Securing escape doors more effectively against misuse

Emergency exits and escape doors save lives. In an emergency, anyone can exit the building through these doors thanks to their legally required mechanical escape door locks. But in some situations, emergency exits are misused or can even endanger people that need to remain in the building under supervision. These include children in childcare facilities, for example, where escape doors open directly into a hazardous area. Retirement homes and care facilities for dementia patients also fall under this category.

Delayed release of escape doors

It is therefore in the interest of building operators to also secure escape doors in the direction of escape, i.e. from the inside, using an electrically controlled locking system. Industrial standard SN EN 13637 allows for such a need. It permits what is known as a delayed escape door release. If the emergency button is pressed to open the door in an emergency, the door remains locked for a few seconds. This delay is displayed with a countdown indicating the remaining time in seconds before the door is opened. The door won't open until the programmed delay comes to an end. An escape door like this must also be equipped with acoustic and/or visual signal elements to display the remaining delay time until the lock is released.

Installation in compliance with industrial standard SN EN 13637

Doors featuring such escape route technology form part of a security system, i.e. they are integrated into building controls. This means that locking devices and the delayed release are controlled electrically. Components must be installed in a way which meets SN EN 13637 requirements to ensure that this door function complies with standards. For example, both sides of escape doors can be equipped with access control readers. Fitting escape route doors that comply with SN EN 13637 can prevent their misuse without having an impact on the escape function.

Approval is required from the authorities

As a general rule, an escape door may only feature a delayed release under specific circumstances. The competent authorities are responsible for deciding the conditions under which a delayed release of escape doors is permitted. Permanent blocking of release poses a great risk and is therefore only permitted in exceptional cases – areas of a building undergoing modification is one example of such a case.

Authors: Werner Frei, Hanspeter Link