The “Legalities” Behind the Use of Electromagnetic Locks

The “Legalities” Behind the Use of Electromagnetic Locks | #ESC_LLC #FireCode #Fire #Door #Lock | When we say ‘legality,’ it’s in reference to authoritative requirements associated with any and all types of fire alarm systems and attached components. This includes all EMLs (Electromagnetic Locks) no matter where they are installed.

Fire code requires that when an electromagnetic lock (brown left of center) is used, an automatic means of unlocking the door must be provided (center brown top).

The way this works is that a national fire code-making organization, like the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) of Quincy, MA, creates code documents which contain specific requirements in reference to any and all technological issues involving fire detection, life-safety functions, and other aspects of fire protection. Those requirements then are institutionalized by each State as well as the various municipalities therein and thus enforced by legal means by local fire inspectors, State fire protection officers, fire marshals, and others, some whom have arrest powers at their disposal.

For example, NFPA 101, 2006, entitled ‘Life Safety Code,’ defines ‘where,’ ‘when,’ and the ‘circumstances’ by which an EML is to be used. This fire code document explains what you’re supposed to do in a variety of environments, which is called an ‘occupancy.’ (All NFPA 101 code references from the 2018 edition and NFPA 72 references from the 2016 edition.)

“The state of New Hampshire has adopted NFPA 101. As a career firefighter I have the ability to look up codes and get quick answers from AHJ’s. When in doubt, contact the AHJ, in my case normally the fire chief of the town/city. You disclose what system you would like to install in writing and he’ll physically sign off on it, especially for the more specialty installs,” says Brian Akerley, a project manager with A & B Lock and Security of Gilford, NH.

A good case in point is Section 7.2.1.8.1 contained in NFPA 101. It states, “A door leaf normally required to be kept closed shall not be secured in the opened position at any time and shall be self-closing or automatic-closing in accordance with 7.2.1.8.2, unless otherwise permitted by 7.2.1.8.3.” This passage touches on the very issue of electric door closer openers, door holder closers, and electrified door holders.

Within Section 7.2.1.8.2, there’s a long list of methods whereby this type of door–which is usually a fire door–can be held open. One method cited is that of a ‘hold-open mechanism,’ also referred to as a ‘door holder, as referenced in Wikipedia’s Saphirstein quote in the first section above (see photo).

And then there’s NFPA 72, entitled ‘National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.’

“NFPA 72, for example, tells us how the EML must operate in conjunction with a fire alarm [control] panel,” says Akerley. “First, the power supply must be properly connected to a fire alarm relay device that’s properly rated and listed. Second, there must be a [properly listed] motion detector [releasing device] to provide automatic egress. And third, there must be a REX (Request to Exit) switch on the wall [next to the door] that connects directly to the EML.”

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Section 21.8.4 of NFPA 72 also says that electrically-operated magnetic door holders do not require a Secondary Power Supply, which, in most cases, is a stack of batteries with a charging system to assure that they’re properly maintained.

When secondary power is required or needed, Section 21.9.2 says that you must follow Section 10.6.7, which provides direction on a variety of matters. One example is battery capacity, which must include an additional 20 percent over calculations for headroom. Also, it’s required that these EM door holders and/or EMLs not interfere with the proper function of the fire detection/protection system itself, etc.

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Thank you! –John Larkin

(Source: Locksmith Ledger Magazine)

Allan Colombo, ESC Media Director
Allan Colombo, ESC Media Director
Email: ESC@Tpromo.Com