Deadly Pushbuttons

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on May 15, 2013

A simple and common misunderstanding in specifying pushbuttons can kill people trying to escape burning buildings. Furthermore, determining buttons that are 'safe' versus 'deadly' can be difficult to detect unless you check how they are implemented. We explain this issue and options to resolve inside.

RTE by the Books

**** ********** ****** ******* ******* **** ****** **** ********/ ************* code *****. ** ******* *** ******* ** *** "******* ** **** ********", * ******* ****** ** *** *******. ******* *** ******** authority ** *** *** (************* ******** ****) **** ****.*.*.* **** affirms:

"* ****** ********* ****** (**** ******) ***** ****** ** ****** interruption ** ***** ** *** **** – *********** ** *** access ******* ****** ***********. **** *** **** ****** ** ********, the ***** **** ****** ******** *** ** ******* *******. *** push ****** **** ******* ******* ******* “**** ** ****” *** must ** ******* **” ** **” ********** ***** *** ***** and ****** *’ ** *** *****. ***** ****** **** ** provided ** *** **** ******."

****** ***** *** *** ************ *** *** *** ********:

  • ****** ************:*** *** ********** ****** ** ***** ** ** ***** **** the **** **********, *** **** ***** ***** ** *** **** when ********* (********* ********).
  • ** *******:*** ****** ** **** ******** **** ** **** ** ** seconds.

******* ** ******* **** ***** *** ***** *** ****** ** trapping ****** ****** ** ****** ** * *********.

The ***** **********

** *** ******* **** *****, *** ****** ******* ********* ** using ******** ** ****** * **** ********* *******. *** ******** asked *** ********* ** *** **** ***** '**** ** ****' pushbuttons ******* ** ******** ** *** *** ******** *** ******* as **** ** *** ****** ******. *** ******* ** **** the **** **** ** *********** *********, *** ********* ****** ** use *** ****** ** ***** ** *** ***********, *** *********** the ****** ******** ** **** ***** ** **** ******** ** printed ** ***, *** ********* **** ********* ** *** ****** change.

*** ********* ***** *** ****** ** ********* ***** ** *** maglocks, *** ******* *** ****** ****** ** *** ** **** drop ***** ** *** ******** ** ******** ** ****.

*******, **** ************ ****** * *** ***** ** *** ****: the ******** *****, ** ***** ******** ** *** ******. *** is **** ******** ** ********?

Timing ** **********

** *** ******* *****, *** ******* ***** ***** ** **** as *** ****** ** ******. *******, ** **** ** *** button ** ********, ***** ** ******** ** *** *******, ********* the ****. ******** **** **** ** * ***** *********, ** would **** ******* ******* ******* ******* *** ****** *** ******** the ******** ****, *** **** '**-**', *** **** ***** ****** a **** ******* ** *** ******** *** ******** ** ******* as **** ********* **** * ****** ********* *******.

*** *** ******* **** ** ******* ** * ***** '****' feature ** *** ********. * ****** *** ********** ***** ******* a ********** ** ******** ***** **** ***** ******** ** **** power ** ******** *** * ******* ****** ** ****, ********* 30 *******. **** ****** ******** ****** **** ******* ******* *** button *** ******* ******* *** **** ** ** *********.

Not *** '*** *******' ******* *****

*** ******** ********* ***** ***** *** **** **** *** * variety ** *******; ********* *** **** **** ** *** ********** "door ****" ****** ****** ** *********** *** *** *********** ***** on ******** *** **********, ***** **** ********. ***** ******* *** used ** ******** ********* **** ******* *** ***** *** ***** be **** ** *********** **** ********* ***** ** ***** ****.

*******,******* ******* *** ********* ****** ** *** **** ******. ***** ******* *** ****** when ******** **** ******** ****** ** ***** ******** ********** ******* where * ********* ******* ** ******** ** ******* **** *****. Although ** ********** *********, ***** ******* **** *** **** ******* function ** *** *** **********, *** ***** **** ***** ******** additional ********* ** ***** *** ********** ** *** *** **** in ***** ** ** ****.

