The questions about stairwell reentry never seem to end. I think it’s time to work on some code development proposals to add some clarity. About a year ago I wrote an updated Decoded article about stairwell reentry, and a few months ago I wrote a blog post answering some additional questions and another one on selected reentry; I also have a whiteboard animation video on the topic. But now another question has come up.
Most stairwell doors that are locked on the stair side are required by the model codes to be remotely unlocked. In addition to giving firefighters access to the floors of the building, the intent of the stairwell reentry requirement is to allow building occupants to leave a compromised stairwell and find another exit.
But what happens if you leave the stairwell through the unlocked doors, and find your path to the other exit(s) blocked by locked doors within the tenant floor? This is extremely common, as there is nothing in the model codes that addresses the doors between one stair and the other – the codes only require the stair doors to be unlocked remotely, not the doors that would allow you to go from one stair to the other.
Many of these doors have access control readers and electrified hardware, so it would be relatively easy to unlock them during a fire alarm if the system was designed that way. I just don’t think many people consider the need/intent for a path of travel through the tenant space. Do you?