Fire-Rated Openings with Electronic Access Control and Low-Energy Power Operators

This article appears in this month’s issue of the DHI Door Security + Safety Magazine and was reprinted here with their permission.

Balancing the need to protect property and keep lives safe while still meeting code requirements.

The mission of the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) is “[being] devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards,” and NFPA does this, in part, with its 300 codes and standards.

As door and hardware industry professionals, it’s our duty to understand the NFPA code requirements to help architects, owners, and general contractors make smart choices about the types of hardware used throughout their buildings to not only meet codes, but also to keep property and lives safe from harm.

Fire-rated doors are required in numerous locations throughout a commercial building, and they are used as part of a passive fire protection system to reduce the spread of fire and smoke between different wings (or compartments) of the structure. It is a critical aspect for allowing people time to safely exit a building.

Electronic access control devices have become a sought-out request of customers looking for convenience and security, yet the openings have become more multifaceted to specify, as the products have become more complex. In addition, the NFPA codes change every three years meaning requirements may change.

The steps to properly specifying a building for your customer are first, understand whether the opening needs to be fail-safe or fail-secure and second, to know which hardware meets the fail-safe/fail-secure fire code requirements.

Fail-safe: This is a term used to describe an electric lock that has a mechanical state of being locked and requires power to unlock it. This type of device unlocks when power is removed. In this scenario, when power is interrupted, fails, or the fire signal is activated, the doors automatically unlock allowing people to safely transfer from one side of the compartment to the other (i.e., exit the building).

Fail-secure: This is a term used to describe an electric lock that has a mechanical state of being unlocked and requires power to lock it. This type of device locks when power is removed. When the fire signal is activated and/or the power is removed, the door stays in a secured position from the key side while still allowing free egress.

UL as It Applies to Fire Rating

The second key element to properly specifying fire-rated openings is to understand which hardware meets the fail-safe/fail-secure fire code requirements. This begins with the testing facility ratings, which are commonly referred to as “UL Ratings” in our industry as defined by Underwriters Laboratories, LLC (UL), one of the most recognized testing facilities. Any accredited Third Party Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) can perform the UL10C test – the test pertaining to functionality and fire safety.

NFPA80 is the code that pertains to fire-rated openings. NFPA80 (2015 Edition) states in part, “Power operated fire doors shall be equipped with a releasing device that shall automatically disconnect the power operator at the time of fire, allowing a self-closing or automatic device to close and latch the door regardless of power failure or manual operation.”

This means that any fire-door that is equipped with an auto-operator must be connected to a fire alarm, but keep in mind, not all auto-operators are UL-rated for fire. Some are only UL-rated for electrical. When specifying a building, it is important to know which door hardware is specifically rated for fire and which is not.

Building Walk-Through with Applications

Ideally, the process of specifying the building involves meeting with the architect to understand how the building will function. Sheryl Simon, CSI, CDT, senior architectural specifications consultant with Hager Companies, notes that “walking around the project on paper” with the architect is the best way to understand the project – what the owners want. “Otherwise, we are just making assumptions.”

Let’s look at a simple, 10-openings-or-less commercial office space, where the owner wants electronic access control on all openings. One way to accomplish this request is below.

Entry Door

The front doors will be fitted with electric latch retraction devices, which electro-mechanically control your door. There are two types: solenoid driven and motorized.

  • The solenoid latch retraction devices retract the latch but do not retract the push-pad. They also consume more power and often require a manufacturer-specific power supply.
  • The motorized latch retraction devices retract the latch and the push-pad. They consume less power and do not require a manufacturer-specific power supply. They are often the ideal choice for buildings where noise is a consideration, such as schools, hospitals and assisted living facilities.

In the case of fitting this office building with the right type of electronic access control device, the locks on the entry door will be fail-secure and non-fire-rated. As noted earlier in this article, when power is lost to fail-secure locking devices, the doors remain in a locked position but permits free egress and allow people to safely exit the building.  A Knox Box holding a master key to the building is mounted on the exterior of the building, so emergency services such as the fire department can gain access through the entry doors.

Computer Room

For security reasons, the owner has expressed that he wants this door locked at all times. The space also requires a fire-rated door to protect the equipment. In this situation, electronic access control can provide access to only a few individuals and the lock will be fail-secure in the form of either an electric strike with a storeroom lock set or an electrified lock set. That way, in the event of fire, the door will stay in the locked position – protecting the equipment in the room.

