Business Entrance & Exit Fire Codes
A message from Deputy Chief Evan Bonney:
Business Owners of Newmarket,
It goes without saying that the current pandemic has brought undue burdens on daily life for all of us. As business owners, you have been forced to make difficult decisions and quickly adapt to the ever-changing guidance and protocols. As a representative of the Fire Department, I applaud your efforts to maintain a safe environment for your employees and patrons.
We’d like to take this opportunity to communicate the fire codes surrounding business entrances and exits. It may be tempting to control the number of people coming in at any given time by locking your doors, but we cannot stress enough the danger of locking people in your establishment.
Doors to your business may be locked from the outside at any time, which will help you to control the number of people entering the building. However, once inside, the public must be able to exit during an emergency without having to use “a key, a tool, or special knowledge or effort”. Dead bolting an egress door is not permissible as it is a direct violation of fire code and places occupants at risk when trying to evacuate during an emergency.
Many suppliers provide doors with panic hardware and your current doors may be able to be retrofitted to be code compliant, allowing for the door to remain locked from the outside during business hours. If your business is not open to the general public but your employees prefer to lock the business’s doors to prevent the public from entering, you must ensure that no more than 10 people are inside at any given time and signage should be placed to assist in exiting the building during an emergency (“door is locked; turn deadbolt counterclockwise to unlock”).
We at the Fire Department understand the complexities of managing multiple guidelines, best practices, and requirements through the pandemic. Our duty is to protect life and property and have felt that enforcement through education has been the best method for fire code challenges – especially in the current climate. I have provided the pertinent code language below from the New Hampshire State Fire Code: 2015 version of NFPA 101 Life Safety Code. Please reach out to the Fire Department with any questions you may have.
18.104.22.168.3 Occupied Building.
For the purposes of Section 7.2, a building shall be considered to be occupied at any time it meets any of the following criteria:
(1) It is open for general occupancy.
(2) It is open to the public.
(3) It is occupied by more than 10 persons.
Door leaves shall be arranged to be opened readily from the egress side whenever the building is occupied.
Locks, if provided, shall not require the use of a key, a tool, or special knowledge or effort for operation from the egress side.