Two ***** ** ***** ******

*** ********** ****** *******, *** ******* **** ** ********** ***** typically ***** *** ** *** *****:

  • ********: **** **** ** ****** ******** * ***-******* ** ******* powered ********** ***** ***** **** ******* * ********** ****** ******* before ********* ***** ** *****.
  • *********:***** ****** ******* * ******* *** ** ***-******* ****** **** retracts ** * **** ********. *** *** ******* ******* ** outside ***** ****** ** *** ****** *** ********, *** ********* are ************ *** *** **** ******* ** *** ******** ********.

** ****** ****, *** ****** ** *** ******** ** ** wired ** ** ***** **** * **** ********** ** *** the ****** ******* ****** ** ***** ******* *** ** *******. The *** ******* **** ** ******** ********* ** *** ****, so **** * ************** ****** ****** *********** ***** ****. *** button **** ** ********* ** ** ** ****** ** ********** sever ***** ** *** **** ***** *** ************.

Murky *****, ******** ****

***** *** *** **** ** **** ***** ** *** ************ and ******** ** ***** *******, **** ***** ********** **** ******** the *** *** *** ** **** *******. ********, ***** **** exceptions *** ******** ** ******* *********** ************ (**: ******* ** green "**** ** ****", ******* **** ** ***, ***, *** bi-lingual "****/******" *******) *** **** **** ** ******* *** ******** timed ******* ** *** *** ***********.

*** ** ** ********* ************* ** **** ******* *** *** it ** ** *********, **** **** ***** *********** ****** ****-******* substitutes. ******* ***** ***** ***** ** *** ******** ******* **** enough, ** ** ********* ** ****** ******* ********* *** ********** to ******* * ******* ****** ** *******.

Comments (7)

An email from a member, with concerns about the post:

"It makes no mention of the correct wiring and installation of mag locks and how their power supplies must be attached to an ancillary fire alarm relay.

Secondly, what he also then should have told people is this is exactly why mag locks should NEVER be used.

There are electrified exit devices that can be installed, strikes in the vertical pins, the doors that he shows the picture of on his post, easily could have been retrofitted with Vonduprin Exit devices, a center mullion which could have had electric strikes added to it. This will always allow exit. Mag locks are a menace to this industry and are used by most integrators that do not understand door hardware! If that door is a single door they easily could have added a push paddle with an electric strike and installed a vertical pull handle on the secure side of the door as well.

Thirdly. The button he shows is a handicap door button. These require even more criticality to them. This button is wired to an assist opener. If they wired that button to a mag lock and an assist opener, they are in violation of multiple NFPA and UBC codes."

I think that this article does a good job of describing the code and safety implications of using RTE buttons with electromagnetic locks.

As anyone who has followed my postings or articles knows, I am not a big fan of mag locks, but they can be used safely and effectively when properly installed. I think its as much of a mistake to say to NEVER use them is it is to say to ALWAYS use them. System designers need to have a broad palette of tools to work with and the wisdom to select the right product for each application.

As an aside, door actuator buttons such as the one shown above are often wireless. A wireless transmitter is installed at the button and a wireless receiver at the door opener. This is especially common when the door opener has been added on a retrofit basis rather than as a part of new construction. The use of the surface mounted back box as shown in the photo above is a clue that this could be the case here.

Some security installers see a button and assume that they can use the conduit for the existing button to install cabling for their new card reader. They are disappointed when they take the button off the wall or pedestal and discover that the button is wireless.

In Australia you are required to have two fail safe mechanisms in place to ensure egress can be achieved through an access controlled door that blocks the path of a required exit. The first is that the power to the locking device must be removed on the event of a building fire alarm activation This must be a hardwired signal from the fire detection system which breaks power to the locking device via an interface relay. The second is a break glass release unit installed adjacent to the exit button. This will also break the power connection to the locking device for emergency egress. The locking device must be a fallsafe ( power to lock) device.

