Facilities Planning

Building Access Control Devices

Electromagnetic Locking Devices

The issue of controlling access to school buildings has resulted in some schools sacrificing emergency egress for perceived security. We can not stress highly enough the importance of safe and unimpeded egress. Many schools have proposed or installed electromagnetic locking devices on exit doors. In the past Facilities Planning has taken exception to the installation of this type of device on exit doors. An official interpretation of the Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code by the Secretary of State and our review of the new Building Code of New York State has led us to reexamine our position.

The New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code Section 1162.2(b), which sets standards for free escape from buildings, references NFPA 101 Section 5-2.1.6 which references Section 9- which states "Doors shall not be locked from the egress side when the assembly occupancy is occupied". Occupied meaning anytime the building is open to or accessible to anyone, other than staff, or at any time the building is occupied by more than 10 persons. We contacted the technical assistance department of NFPA for an interpretation of this statement and were advised that an electromagnetic locking system must be deactivated at any time the building is occupied.

The new Building Code of New York State Section 1003. states "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". We also contacted the interpretation section of the ICBO for an interpretation of that statement and received the same advice as we received from NFPA.

We therefore conclude that electromagnetic locking devices are not appropriate for school buildings. We hereby advise all districts which may already have such systems installed that they must be deactivated at all times that the building is occupied as defined above. Facilities Planning will not approve such systems as of this date.

We believe that the use of an electrically operated strike system, with panic bars to assure proven exiting performance, meets the exiting provisions of both codes and allows controlled entry.

Last Updated: June 16, 2009