Office Door

The electronic access control can be either battery-operated or hardwired, depending on the owner’s preference. Most will choose battery-powered for the lower installation costs. In this scenario, the lockset will be fail-secure allowing people to safely exit the room in the event of a fire but leaving the door in a secured position. The door’s fire rating will help dictate which electronic access control is installed, as some are rated for 45 minutes while others are rated for 90 minutes.

Low-Energy ADA-Compliant Operators

Another consideration is compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires any public or private building to provide accessibility to everyone. Some examples include hotels, restaurants, mixed-use buildings, private schools and sports stadiums.

Installed above the door, a low-energy power operator behaves similar to a door closer as it controls the opening and closing of a door. Referring to the speed at which the door opens and closes, a “low-energy” power operator requires a “knowing act”.

Low-energy power operators allow access in and out of buildings, but they can also be installed on the interior of buildings in conjunction with fire doors. A good example is a hospital or school where a pair of doors connect to another wing of the building.

“Whether or not it’s a fire door, the low-energy operator is going to act the same way. It’s going to open when the actuator is pushed under normal conditions, but in the event of a fire alarm, the door needs to close and latch, preventing the door from opening and containing the spread of fire and smoke,” says Gordon Holmes, product manager for Hager Companies.

These two actions with the same opening contradict each other, and those who don’t understand the door and hardware industry can easily be confused by this.

“Most buildings are going to have a fire door located in them, and the distributor or installer(s) have to know how that works,” says Gordon. “The easiest way to explain it is by separating the two actions. In everyday use, there has to be a knowing act, so you push that plate and the door opens. When the fire alarm goes off, those openings have to be secured and shut.”

The door and hardware industry is on the forefront of making our buildings more secure environments to live, work, and play. The rapid development and lower cost threshold of technology is driving the implementation of electronic access control in our schools, hospitals, hotels, high-rise apartment buildings, nursing care facilities, and more.

As professionals in this ever-advancing industry, it’s our responsibility to provide customers with the best product choices while matching their security needs and meeting codes requirements.



Brian Clarke, DHT, AHC, DHC, CFDAI, CTD, CSI
is director of the Architectural Specifications Department and Technical Support at Hager Companies. Email: [email protected]

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Classroom Barricade Devices

Over the past few weeks, there have been numerous news articles from across the country referencing school security initiatives and several discussed the use of classroom barricade devices. As a door hardware manufacturer, this is concerning because these types of devices often do not meet life safety or fire codes requiring free egress, fire protection, or ADA accessibility.

In March of this year, the Bremen Public School District, located in Indiana, developed a new school safety initiative plan. Several levels of security are being added, including upgrading their card access system. Unfortunately, in the article that reported these upgrades, it stated “the safety plan also includes the addition of a classroom barricade device. The devices are magnetic and slide onto the back piece of the door to barricade the door and keep intruders from entering a classroom if they break the lock. The devices are already being distributed to classrooms.”¹

In 2018, the State of Indiana released a School Safety Recommendations document which specifically included verbiage on classroom door hardware.

Under Recommendation #11
“Replace classroom door hardware to ensure fire and building code compliance. The door must lock from the inside and not restrict exiting or egress from the classroom or building. This could reduce the number of non-compliant tactics being used (such as magnets) to allow easier re-entry access by students during class time.”²

Another recent news article described how a former lecturer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln began to discuss procedures to be followed in the event of an active shooter situation. However, before the lecturer began speaking, he noticed that the classroom doors did not have locks on the inside of the doors.

Concerned, the lecturer did reach out to the University’s Facilities Service advising them of this safety concern and suggestions on how to fix it, including the use of deadbolts. The article went on to share that the concerns were forward to the UNL’s Police Department’s Assistant Chief of Police, who in turn, did reply that deadbolts were not a viable solution as “fire code prohibits the use of deadbolts in classroom spaces.”³ Listening to officials who understand building and life safety codes is vital in having code-compliant hardware.

The 2018 edition of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) notes in Chapter 15 for Existing Education Occupancies:

15.2.2.4 Classroom Door Locking to Prevent Unwanted Entry
Classroom doors shall be permitted to be locked to prevent unwanted entry provided that the locking means is approved and all the following conditions are met:

  1. The locking means shall be capable of being engaged without opening the door.
  2. The unlocking and unlatching from the classroom side of the door can be accomplished without the use of a key, tool, or special knowledge or effort.
  3. The releasing mechanism for unlocking and unlatching shall be located at a height not less than 34 in. *865 mm) and not exceeding 48 in. (1220 mm) above the finished floor.
  4. Locks, if remotely engaged, shall be unlockable from the classroom side of the door without the use of a key, tool, or special knowledge or effort.
  5. The door shall be capable of being unlocked and opened from outside the room with the necessary key or other credentials.
  6. The locking means shall not modify the door closer, panic hardware, or fire exit hardware.
  7. Modifications to the fire door assemblies, including door hardware, shall be in accordance with NFPA 80.
  8. The emergency action plan, required by 15.7.1, shall address the use of the locking and unlocking means from within and outside the room.
  9. Staff shall be drilled in the engagement and release of the locking means, from within and outside the room, as part of the emergency egress drills required by 15.7.2.

