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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Midway into 2019

ICYMI – this post is a quick recap of marketing announcements released in the first half of 2019.

We also want to remind you of our great continuing education AIA/CES courses. Access Control 101 is especially relevant as more facilities are requesting electronic access control solutions. Please contact your local architectural representative or complete the contact form below to get a session on the calendar today.


January 31, 2019 – Our first announcement in 2019 was to share our new TIPIT® Ligature-Resistant Hospital Tip product. Designed with safety in mind, the combination of the TIPIT® and our Roton® Continuous Geared Hinge provides a safe environment while meeting institutional requirements for preventing objects from being hung from the top of the hinge.

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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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Product Launches

There have been several exciting announcements regarding our Hager powered by Salto HS4 and Electronic Solutions product lines this week! To make sure you haven’t missed any here is a short recap:

HS4 Electronic Access Control

KS – Keys as a Service  WebpageBrochure | Press Release

An HS4 electronic access control platform for mobile and remote administrators. KS is a cloud-based access control platform that is managed from a smartphone, tablet, or PC, and accessed from a remote software engine. Always up-to-date with the latest features via instant updates and add-ons, the KS platform is easily maintained and managed. Infinite in size, it ensures real-time monitoring and immediate resolutions of any issues with a clear audit trail. These benefits and features make the KS platform perfect for retail, rental properties, and the ever more popular shared workspace markets.

 

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Project Profile: The Abilene Wylie ISD Performing Arts Center – Abilene, Texas

Construction began on the new $11.6 million performing arts center in the Spring of 2018.  Initially, electronic access control wasn’t included in the original bid, but the school district decided to add additional security measures after the project broke ground. Adding electronic access control to a construction project after it has begun could cause major scope shift, but with the Hager powered by Salto HS4 system, it wasn’t as difficult as one would think.

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Product Release Announcement – HS4 Narrow Stile Wall Reader

We are pleased to announce the release of the Narrow Stile Wall Reader to add to our growing HS4 electronic access control product line.

The new narrow stile wall reader updates user’s credentials and communicates network updates in both interior and exterior applications. It has the same functions and benefits as our full-size wall readers, but in a petite package to operate in narrow areas such as hollow metal mullions and elevator floor access panels.

To learn more about our Hager powered by Salto HS4 Electronic Access Control product line click here.  To find out if the HS4 system is right for your facility contact your local sales representative or email [email protected]

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Project Profile: The Southerly – Towson, Maryland

 

The Southerly is a multi-family community that offers a contemporary lifestyle with all the modern conveniences.  Besides the high-end amenities like a heated saltwater swimming pool and bocce and cornhole courts, making sure the tenants were safe was a prime consideration when the architects and developer were planning this project.

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Locking Down School Safety and Access Control by Gordon Holmes

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

Locking Down School Safety and Access Control

According to a recent CNN article, In the first 20 weeks of 2018 there have been 22 school shootings where someone was hurt or killed.  This averages out to more than one shooting a week, so it’s no surprise that school security is a growing focus of today’s world.

Since 1999 when the Columbine shooting happened, towns such as Sandy Hook, Connecticut, Blacksburg, Virginia, and more recently Parkland, Florida -are forever etched in our minds because of the senseless violence that occurred there. While we recognize we cannot entirely prevent violence, campuses across America are learning that they can proactively seek solutions to greatly reduce the likelihood of it.

As door and hardware industry experts, it is our responsibility to educate those who make decisions on access points – from school teachers to officials, and from general contractors to architects who make the design and material decisions. It’s our goal to be at the table as early as possible to educate decision makers on their options – and the impact of those options.

Lockdown with Access Control
Lockdown is the ability to prevent access to a segment or segments of a building or the entire facility for security measures. In the school environment, the lockdown can be as small as a classroom or as broad as the entire campus. In addition, the speed of the lockdown is critical and how quickly lockdown is achieved depends on the system installed.

“In the case of access control in a school environment, the first question you should ask is, ‘How do you want your lockdown to work?'” advised James Stokes, Vice-President of Access Controls for Hager Companies.

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