Fire regulations on door locks

Written by mark fitzpatrick
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Fire regulations on door locks
Door locks must be properly installed and maintained. (fire door image by Rosemary Robenn from Fotolia.com)

A fire emergency can be a life-threatening experience but injury and property damage can be minimised when proper doors and door locks are installed. Organizations such as the National Fire Protection Association educate the public on the best mechanisms for fire safety, including proper door lock installation and maintenance.

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National Fire Protection Association Recommendations

The National Fire Protection Association is a U.S. based non-profit organisation that has proposed fire protection legal codes internationally since 1896. Many of their proposals have been adopted as law throughout the United States and in most countries around the world. One of the most important contributions of the National Fire Protection Association is their set of recommendations on door locks and fire doors.

Life Safety Code 101

The Life Safety Code 101 is a document from the National Fire Protection Association describing the general need for safe exits. The document states that all buildings need to be secured for residents or workers, but all doors also need to be accessible for exit by people inside the buildings. Locks that can safely secure a building but not trap residents or workers are preferred for maximum fire safety. There are also several supplemental amendments to this code. The most important amendment is that all fire doors must be clearly marked.

Automated Systems

Fire codes do allow automated door lock systems that lock doors from the outside but automatically open in the event of a fire. These door locks are electronically connected to a fire detection system. The door locks open when smoke detectors activate. The downside of this system is explained by Michael Minieri in the magazine Security Management: Minieri argues that automated door locks are unreliable because smoke detectors are often activated by false alarms. Instead, systems that activate when two or more smoke detectors go off are preferred.

Occupational and Safety Hazard Organization

The Occupational and Safety Hazard Organization (OSHA) mandates that fire doors in the U.S. can only be locked if the door has an automated system. Fire doors cannot be held open by ropes tied to the opposite wall or wedges. OSHA's Office of Compliance enforces fire door regulations and monitors fire doors in commercial and residential buildings.

Fire door testing

The Office of Compliance and Safety tests and certifies fire doors installed in buildings throughout the U.S. Most of the tests focus on ensuring that fire doors maintain strength during a fire. However, this government agency also ensures the door locks work consistently.

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