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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Best Practices for Thresholds, Weatherstripping, and Fire Safety by Dan White

This article appears in the June issue of the DHI Security + Safety Magazine and is reprinted here with their permission.

An array of products installed in commercial buildings affect life safety, many of which require a UL listing. While not the largest or most glamorous materials, thresholds, weatherstripping, and gasketing products serve as barriers to fire and smoke inhalation, and while small in size, they are some of the biggest contributors to preserving life.

What is the UL Label?
Underwriters Laboratories, LLC (UL) has been around for more than 125 years and is known across multiple industries as a leader in global safety. Their simple mission, “Working for a safer world since 1894,” is at the core of everything they do. According to their website, “We conscientiously advance safety science through careful research and investigation, applying our efforts to prevent or reduce loss of life and property and to promote safe living and working environments for all people.”[1]

UL certifications can be found on hundreds of building material products, including door assemblies. “Our fire safety team evaluates a wide range of products for fire resistance and performance, including door frames, locks, closers, hinges, and other door accessories,” notes the UL website.[2]

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DHI Leadership Development Xperience (LDX)

This week’s blog post was written by Doug Laflamme with Smoot Associates, our sales representatives in the Massachusets, New Hampshire area about his experience at the DHI Leadership Development Xperience.

A month ago, I had the chance to attend the DHI Leadership Development Xperience held at DHI headquarters in Chantilly, Virginia.  At the time I was not sure what to expect, but I thought it would be a good experience for me being so new to the industry.  Thankfully my place of work is very supportive of DHI and allowed me to take the time to go (Thanks Bill).

Photo courtesy of DHI

The conference was filled with things I expected such as helpful insight on the future of DHI, new credentials and resources, and group brainstorming sessions.  LDX also opened our minds to things I was not expecting, things like how we can increase members in our chapter and where we as members could take the new DHI. LDX was full of ideas, and activities to help us think outside the box when it comes to how our chapters could be run, as well as videos, plans and collaborative thinking about leadership, things that make a great leader and how to become one of those leaders.  It also taught us that there is no right or wrong way to run our chapter and its ok to run our chapters differently than it has been run in the past.

Perhaps the most important and overlooked portion of the conference that I did not realize before I went on this trip is all the great people I would be able to meet and the relationships with those people I was able to build.  It was great to meet people in our industry from other parts of the country, put faces to names, as well learn a little more about the people I interact with through emails so often.  I also got to spend some time with my chapters DHI President Jim White and get to know him better as well.  This was the part of LDX that was most important to me.  I believe the relationships we build in this industry to invaluable.

Photo courtesy of DHI

The DHI Leadership Development Xperience was a truly great experience that left us invigorated with new ideas and fresh wind in our sails ready to take back to our local chapter.  I would recommend the DHI Leadership conference to anyone who has the opportunity to attend.

Thanks, Doug for sharing your experience! Hager Companies has had a corporate membership with DHI for decades and our President and COO, Josh Hager, currently sits on the Board of Governors.

 

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Understanding Today’s Access Control Solutions

This article appears in the February issue of the DHI Security + Safety Magazine and is reprinted here with their permission.

Electronic access control systems offer an effective way to control and manage access for facilities large and small. From retail and office space to education, government, healthcare, and multifamily complexes, today’s systems are versatile enough to not only meet current needs but also have the ability to expand in the future – giving you and your clients the peace of mind of knowing they are making a sound investment.

Electronic access control technology delivers value beyond security and safety by also providing valuable business intelligence – allowing you to monitor who is entering and leaving your facilities, time and duration of visits, traffic flow and more.

TYPES OF ACCESS CONTROL TECHNOLOGY
Recognizing that a one-size-fits-all answer doesn’t work with today’s designs, access control technology is a diverse solution to secure any new or existing facility. Here’s an overview of three types of electronic access control solutions.

Stand-Alone Access Control
With stand-alone access control technology, all the decisions are made at the lock, by the lock. A stand-alone lock needs to be told what access to be given, so if a company wants to add – or delete – a user, they must physically go to the lock to reprogram it using a handheld device.