The Bremen School District disregarded NFPA Life Safety Code and their own state’s recommendations. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s assistant police chief was correct in noting deadbolts would not meet code, however the article didn’t share any further information whether solutions were provided for locking the interior side of the classroom doors.

In Massachusetts, a lawsuit was recently filed by the Lenox Public School District (near Boston) against the town of Lenox, the Massachusetts Building Code Appeals Board, and the local building inspector for requiring the school to remove the barricades devices they purchased as they do not meet Life Safety or Fire codes.

With the advent of social media and the 24/7 news cycle, information and misinformation are difficult to categorize or research. Many educators and the public may not understand the challenges classroom barricade devices present.

Selecting proper security for emergency egress, while meeting building codes can be challenging. It is important to remember that building codes are in place for a reason. The NFPA gathered statistics on school fires with 10 or more deaths. The last major school fire happened in 1958 in Chicago, IL, where ninety students and three nuns lost their lives during a fire at the Our Lady of the Angels School. We all can agree that keeping our children safe is our number one priority.

After each major incident, we learn how to better improve buildings to keep people safer. Following the Columbine tragedy that happened 20 years ago on April 20th, a new lock function was introduced called the intruder classroom function, that allows mechanical control of the outside lever via a key from either the interior and exterior side of the door. A standard classroom function lock is controlled by a key in the outside cylinder, which locks or unlocks the outside lever. The intruder classroom function allows a person to lock the door with a key from inside the room rather than stepping out into the hallway. Today, there are many more code-compliant options available.

The Door Security + Safety Foundation has gathered many resources for how to combine safety and security on their Lock Don’t Block website. These include articles, white papers, and other documents from organizations such as Safe and Sound Schools, Pass – Partner Alliance for Safer Schools, The School Superintendent Association, and the National Association of State Fire Marshals, among others.

The advancement of technology has introduced several electronic access control solutions. Online locks no longer need to be hardwired making installation easier and less expensive. Obviously, we feel our HS4 electronic hardware solution is the best, but our hope is to educate school districts, parents, and facility maintenance personnel that there is cost-effective code-compliant hardware available. We do not feel barricade devices are an acceptable solution for school security, due to possible unintended consequences.  We can help you design a safe school security system that meets building and life safety codes.

For more information on our HS4 Hager powered by Salto Electronic Access Control Solutions please contact your local sales representative or email [email protected] .

¹ Indiana District Develops School Safety Initiative Plan 
² 2018 Indiana School Safety Recommendations
³ The Gray Area of Classroom Locks

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Just 7 Weeks Before the End … of 2018

It’s almost the end of the year so we wanted to take this opportunity to sweep up a few housekeeping items – learning credits and marketing funds.

Learning Credits

Are you, or anyone you know, scrambling to finish up learning credits before the end of the year?  We offer several one-hour continuing education AIA/CES courses. Check out our brochure here.

Access Control 101 | 1.0 LU/HSW
This course defines the differences between access control “head-end” systems and traditional (metal cut keys) key replacement systems. We will review the different types of credentials (metal keys, card keys, fobs, etc) as well as battery operated products vs. fully hard-wired electrified locking systems. Lastly, we will teach you the do’s and don’ts for code compliance.

ADA: Meeting Accessibility Standards for Openings | 1.0 LU/HSW
This course features an overview of compliance with ADA, physical disabilities, and ANSI A117.1 Chapter 404 for doors, doorways, and gates. We will also discuss approach dimensions compliances.

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Safe Schools Week October 21-27, 2018

Every week is safe schools week in our book, but in1984 the National School Safety Center (NSSC) designated a special week to recognize the successes of quintessential school, district, state, and national programs.

Per the NSSC website, the goal of this campaign is to “motivate key education and law enforcement policymakers, as well as students, parents and community residents, to vigorously advocate school safety. School safety includes keeping campuses free from crime and violence, improving discipline, and increasing student attendance.”

