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Apr 04 2017

WWYD? 1 Operation, or 2?

Category: Egress,School SecurityLori @ 12:11 pm Comments (26)

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know something about classroom barricade devices and the efforts to change the model codes in order to ensure that classrooms are secured in a manner that is SAFE, as well as secure.  What you may not know is that a change proposal for the 2018 edition of NFPA 101 – The Life Safety Code, includes language that would allow two releasing operations for locking/latching hardware (instead of one), which could affect the allowable methods for classroom security:

Proposed:  The releasing mechanism shall open the door leaf with not more than two releasing operations.

If approved, this change would be included in Chapter 15 – Existing Educational Occupancies, Chapter 17 – Existing Day Care Occupancies, and Chapter 39 – Existing Business Occupancies, and would apply to classrooms in existing schools, existing day care centers, and existing college classrooms.  I encourage you to read the complete change proposal, which is on pages 31, 36, and 79 of this document.

The requirement for one operation to release the latch(es) has been present in the model codes for as long as I have been working in the door and hardware industry, so I did some research to find out when the one-operation language was added.  It appears that the change was made in the 1988 edition of NFPA 101:

1988:  5- – A latch or other fastening device on a door shall be provided with a knob, handle, panic bar, or other simple type of releasing device having an obvious method of operation under all lighting conditions. Doors shall be openable with no more than one releasing operation.

The language did not appear in the 1985 edition:

1985:  5- – A door shall be so arranged as to be readily opened from the side from which egress is to be made at all times when the building served thereby is occupied. Locks, if provided, shall not require the use of a key, tool, special knowledge or effort for operation from the inside of the building.

The change to allow two operations for existing classrooms has not yet achieved final approval.  It will be discussed and voted on during the NFPA conference in June.  Your input could have an impact on whether or not the change is approved, so tell me what you think…

  • If you are in favor of allowing two releasing operations, tell me why the change is needed. 
  • If you prefer the current language stating that the door must be openable with one releasing operation, give me some specifics to support your position.


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26 Responses to “WWYD? 1 Operation, or 2?”

  1. Cda says:

    Does not state what types of operation would be allowed.

    Are ADA requirements excluded?

    How close does the hardware have to be??

    This makes it sound like one piece of hardware “”””Proposed: “”””The releasing mechanism “””” shall open the door leaf with not more than two releasing operations.””””

    • Lori says:

      The proposed language doesn’t mention anything about ADA, and the section does not require that the hardware be operable without tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist.

      – Lori

  2. Dave Snell, AHC says:

    I am opposed to this change. There are mortise lock functions that open the door with a single operation so why add one more confusing code to keep track of.

  3. Laura Pedersen says:

    I think two operations are ok–if one operation only has to be performed once, like unlocking a classroom function deadbolt. That way the first student or faculty member out of a classroom can unlock the deadbolt (operation one) then turn the lever (operation two), but every student following only has to turn the lever (one operation). Anything that relatches/relocks when the door closes, or requires more than a half second to unlock, is unacceptable. That could be a reasonable compromise.

  4. Domenic LoBello says:

    I prefer the current language of only one releasing operation. There is no reason that security in a school lockdown situation cannot be maintained with a dead bolt linked to the latch handle for single operation exit. There are a lot more emergency situation that require free egress than lockdown.
    As a survivor of a catastrophic school fire in Chicago where I vividly remember being to freely walk out of the building when the fire occurred even as a second grader.
    I can only imagine the panic that would be created if two locks or handles needed to be operated to exit in a fire situation.

  5. Jerry Richmond AHC/CDC says:

    Just curious… who, or what entity is pushing for allowing two release operations and what is the motive?

    • Lori says:

      The way I understand it, the Means of Egress committee was not in favor of having 2 releasing operations, but the committees that address the chapters on schools, day care centers, and colleges voted to add it. The proposed language was submitted by NFPA.

      – Lori

  6. KGS says:

    The question I ask myself is: Would an elementary school kid be able to unlock the deadbolt and then open the door when they are being rushed and possibly being pushed by other students who are in a panic to get out of the door? We would like to assume that there would be an adult in the room to help, but that may not be the case as they could be injured.

    If an intruder is going to try and breach a door, they are going to do it whether there is a deadbolt or not. I don’t feel having 2 operations will stop them, it will only hinder those inside the room getting out if needed because of an intruder or in an emergency like a fire.

  7. Jack Ostergaard says:

    One Operation Only! One Reason Only – Small Children. At home most doors do not have interior locks – they walk up to the door, pull on the lever and the door opens. Any thing else is not expected or understood. There are so many options that exist to cover most exiting situations that conform to the current requirement. It is a rare situation that a proper solution cannot be found. And if it can’t then there is probably something else wrong.

  8. Bill Cushman says:

    The question is why? Why one? Why not two? Why not three or five or twelve? What is the purpose of one action? What is the significance of one action? In my limited understanding, the single action is LEAST NUMBER OF ACTIONS that we can provide. It is the easiest, most simplistic action that a human SHOULD have to face during an emergency situation. If we could have our way.. we should have ZERO actions. Just run! Go through the door and get out! Even better would be no door at all. But, since we have to have a door, and we have to have latching hardware.. then ONE action is the LEAST we can do.

