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comments on building fire exit door and locks - from the experts
May 11, 2018
comments on building fire exit door and locks - from the experts from May 5, 2018 article
    In response to "post if you want, but don't use my name",  I suggest he not follow the directions of his customer.  An electrician will not install a circuit if it violates the electrical code, an ethical locksmith will not (should not) make a duplicate of a key marked "master" and a lawyer will not co-mingle client funds.  That said, there are standards we in the security and fire alarm business must follow.  Stricter standards in NYC.   Have the customer hire a PE with fire experience and get a simple design document to present to the AHJ.  Since the customer was already cited with violation, this is the best path.  A PE who is a FPE (fire protection engineer) is the best bet.  If post if you want installs a locking arrangement that violated the code and someone later dies, the first thing everyone will be looking at is "standard of care" and this sounds like a clear violation.   
Joseph Hayes, CPP, PSP, SET 
All County Security Inc. 
Ossining NY 
    Magnetic locks are dangerous weapons.  Our company avoids them whenever possible and always suggests their replacement when possible.  That said, here’s some relevant code with some highlights, and my interpretations. 
    A NYC multi-family falls into Residential Group R-2 (section 310.4 of International Building Code)
    NYC Building Code-2014
    [ NYC Building Code is currently 2014, based on 2009 International Building Code “with specific amendments made throughout to tailor them to New York City’s high density urban environment” (source 2017 Construction Code Revision Cycle Handbook ]

1008.1.4.4 Access-Controlled Entrance Doors
The exterior building entrance doors serving occupancies in Group A, B, E, M, R-1 or R-2 and entrance doors to tenant spaces in occupancies in Groups A, B, E, M, R-1 and R-2 are permitted to be equipped with an approved entrance and egress access control system which shall be installed in accordance with all of the following criteria: 

[ Here is an important detail.  “Approved entrance and egress access control” means it’s been approved by a national testing laboratory, like Underwriters’ Laboratories, as an access control system.  That means every component must also be approved to that standard.  In NYC, there is another agency, the Board of Standards and Appeals.  A well-versed inspector could also cite this standard.  Many brands of locks and access control devices lack BSA approval. ]

1. A sensor shall be provided on the egress side arranged to detect an occupant approaching the doors. The doors shall be arranged to unlock by a signal from or loss of power to the sensor. 

[ We see many door release motion sensors installed incorrectly.  The sensor, which must be approved by an NTL for the purpose of access control, must unlock the door if power is lost, “Fail Safe” function as opposed to “Fail Secure”. ]

2. Loss of power to that part of the access control system which locks the doors shall automatically unlock the doors. 

[ I interpret the terminology Access Control System used here and throughout to mean one cannot apply some relays, a magnetic lock, a push button and an intercom door release and some zip cord.  Instead, approved components that function as a “system”.  For instance, a listed intercom amplifier with inputs and outputs designed to open a door is a “System”. ]

3. The doors shall be arranged to unlock from a manual unlocking device located 40 inches to 48 inches (1016 mm to 1219 mm) vertically above the floor and within 5 feet (1524 mm) of the secured doors. Ready access shall be provided to the manual unlocking device and the device shall be clearly identified by a sign that reads "PUSH TO EXIT." When operated, the manual unlocking device shall result in direct interruption of power to the lock?independent of the access control system electronics?and the doors shall remain unlocked for a minimum of 30 seconds. 

[ Here is your pneumatic door releasing button.  Another device we frequently see installed incorrectly or a non-approved push button that simply triggers a release.  When properly applied, the pneumatic type provides a 30 second mechanical interruption of the lock’s power. ]

4. Activation of the building fire alarm system, if provided, shall automatically unlock the doors, and the doors shall remain unlocked until the fire alarm system has been reset. 

5. Activation of the building automatic sprinkler or fire detection system, if provided, shall automatically unlock the doors. The doors shall remain unlocked until the fire alarm system has been reset. 

[ This one is a real can of worms.  A lot of older buildings in NYC have fire sprinklers without monitoring.  Compliance with this section would require installation of waterflow detection devices, which would necessitate installation of a fire alarm system, a large expense. ]

6. Entrance doors in buildings with an occupancy in Group A, B, E or M shall not be secured from the egress side during periods that the building is open to the general public.
(end of NYC Code)

    In summary, Magnetic locks are compliant with NYC building code when listed devices are employed as a system and include a motion sensor and pneumatic override switch.  Your closing thought, injuries caused by fire death potentially being a criminal offense says it best. 
Peter Goldring, AET
New York, NY 
    Not sure about NY but in FL the licensed contractor owns the liability. I caution people a lot that state the AHJ accepts something so I can do it. I advise them that even if the AHJ accepts it you need to do it by the code since there is a little thing called Governmental Immunity so the liability falls on the contractor.  No one is perfect but in Life Safety liability is high on the contractor.   
Pat Lane
    The writer of this situation/problem needs to educate himself if he intends to continues to do this this type of work instead of making excuses and passing the buck here on others to do so.   The reference to getting the answer from architects and engineers may not hold true either since I have found they do not always know the answers to the questions.   That is just your assumption that they do.   The same applies to the comment of having a lawyer contact the Fire Marshal (that is the wrong term used for NYC) that will never be able to happen if even attempted (very bad advice provided).   It is frightening to think of what other jobs that this person may have done that fits into the same category and the ramifications in the event of a problem when it fails to meet the requirements and there are damages.   There is a section in the 2014 NYC Building Code that clearly defines what is the accepted practice here in the situation posed.   The release of these doors that have back up batteries is clearly addressed as well with a time period (stated in the NFPA too).   
    This person can go on line and try and these things, if he know how to do both of these tasks or off line.  People and firms should take the initiative to investigate and learn for themselves in advance of doing the work instead of just doing it and then have to deal with the consequences after the fact when they get caught or there are  problems and damages as stated.   Even your contract cannot protect fully against gross negligence a/k/a sheer stupidity.
    Lastly, to put fuel on the fire here for all these people/firms doing business in NYC installing locking systems, CCTV and security systems, by code again you cannot legally install this wiring (use as a raceway regardless of the wire rating) in stairwells, any vertical chases such as and not limited to plumbing,  piping, electrical, compactor and elevator shafts etc. which is clearly stated in the code, once again if you know where to look.   This should frighten the crap out of all those that have done this and continue to do so unless you put your head in the sand or look the other way.    Cynical and obstinate here?   You bet ya, but to the point.  
Yours truly,
Learn what your should do before you do it or suffer the consequences (a/k/a Miss Doughtfire)


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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
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