Doors, with the correct hardware, play an essential role in providing safety and security to students, teachers, and personnel. Have you ever thought about how many doors you walk through when you enter a school? Was there an open gate when you entered the campus? Was the building’s perimeter door unlocked, so you were able to walk right in? How many doors did you pass before you reached the office?  Recently constructed schools are designed to direct the flow of visitors to help control access to the campus. Often, older schools were built to be more accessible, allowing opportunities for non-authorized people to enter freely, without having visitors check-in.

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SCIP and CONSTRUCT – 2018

Next week, several members of the Hager team will be heading to Long Beach, California for the annual Specifications Consultants in Independent Practice meeting, better known as SCIP, and the CONSTRUCT Education and Exhibits show.

We always have a great time at both events and it gives us a chance to chat with specification writers to learn how we can better help their processes and solve any pain points.

CONSTRUCT 2014 – Baltimore

Our complete line of door hardware falls under one brand, the Hager brand, and we take pride in writing true non-proprietary specifications.  We focus on being correct, clear, concise and complete to make sure all parties in the channel understand how each door opening is expected to function before it’s installed.

SCIP Members Touring Hager HQ – CONSTRUCT 2015 – St. Louis

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Come Two by Two. A Look Inside Noah’s Ark

This article was published in the August edition of the DHI Door + Hardware Magazine and reprinted here with permission.

Come Two by Two. A Look Inside Noah’s Ark, by Ginny Powell

Tucked into the “All American City” of Lakeland, Florida, is not just a community, but the realization of a dream initiated by a small group of parents nearly 20 years ago. It’s called The Village at Noah’s Landing.

Nearly two decades ago, a small group of parents of adult children with special needs met while watching their children take part in sporting activities. They began talking with each other about what would happen to their kids if they were no longer around. Who would oversee their care?

Their worries were further reinforced when they discovered that the options for care in and around Lakeland were extremely limited. But instead of becoming defeated, these five sets of parents took action. Big action. In 1997, they created Noah’s Ark of Central Florida.

The first homes were built between 2002 and 2007 and are located near downtown Lakeland. Called Noah’s Nest, this clustering of four houses is home to 17 residents living independently with the support of their fellow residents, family, and friends.

Noah June 2016 -10

A Dream of Building a Community
While Noah’s Nest was a great start, the dream was always to build a bigger community for adults with developmental disabilities. The Villages of Noah’s Landing, with Phase 1 scheduled to open later this summer, is precisely that.

Phase 1 can accommodate up to 132 developmentally disabled residents and only takes up a fraction of the property’s 62 acres. When all phases are complete, the community will offer a wide selection of social, recreational, educational and vocational choices, and provide for the health care needs of its residents.

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National Sales Meeting

Every year the domestic sales team unites in St. Louis for strategy and training sessions. We are passionate about making sure our sales representatives have the most up to date training for our products in order to be able to fully assist our customers.

Our training manager, Jana Carlisle-Napier, along with input from the VP of Domestic Sales and Regional Sales Managers organizes an intense 2 days of instructional sessions. The Engineering Department also pitches in and creates real jobsite scenarios with common and uncommon hardware issues so everyone can have hands on experience.

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Project Profile – Ballpark Village

Baseball season is in swing and in St. Louis that means a sea of red will be worn from now until October.  We had the distinct honor of being part of the construction team on the new Ballpark Village located next to Busch Stadium that opened last fall.

Architect:                              Design Collective, Inc.
Developer:                           The Cordish Companies
General Contractor:           The Paric Corporation
Distributor:                           H&G/Schultz Door

As soon as the project was announced our specification team offered their services. Using all grade one commercial hardware due to the high use and abuse the door openings will receive the architect specifically liked our Roton 1200-600XHD continuous geared hinges with a round cover channel.
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Hurricane Andrew

photo via noaa

Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm, hit the South Florida area 22 years ago this month. It caused 65 fatalities and $26 billion dollars in damage by the time it was downgraded. A maximum wind gust of 177 mph was recorded in Perrine. Florida City, Kendall and Homestead, all south of Miami, were the hardest hit areas. More …
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CONSTRUCT Bloggers Panel

Photo via CSI

 

The construction industry has been slow in accepting social media and blogging as a form of communications, educating and networking. This writer has been in the door and hardware industry for 20 years and on social media for 6 years so it was with interest I attended the Blogger’s Panel at the 2013 CONSTRUCT show. The panel was filled with other like-minded industry professionals that understood the value of this new platform. More …

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