  9. lach says:

    I personally would not want it changed to 2 operations as it has been one operation for longer than I have been alive. If it is changed now I feel that in an emergency situation with panic not everyone will be able to understand that there is now two operations. Plus two operations really does not define on how or where those operations would take place on the opening. Say there is a classroom cylindrical lock and a foot bolt barricade. In a panic you focus on the handle and forget to release the foot bolt. As it is in a completely different part of the door. The term “out of sight out of mind” comes to me. This would take time and concentration to find/remember/figure out to release, and that is not always possible in an emergency situation. My subconscious is already rigged for a single action release. Making it more difficult to get out just doesn’t seem safer to me. Plus if it takes two actions to release then it by logical thought would take two actions to secure. We are already running into issues of “is there enough time/safe way to secure this opening”. Why would adding any additional steps cause for a safer opening. An ND75 classroom security lock only takes one operation to secure (key from inside core). Would adding a barricade make it any more secure? Also if it would take 2 operations to get out it would take at least 2 operations to get in for emergency personnel. If the emergency personnel needed to gain entry and they have to spend extra time and resources to gain that entry by figuring out the two separate operations needed, disasters could happen. If a student or person is threatening themselves or someone else the extra time it takes to get the door open could mean death or injury.

  10. Chuck Park says:

    I think allowing two operations opens the door (no pun intended) for the use of barricade devices. And once you go down that road, there’s no coming back.

  11. Roger Piane, AHC says:

    I’d vote for allowing a thumb turn dead lock on doors non fire rated as listed in the letter above. Residents all have dead locks it’s like blinking people are programmed to two functions to unlock doors. I would not allow two function on egress doors required or swing in the path of egress. Then weight in NFPA 80 swinging fire doors under auxiliary Hardware I don’t think a deadbolt would be allowed.

  12. Glenn Younger says:

    The “one releasing operation” was added for more reasons than just safety. I was on a State committee working on the disability codes for the state of California in the mid to late 1980’s (yeah, I’m old) that pre-dated ADA.
    California Title 19 (at that time part of the California Fire code) required a full return on levers. Although this started out as a way to keep levers from catching clothing and fire hoses, it was clear that it made openings far more usable for those with disabilities. Disability advocates noticed voiced their approval! The full return fell out of Title 19 Fire code, but eventually landed in the California Building Code section 1008.

    One motion and a lever is the best solutiuon for disability egress. Oh, and it more fire safe too.
    Seems like a good questions for those who will discuss and vote on NFPA change will be: Does this work with other requirements like disability access and egress?

  13. Khozema Kazi, AHC, FDAI says:

    besides the ‘knowing act’ in support of one operation to release, another would be ‘only one hand free’ during emergency egress, while the other hand being occupied with any carry item (including baby).

  14. Joel Niemi says:

    it’s wonderful if the school staff is “drilled” in the use of the two-actions devices, but ..
    in an emergency, will they remember which one to do first?
    if someone who is not “drilled” accidentally engages one of the devices, how will they know how to get out? — could be students, children, parents, volunteers, general public, etc.

    If the solution is so complicated that people have to be trained/drilled to use it properly, then either “special knowledge” or “effort” is required to operate it.

    Just say no to this bad idea.

    • MartinB (aka lauxmyth) says:

      Having read the comments, Joel captured my concerns well. Two actions almost always have to be in sequence and that is special knowledge. We have 2 and 3 point latching exit devices which work with ONE action. “Just say no to this bad idea.”

  15. Jerry Austin says:

    My copies of the 1954, 1967 and 1985 Life Safety Codes shed some light on the topic. “Section 5 Doors All doors used in connection with exits shall be so arranged as to be always readily opened from the side from which egress is made. Locks, if provided, shall not require key[sic] to operate from the inside. Latches or other releasing devices to open doors shall be of simple types, the method of operation of which is obvious even in the darkness.” In the 1967 Life Safety Code Section 5-2 Doors expanded on the topic and under 5-213 Locks, Latches, Alarm Devices was 5-2132 “A latch or other fastening device on an exit door shall be provided with a knob, handle, panic bar, or other simple type of releasing device, the method of operation of which is obvious, even in darkness.” The 1985 Life Safety Code broadens the interpretation of this section by removing the word “exit” from in front of the door. “Section 5-2 Means of Egress Components, 5-2.1.5 Locks, Latches, Alarm Devices 5- A latch or other fastening device on a door shall be provided with a knob, handle, panic bar or other simple type of releasing device, the method of operation of which is obvious, even in the darkness.” One can see the arguments that probably came up when they used the adjective “exit” in front of the door. They were referencing any door that was a component of the means of egress out of a structure.

    Once people were installing fastening devices that involved more than one action, it was no longer obvious how to get out “even in the darkness”. I can recall vividly, an instance of this discussion. Across the corridor from our Administration offices, we had a public set of single occupant bathrooms. People would come up to the doors, find them locked, rattle the doors and sometimes call out is “anyone there?” This just frosted the administrator when he was inside. Despite being told we should not do a double action unlocking, he wanted us to install an “Occupied” type latch about eye level but also wanted the normal passage lock left operational. During one survey, the surveyor went across the corridor to use the restroom and wrote a deficiency on the double latching arrangement!

  16. Daniel Hogan says:

    Can you advise where this stands today? Reading the document is somewhat confusing, not sure if this has been passed or is pending. Seems counter-intuitive to introduce a second motion to a path of egress and also impacts

  17. Rian Steger says:


    Where does the 2-operations rule apply? Are there exceptions to the rule? Storerooms, Janitor Closets, Mechanical chases, and Meds rooms come to mind. I’ve seen lots of Patient rooms in hospitals where the deadbolts were removed -that makes sense. Other rooms are a gray area for me. Are you saying no fire door can have a separate deadbolt?

    • Lori says:

      Hi Rian –

      There are very few locations where 2 operations are allowed. Both NFPA 101 and the International Building Code allow 2 operations for hardware on dwelling unit and sleeping unit entry doors – apartments, hotel rooms, etc. NFPA 101 has an exception for existing hardware (not new hardware) on doors serving rooms with an occupant load of 3 people. Otherwise, I don’t know of an exception that would allow 2 releasing operations for the rooms you mentioned.

      – Lori

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