I really need your expertise on this one. Many classrooms have a door leading to the exterior, in addition to a door leading to an interior corridor. Although the calculated occupant load of most classrooms is not large enough to mandate a second exit, the exterior door is often a required means of egress. For example, the IBC allows 1-story Group E (Educational) buildings of certain construction types to be unlimited in area if equipped throughout with an automatic sprinkler system, and if surrounded by public ways or yards at least 60 feet wide, AND if each classroom has at least 2 means of egress, with one being a direct exit to the exterior.
In some classrooms it’s not so problematic to have an exterior means of egress (the most common problem I see is teachers obstructing the door with bookshelves and stored materials). But in other classrooms, the exterior door can cause a safety issue because students are tempted to exit through the door unaccompanied. There have been numerous reports of children eloping through exterior doors in schools, and at least one case resulted in a fatality.
If you’ve been following the updates to the International Building Code (IBC), you know that the 2018 IBC allows delayed egress locks to be installed on classroom doors with an occupant load less than 50. With that said, some school budgets can not support the cost of installing delayed egress locks, and in some classrooms an exit alarm would be sufficient. The difference between these options is that the delayed egress lock would sound an alarm and prevent the door from opening for 15 seconds, while the exit alarm would sound an alarm and allow the door to be opened immediately.
So here’s my question…for classroom doors where an exit alarm would provide the needed protection, what’s the best way to retrofit this function onto an existing door? If the door has Von Duprin touchpad-style panic hardware, the ALK kit can be added, but what if the door has a lever handle and the building does not have an access control system? Since the door would already have existing latching hardware, the exit alarm must be the type that does not latch, and relies on a contact switch that sounds the alarm when the door is opened. Because it’s a retrofit, a battery-operated product may be preferred, and it should be resistant to tampering.