Quick Code Q&A: Delayed Egress in Mercantile Occupancies
With the holidays approaching, we may spend more time in mercantile occupancies looking for the perfect gifts for friends and family. So, I wanted to focus on delayed egress hardware for this Quick Code Q+A. This type of hardware is often used on emergency exits in retail stores to deter unauthorized egress and/or theft.
This special locking arrangement is designed to keep a door locked in the direction of egress for 15 seconds or 30 seconds as allowed by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). The timer is actuated by an attempt to exit when a force of not more than 15 pounds is applied for up to three seconds. The actualization of the hardware triggers an audible alarm at the door.
It is important to note that delayed egress hardware is not allowed in all occupancies, and the model codes include several requirements to ensure a balance of life safety and security. Since being introduced in 1981, the codes around delayed egress hardware have evolved. Because there are differences between the International Codes (I-Codes) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes, it is recommended to verify which codes (and editions) have been adopted in the project’s location and if there are amendments or additional requirements to consider. The following answer will focus on requirements listed in the I-Codes; for NFPA requirements, refer to NFPA 101-2021: 184.108.40.206.1 – Delayed Egress Electrical Locking Systems.
Question: What is required for code-compliant delayed egress hardware?
As delayed egress locks are not permitted in all occupancy types, it is important to check the applicable sections of the adopted codes to determine whether this hardware can be installed in a particular facility. The I-Codes allow delayed egress locks in the following use groups:
- B (business)
- F (factory and industrial)
- I (institutional)
- M (mercantile)
- R (residential)
- S (storage)
- U (utility)
- E (educational)—limited to doors serving classrooms with an occupant load of less than 50 people
- A (assembly)—limited to secondary exits for courtrooms, and the building must be equipped throughout with an automatic sprinkler system.
If a building falls under one of the approved occupancy types, delayed egress hardware can be used if provided:
- The building has an automatic sprinkler or approved automatic smoke or heat detection system;
- Emergency lighting is installed on the egress side of the door;
- The hardware activation begins when a force of 15 pounds is applied for no more than three seconds (less than three seconds is permitted);
- The lock releases in the direction of egress after 15 seconds (an AHJ may approve a delay for up to 30 seconds), and the locking system must be manually rearmed;
- An audible alarm sounds when the hardware is activated;
- The hardware must comply with the referenced standards, including UL 294. Delayed egress locks must comply with UL 10C or NFPA 252 when installed on fire doors. Panic hardware with the delayed egress function must comply with UL 305 and, in some cases, BHMA A156.3;
- There is signage mounted above and within 12 inches of the door exit hardware (with one exception) that reads, “PUSH [PULL] UNTIL ALARM SOUNDS. DOOR CAN BE OPENED IN 15  SECONDS.” This signage must comply with the visual character requirements of ICC A117.1 – Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities;
- When the fire alarm or sprinkler system is activated, or power fails, the delayed egress locks must automatically allow immediate egress; and
- Delayed egress locks are able to be deactivated by a switch at the fire command center and/or other approved locations.
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