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Tiny Houses

Affordable housing is drifting further out of reach, especially for people who have had to face many challenges. Enter Dianne Marshak with Social Justice 4 All. Social Justice 4 All, a group of Catholics and other Christians from West St. Louis County, had been looking for a project to help people who were homeless transition off the streets.  This coming after a trip to Chicago where Dianne encountered several people who were homeless and was moved to do something to help.

Social Justice 4 All learned about the Solomon Project, a 12-year-old project to provide affordable housing in north St. Louis, from the North Grand Neighborhood Services (NGNS). During a panel discussion on homelessness, it was suggested that tiny homes could help people transition out of homelessness. As the discussion continued a teacher from Rockwood Summit High School (website) volunteered his students to build the houses. The Tiny Houses Project was born and a commitment of three tiny homes, measuring 14′ x 26′, was made.

Hager’s involvement began when a former employee now retired, reached out with an appeal for a donation of the door hardware for the exterior doors on each tiny home.  The Hager family, without hesitation, said yes. With Johnston Hager, VP of Residential Sales and National Accounts, as Hager’s point person our internal residential customer service expert, Angelia McGraw, worked with Dianne to make sure the door hardware fit the preps on the doors that the students at Rockwood Summit High School had built.

Today, there are two tiny houses on permanent foundations in the City of St. Louis. Interiors are being worked on and both homes are expected to be ready for occupancy later this year. Once both of these homes are ready for new residents the third tiny house will be built on site.

Hager Companies was honored to participate in this worthwhile project. For more information, or if you’d like to get involved, check out Social Justice 4 All’s website here.

We were touched when Dianne Marshak came by the office to present Johnston with a plaque thanking Hager Companies for the door hardware donation. The plaque was made by the students at Rockwood Summit High School, which made it exceptionally special. We were happy to play a part, along with many other companies and individuals, in providing tiny homes for people who just need a hand.

Dianne Marshak with Social Justice 4 All and Johnston Hager

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Concave vs. Convex Wall Stops

Wall and floor stops are inexpensive products that, when installed correctly, can help prevent damage to a wall, lockset or door. If a door is forcefully pushed open, a stop is meant to protect the wall from being gouged by the door or lockset, and it will also protect the door hardware from being damaged by a quick meeting with the wall.

 

Wall and floor stops come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and can be mounted on the wall or on the floor behind the door.  For this post, we are going to focus on concave and convex wall stops.

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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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Electronic Access Controls on Historic Buildings: Hager Companies Headquarters

This article appears in the October issue of the DHI Security + Safety Magazine and is reprinted here with their permission.

Historic buildings pose a unique security challenge. By their very nature they are outdated – from the original materials to antique hardware, they exist to showcase just how different things used to be. However, progress has often happened for a reason, and one of the leading reasons is security.

Antique door hardware may have been built to last, manufactured from heavy-duty metals, but modern security issues require more than physical strength. Access credentials, controlled entry, and electronic logging are all emerging as security necessities. Fortunately, electronic access control systems are built to seamlessly and almost invisibly integrate into projects, including historic buildings where authenticity is paramount.

There are several access control systems that feature scalable parts that integrate wirelessly into a central control system with queriable reports, but when the time came to upgrade the Hager headquarters, the obvious choice was HS4, Hager powered by Salto, the security system recently rolled out by Hager Companies.

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Friday Fun

At Hager, we are passionate about door hardware. It’s one of the reasons we added locks, exit devices, and door controls to our product line several years ago.  Last year we partnered with Salto Systems to create our Hager powered by Salto electronic access control line. Our goal is to provide our customers with the products, service, knowledge, and partnership to elevate the value they bring to the channel.

Yet, we can’t forget our history so today we are going to throw it back a few decades with a light-hearted post.

These cartoons were created from the “inspired pens of America’s most famous cartoonists” – Tom Henderson, Virgil Partch, Lichty, Irwin Caplan, and Larry Reynolds in 1952 for our “Everything Hinges on Hager” campaign.  Let us know if any resonate with you!

Monday was Labor Day which marked the official end of summer, but there is still time to get out and enjoy the sun (make sure to lather up with sunscreen!).

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