Every business needs to protect its assets from thieves, which is why locks are installed on doors of commercial buildings. Businesses also, however, need to make sure people can quickly open emergency exit doors if there's a fire -- which often means installing just one lock on these doors. If you own a business that has a building with emergency exits, here's how to install a lock that will keep burglars out and not break fire codes.

Follow Fire Codes

To ensure that people can get out quickly, the majority of fire codes only let businesses install one lock on emergency exits. If there's a fire, people need to be able to exit through the door as fast as possible. 

(Because codes vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, you ought to read your city's or county's fire codes. Most areas will follow the same basic codes or at least have similar codes.)

Since emergency exits can have just one lock, it's important to make sure the locks on the emergency exits of your business' building are as secure as possible.

Get an ANSI Grade 1 Lock

For the best protection, you'll want a deadbolt -- but not just any deadbolt. Specifically, you'll want an ANSI Grade 1 deadbolt. The ANSI categorizes deadbolts into three categories:

  • Grade 1 locks are the highest-rated deadbolts that are suitable for both residential and commercial purposes
  • Grade 2 locks are the highest-rated deadbolts that are suitable for just residential purposes
  • Grade 3 deadbolts meet the ANSI's minimum requirements and only suitable for some residential purposes

Having the highest grade of deadbolt will provide your business with the protection it needs -- but only if the lock is properly installed.

Have Your Lock Professionally Installed

To ensure that your Grade 1 deadbolt is correctly installed, you should have it professionally installed by a commercial locksmith. Although installing a lock may seem like a simple job, there are several things that must be checked. For instance, a commercial locksmith will know to do the following:

  • make sure the throw (which is how far the bolt goes into the door jam) is at least 1 inch
  • install a security plate on the lock's strike side (which is the side of the lock that a thief may try to smash if they're trying to break it using brute force)
  • use a double-cylinder deadbolt (which requires a key to unlock it from either side) if thieves could smash a window next to the door and reach the lock on the inside

Consider Additional Precautions

Depending on where an emergency exit is located, a commercial locksmith might recommend taking additional precautions. They might suggest any of the following if the door's in an area where a thief could hide and try to get in without being easily seen:

  • installing a motion-sensing floodlight above the door
  • posting a security camera that is aimed at the door
  • linking the deadbolt with an alarm system that will be activated if the door is opened
  • putting in a locking bar that can be opened from the inside with just one push and that can't be opened from the outside

If a commercial locksmith recommends any of these ideas, you should consider taking their advice. Commercial locksmiths know how thieves will try to break or pick a lock, and they know how much time doing so may take. They also know how to ensure your door's lock is fully protected. If you're trusting them to install the lock correctly, trust any other recommendations they make. If a thief ever tries to get in through your business' emergency exit door, you'll be glad you did.