What are the different types of emergency exit doors?

An emergency exit is a door specially designed to help people move out of the building during emergencies, such as fire, active shooter, earthquake, hazardous material spills and floods. You may locate emergency exits in strategic areas inside the building, such as hallways, stairwells and other rooms that have direct access to the outside. 

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that buildings or workplaces must follow several design and construction requirements for emergency exits.

  • Exit doors must be a permanent part of the workplace.
  • The building should have an adequate number of exit doors. For instance, a workplace should have at least two emergency exits that allow employees or occupants to evacuate easily during an emergency. The number of exit doors can vary based on the number of employees the enterprise employed or the occupant load of the building.
  • Ensure push bars, panic bars or crash bars on emergency exits are working properly.
  • The emergency exit doorway must be at least 28 inches wide at all points.
  • Ensure emergency exit routes have adequate lighting.

There are two types of emergency exit doors: fire doors and fire exit doors.

  • Fire door: A fire door is a door that prevents fires from spreading within a building.
  • Fire exit door: A fire exit door is an emergency exit that allows people to escape from the building when an emergency occurs.

This article will provide an overview of suitable door requirements for emergencies and system solutions available for emergency exit doors and access control.

Fire Door vs. Fire Exit Door

 Fire DoorFire Exit Door
PurposeTo stop, slow down, or prevent the spread of the fire.To facilitate the quick evacuation of people in case of fire or other emergencies.
LocationInterior walls of the building.Exterior walls of the building.
LockingFire protection doors have a self-latching feature that ensures the door is always closed. You may need to use a special lock like a thumb-turn cylinder to open the fire safety door from inside.Fire exit doors are never locked from the inside. For security reasons, these are locked from the outside. However, the lock will be opened when you press the panic hardware or crash bar attached to the door inside. 
SignageThe signage for fire doors must be in blue and white color.The signages for fire exit doors must be in green color.

Property managers can use Genea’s cloud-based access control system to secure fire doors or unlock fire exit doors with a click of a button from a remote location in an emergency.

Suitable Door Requirements for Emergency Situations and Exit Routes

Safety codes related to exit door requirements for emergencies and signages on exit routes are highly stringent in the United States. Property managers may need to implement mortise locks, electric locks or magnetic locks that meet emergency egress requirements and display emergency exit route signs at various places to guide people to move out quickly.

Means of Egress Requirements

Property managers may need to abide by different egress requirements depending on the situation. These may include emergency egress, controlled egress and delayed egress.

Emergency egress

The emergency egress locking system automatically unlocks the emergency exit when a situation arises.

  • Fire: A fire alarm, an automatic sprinkler system or an approved automatic smoke detection system triggers an immediate unlock of emergency doors when a fire erupts in the building.
  • Active shooter situation: If the exit door is integrated with cloud-based access control, the building supervisor can unlock the nearest exit door with a single mouse click from anywhere. This especially helps during an active shooter situation. It keeps all exit doors wide open, eliminating the need for people to press the exit device to escape from the situation.

Controlled egress

Controlled egress is a mechanism that keeps the door locked until the staff or emergency personnel unlocks it

  • Lockdown: Lockdown is a procedure used to secure building occupants from external threats. Lockdowns are often implemented in universities to protect students, staff and administrative personnel from external threats. Controlled egress mechanisms are useful in an event of a lockdown. This enables the emergency responders to secure building occupants in a place and release them only when the situation comes back to normalcy outside.

Types of Locks

Locks play a crucial role in securing building occupants from both internal and external threats. Property managers wish to use different types of locks, including magnetic locks, electric locks and wireless locks, to secure the building.

Magnetic locks

There are two components in a magnetic lock. They are an electromagnet and an armature plate.

  • Electromagnet: The electromagnet is attached to the door frame.
  • Armature plate: The armature plate is installed on the door in a way that it touches the electromagnet when the door is closed.

When electricity energizes the electromagnetici, it bonds with the armature plate and locks the door. The door unlocks itself when the electricity stops flowing into the electromagnet. You can use a mobile device, key fobs or access cards to activate the release system, which unlocks the door.

Magnetic locking devices are fail-safe, a mechanism that unlocks the door when the power goes off. They are recommended for emergency exits for enterprises, banks, assembly halls, museums, public buildings and civic institutions.

In case of a fire emergency, the fire alarm acts as a release system. The fire alarm interrupts the electricity flowing into the electromagnet and unlocks the emergency exit door.  

Electric locks

The important components of an electric lock are a latch or a bolt and an electric strike plate. When the door is closed, the electric strike plate holds the latch and locks the door. The electricity must pass through the electric strike plate to trigger a release action and unlock the door. You can use a passcode, fob key, access card or motion sensor to activate the release action.

Since electric strikes lock the door from the exterior. They should be used in combination with request-to-exit (REX) devices. These allow building occupants to unlock the door from inside during a power outage.

Electric locks are fail-secure, a mechanism that keeps the door closed even after a power outage. Electric locks are ideal for lockdown situations. By locking the doors from outside, electric strikes prevent outsiders from entering the room during a lockdown. However, you can use an electric lock for emergency exits by converting them into a fail-safe mode with the help of an integral switch.

Emergency Exit Signs

Property managers should ensure that the emergency signs are properly illuminated 24/7. The failure to maintain emergency exit signs may result penalties for workplaces, schools, hospitals, hotels and commercial real estate buildings.

For example, organizations may be fined for various reasons relating to improper emergency access, including:

  • Not properly illuminating exit signs in the path of travel.
  • Employees needed a key to open the emergency exit door of a room where inflammable materials are stored.
  • Placing obstructions in the form of cardboard boxes and other equipment in the direction of exit travel.

Property managers can use any compliant lock and helps building occupants evacuate the premises safety during an emergency.

System Solutions for Emergency Exit Doors and Access Control

Cloud-based access control is the predominant system solution that automates emergency exit doors and helps enterprises meet exit door compliances.

The cloud-based access control system helps enterprises in the following emergencies:

  • Emergency exit during fire: A cloud-based access control system can be integrated with fire alarm systems so that the fire alarm can send an automatic signal to unlock the door when it detects the smoke or fire within the building.
  •  Emergency lockdown: A cloud-based access control system enables property teams to cease all active credentials and make all doors inaccessible to users from a remote location. This solution is helpful when the building opts for an emergency lockdown to protect people from an outside threat. The access control system is often flexible enough to let property teams opt certain doors out of emergency lockdown if necessary.
  • Emergency hold-open: A cloud-based access control system gives administrators the ability to unlock all access points of the building with a single mouse click. Emergency hold-open is highly beneficial during emergencies such as fire, flooding and hazardous material spillage.

Increase Emergency Exit Door Security with Genea

Access control isn’t all about restricting unauthorized people to enter the building. It should also facilitate quick egress of people during emergencies. Emergency exit doors and access control systems go hand-in-hand. Property teams may need to implement a cloud-based access control system that gives the flexibility to operate emergency exit doors from a remote location during emergencies.

Genea is a leading cloud-based access control service provider in the United States. Enterprises can integrate magnetic and electric door locks with Genea’s cloud-based access control system to generate access credentials such as access cards, mobile keys and passcodes for individual users. Additionally, Genea’s cloud-based access control also enables property teams to monitor access activities and revoke the credentials of users from anywhere, at any time.

You can integrate your emergency exit doors with Genea’s cloud-based access control to facilitate quick egress and controlled egress in an event of an emergency such as fire, active shooter and hazardous material spills.

Learn how Genea’s cloud-based access control system can help you automate emergency exit doors.