Emergency Exit Regulations and Security: All You Need to Know

When it comes to the regulations and standards surrounding fire and emergency exits in commercial and multiple occupancy residential buildings, there is much to comply with.

When it comes to the regulations and standards surrounding fire and emergency exits in commercial and multiple occupancy residential buildings, there is much to comply with. Join us as we explore the emergency exit regulations in place to protect occupants, and share expert advice on how to the secure doors that must by law be kept unlocked when buildings are occupied.

Emergency exit regulations

The subject of emergency exits can often cause a fair amount of confusion. Whilst emergency exit regulations are in place to protect building occupants, there is also a need for emergency and fire exit security. Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions about emergency exits, the law, and security.

Can any door that leads outside be used as a fire exit?

Not all doors that lead outside can be used as fire or emergency exits. Revolving or sliding doors for example cannot be used as emergency exits, neither can doors that lead to enclosed courtyards in most cases.

Generally, fire exit doors should open in the direction of escape. However, it can sometimes be acceptable for an emergency exit door to open inwards, but only where it is providing access for less than 60 occupants, and where the building is not in public use.

In the event of an emergency, occupants must be able to evacuate the premises as safely and quickly as possible. Mostly, this will be via the door they entered the building through. However, additional fire exits may also be installed so that the escape distance is minimised, or so as to provide an alternative emergency exit should the main entryway be blocked. The Building Regulations govern the number required and the width of fire exits in line with the number of building occupants who will be using them.

Am I allowed to leave an emergency exit door open?

Emergency exit security aside, and contrary to popular belief, it is perfectly acceptable to leave fire exit doors open.

The only situation in which a fire exit door cannot be left open is where it is also acting as a fire resistant door. This however will be rare, as most fire resistant doors are internal. And it’s those internal fire resistant doors that must never be left open, and must have a door closer fitted.

Can I lock an emergency exit door?

Emergency exit doors must not be locked with a key or padlock whilst a building is in use.

However, when a building is unoccupied, the emergency exit door can be locked to secure the premises. If security measures such as padlocks or steel bars are fitted, then whoever opens up in the morning must remove all of these. If emergency exit doors are left locked whilst the building is in use, this is considered a breach of fire safety regulations, and can lead to prosecution.

What emergency exit security measures are legally compliant?

It is imperative that fire exit doors are not locked or blocked. It must be easy to open them from the inside in an emergency. Of course, this leads to the question of emergency and fire exit security. If the doors are not locked, how to prevent intruders gaining access?

There are various emergency exit security solutions to overcome this issue.

Panic bars

Also known as push bars or crash bars, panic bars require minimal pressure on the bar to release the locking mechanism. The bars are fitted with a bolt, making them impenetrable from the outside, but easily opened from the inside. Panic bars are suitable for use in both private and public buildings.

Emergency push pads

Emergency push pads are similar to panic bars, but instead of a horizontal bar they feature a small pad. This emergency exit security solution is only suitable for situations where the people using them will be familiar with the building. In other words, they are not to be used in public buildings.

Panic bolts

Like emergency push pads, panic bolts are not suitable for use in public buildings, but they do offer a good fire exit security solution for commercial premises, securing the door from unauthorised use.

Emergency bolts

Another emergency exit security measure that’s only suitable for private commercial buildings is the emergency bolt. When the emergency exit handle is pulled, emergency bolts work by breaking into two pieces, allowing a spring-loaded bolt to retract and release the door. Key holders can use the door for non-emergency purposes.

Magnetic locks

Magnetic locks hold emergency exit doors shut courtesy of an electromagnetic force between a steel plate and a magnet. These locks will usually be operated by a keypad entry system from outside, with a quick release button on the inside for use in an emergency.

This type of emergency exit security lock can be integrated into a fire alarm system that will automatically release the lock in the event of the fire alarm being activated, or the power supply failing. Full kits can be purchased, incorporating building access proximity readers and an emergency manual call point.

Do I need to put signage up at emergency exit doors?

All fire exit routes must be clearly marked with emergency exit signs, together with emergency exit lighting.

Do emergency exit routes need to be kept clear?

It is vital that emergency exit doors are kept clear on both sides so that the escape route is never compromised.

Where a fire exit leads out onto a road or into a car park, it may be necessary to take steps to prevent parking directly in front of the door. A ‘no parking’ sign or a barrier could be used for this purpose.

Emergency exit security solutions from Barry Bros Security

Barry Bros Security offers a range of emergency exit solutions for meeting the strict regulations in force in the UK, whilst providing door security options to protect premises, and discourage use of unapproved doors and exits.

For tailored advice on all aspects of fire and emergency exit security and compliance, you are welcome to get in touch, or call in to our London showroom.

How Can We Help?

Regardless of the type of premises you are looking to protect, Barry Bros Security has the solution. Contact us today for expert advice and the benefit of decades of experience in the security industry.