Hello, Reader:

Let me take a stab at responding to you point-by-point:

  • "It makes no mention of the correct wiring and installation of mag locks and how their power supplies must be attached to an ancillary fire alarm relay."

That's a good point, and while it isn't a topic covered the post, 2009 IBC Codes (1008.1.9.8.3) require that maglock power drops when the fire alarm system is activated.

  • "Secondly, what he also then should have told people is this is exactly why mag locks should NEVER be used. "

I don't agree that maglocks should never be used. When used/installed properly, maglocks are a reliable and safe method of securing doors. Sometimes the way the opening is constructed leaves no choice but to use maglocks, and unless the local jurisdiction outlaws their use (not uncommon due to the same concerns you have) maglocks could provide decades of trouble-free use in an EAC system.

  • "There are electrified exit devices that can be installed, strikes in the vertical pins, the doors that he shows the picture of on his post, easily could have been retrofitted with Vonduprin Exit devices, a center mullion which could have had electric strikes added to it. This will always allow exit."

I agree that a mechanical hardware egress solution is the best manner to guarantee egress. However, changing hardware for a door can quickly exceed a thousand dollars or more, and an integrator who is prone to improperly install a maglock is sure to botch up installing replacement hardware! In our EAC class, only 20% of the installers/integrators indicated they regularly work with locksmiths, and the skills to install and specify door hardware correctly are out of reach for many. There is no assurance that a Vonduprin exit device will fit every door (ie: Herculite/glass), and frequently other devices must be used by spec.

In general, there are a number of reasons why a mullion could not be installed (code, door modifaction costs, etc) but there are strikes designed to be used with vertical rod exit devices. Unfortunately, vertical rod latches are typically the worst-adjusted components in a door, and they may not guarantee the door is locked even if strikes are installed.

  • Mag locks are a menace to this industry and are used by most integrators that do not understand door hardware! If that door is a single door they easily could have added a push paddle with an electric strike and installed a vertical pull handle on the secure side of the door as well."

There are many AHJs that share your concerns! For example, NY Public Buildings, Houston Texas, and Chicago Schools agree with you and largely prohibit their use. However, extensively modifying door hardware can be very costly and create more life/safety risk than simply using a maglock correctly.

  • "Thirdly. The button he shows is a handicap door button. These require even more criticality to them. This button is wired to an assist opener. If they wired that button to a mag lock and an assist opener, they are in violation of multiple NFPA and UBC codes."

This point is noted in the post. You are very correct, using a handicap push-button is NOT the same as an RTE pushbutton, and interchanging them is illegal! In the theoretical application above, if an opener is used with the door, then maglocks are not likely being used. (In order to deploy maglocks with an opener, they must be sequenced and timed and are factory installed on the unit.) However, I have not found an IBC citation outlawing their use, so if you (or other reader) can help, please respond. Thanks!

Hai Brain,

Which is correct method incase fire alarm activation....

Method 1:

Fire alarm panel integrated with access control panel, incase of fire alarm condition Access control panel will unlock the all access controlled doors

Method 2:

Fire alarm output relay/fire relay module will interrupt the lock power to unlock the door incase of fire alarm. it's ok for one door, if we have many access doors then its required as many fire relay modules to interrupt each access doors....

It has to be method 2. It is not necessary to have a separate relay per door, a 10 amp relay which is wired to a fail safe output from the FIP (or voltage output in some cases) feeding a common power terminal strip which supplies power to each electric locking device is a good solution.

Obviously all electric locking devices must be of a type that require power to lock for this to work.

Thanks Robert.

Usually we mixup of fail safe& fail secure locks...

We are installing the Emergency Break Glass to unlock (power interrupt) the access door locks during emergency (from secure side), additionally this EBG will be monitored through Access control system.

Plus we do integrate with Fire Alarm panel & Access control panel, during fire alarm condition it will unlock the all access doors...

Any suggestion on the above method... or any recommended modification for better life safety...

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