know that there are other methods that can be used to gain access, but in addition to the extra time and property damage, “breaking and entering” could also alert an active shooter to approaching law enforcement.


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