Controlled egress within healthcare facilities
While there are no nationally adopted emergency management standards for schools, hospitals are required to undergo a safety inspection to receive licensure and state accreditation. Like school administrators, it is in the hands of hospital leaders to make the best, most-informed decision for individuals’ safety and security needs.
There were many important changes between the 2000 and 2012 editions of NFPA 101, some of which specifically allow hospitals and healthcare facilities to address one of the biggest challenges they face—the ability to safely and effectively prevent the escape and abduction of their most vulnerable and at-risk patients. Fortunately, new sections specific to healthcare facilities have been added to NFPA 101 allowing egress doors in certain types of healthcare units to be locked in the direction of egress, using an application commonly referred to as ‘controlled egress.’ This application is allowed where the clinical needs of patients require specialized security and/or protective measures.
Healthcare facilities are also required to designate ‘smoke compartments’ (i.e. spaces within the facility enclosed by smoke barriers on all sides, including the top and bottom). At least two smoke compartments are required for every story used for sleeping rooms for more than 30 people, which helps restrict movement of smoke and allows for more flexibility in transferring patients. These additions (NFPA 101 Sections 18.2.2, “Means of Egress Components,” and 19.2.2, “Means of Egress Components”) give healthcare facilities the ability to improve security for areas such as behavioral health, memory care, and pediatric and maternity units,
as well as emergency departments.
When controlled egress locking devices are used, staff must have the ability to readily unlock doors at all times. Stringent safeguards must be in place to help reduce the potential threat to life safety these locks create. Fail-safe electrified locks must be used to unlock doors upon loss of power or ensure activation of the smoke detection system. Only one controlled egress lock is permitted on each door, and locks must be able to be unlocked remotely from within the designated locked smoke compartment.
Accessibility in office buildings
Extra attention is being paid to life-safety protocols and procedures, especially emergency egress from tall buildings. Although emergency egress is hopefully
a rare issue in a building’s life, everyday accessibility issues must be considered in building design. The requirements of the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design and ICC/ANSI A117.1, Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities, are good resources for understanding code compliance and the correct operation of door hardware.
Architects, engineers, and contractors have historically relied on the ICC’s model codes to provide minimum requirements. Requirements in the codes are addressed during the design process, when it is easier and more cost-effective to correct errors. Higher levels of compliance with accessibility requirements are achieved through local review and inspections performed by the code official. Finding problems after the building is occupied can lead to expensive retrofits, as well as delays in use of the building.
Hardware and ‘intelligent’ integration
Hardware is a crucial element in buildings, as door openings provide means of egress, security, and building accessibility. Facility managers must think about how and for what the building will be used when deciding on door hardware and access control solutions.
BHMA developed a minimum performance grading system for all hardware, including locksets. This grading system is also accredited by ANSI. Under this system, a Grade 1 lock is heavy-duty, Grade 2 is medium, and Grade 3 is for residential use. Many commercial buildings use different-grade hardware in different areas of the building; for example, a Grade 1 lock is generally used on exterior doors, while a Grade 2 lock can be used on interior doors with less traffic.
For many K–12 school districts, healthcare facilities, and commercial buildings, maintaining a secure building while providing safe and code-compliant egress is a top priority, but costs are still a major concern. With new generations of access control (e.g. wire-free installation and virtual networks) being introduced, the need to reconfigure an existing building can be significantly reduced while still providing high security. Extensive research and development, production, and quality management have shaped platforms that can be used to build various customizable access control solutions.