Owners and managers of secured facilities often request a card-to-exit system for select doors in an effort to monitor persons leaving the secured room. New code provisions have evolved to indirectly permit use of card-to-exit systems for access-controlled egress doors. These doors control access for entering and exiting with magnetic locks or other electronic locking devices. In addition, advancements with the strengths of electric strikes, coupled with the creative use of door contacts, provide new opportunities for card-to-exit systems.

Previous codes, including NFPA 101, dated 2000, section, IBC, dated 2003, section 1008.1.3.4, and BOCA, dated 1999, section 1017.4.5, did not have the provision for panic hardware on the exit side to unlock access control devices. This new provision allowed by NFPA 101, dated 2003 legally permits card-to-exit for doors with entrance and egress access control systems.

Building managers should note a particular fail-safe: the access control system unlocks with the loss of electrical power or activation of the fire alarm system. Overcoming the vulnerability of the access control system with the loss of electrical power may be achieved by connecting the access control system to the building’s emergency electrical power system. Such systems are backed up by a generator or UPS system, or by the use of battery. They typically provide line-signal supervision that produces an alarm when its system’s wire current is disrupted or altered. However, the major weakness of the access control system utilizing magnetic locks is the requirement to unlock with the activation of the fire alarm system. In addition, these locks need to remain unlocked following a fire alarm event, until reactivation of the fire alarm system by authorized fire protection personnel or as prescribed by local regulations.

Card-to-exit with magnetic lock

  • Card-to-exit systems cannot interfere with the occupants’ right to safely exit a room that has a door with an access control system. Current codes favor life safety requirements over security. The single most important life safety code requirement may be the ability to safely exit a room or building.

  • Card-to-exit systems may be used to unlock (deactivate) the magnetic lock from the exit side if combined with a motion sensor or panic hardware, as well as the other code provisions.

  • A motion sensor will defeat the purpose of a card-to-exit system, as the occupant need only stand in front of the motion sensor to unlock the magnetic lock.

  • Card-to-exit systems may be encouraged as the proper method to unlock the magnetic lock with an alarm connected to the push-button and panic hardware.

  • Alarms may be interconnected with the panic hardware and push-button. Activation of the panic hardware or push-button to exit without use of the card reader would activate the alarm. In other words, utilization of the card reader will unlock the magnetic lock and shunt (turn off or not activate) the alarm, while utilization of the push-button and panic hardware will unlock the magnetic lock and activate the alarm.

  • The alarms on the push-button and panic hardware may be silent, local, sent to an on-site or off-site security command center, sent to guards’ wireless hand held devices, or sent to particular guard stations.

  • Activation of the panic hardware or push-button to exit without use of the card reader may also activate a camera to record the unauthorized exiting event.

  • A sign should be placed near the push-button and panic hardware directing occupants to utilize the card reader to exit as well as indicating that these devices are intended for emergency use only, and that they will activate an alarm (and camera) if utilized.

  • The push-button may have a cover device that freely swings open and further discourages its use.

  • Panic hardware that unlocks the magnetic lock may offer delayed exiting of 30 seconds. In other words, pushing the panic bar or plate on the panic hardware will unlock the access control after 30 seconds. This requires the occupant to stand and wait before exiting and allows time for a guard response. However, the interior card reader may be wired to shunt the delayed egress component. The delayed egress offers additional encouragement to use the card-to exit system. If delayed egress devices are used, they must meet the code requirements of NFPA 101, section

  • Panic hardware is electrified in order to interact with the magnetic locks. This hardware requires electrified hinges or specialized wiring considerations between the panic hardware, through the door and frame and to the magnetic lock.

  • Panic hardware typically requires the door to swing out in the direction of egress. Reconfiguration of existing doors that swing into the room may be necessary, unless panic hardware suitable for in-swing doors is available; such hardware, if it exists, is very rare. Electrified lever devices do exist to allow in-swing, but their suitability as panic hardware is subject to approval by code officials.

  • Existing doors will likely need modifications to accommodate the panic hardware, to provide electrical paths between panic hardware and magnetic lock, to remove existing lock/lever sets, and possibly for in-swing to out-swing reconfigurations. Door swing direction modifications also require frame modifications for hinge replacements and relocations.

  • The card readers on the inside face and outside face may also interface with head-end equipment (security monitoring systems) and provide an audit trail to record who entered when, assuming the cards and card reader system are equipped with preprogrammed user identification information.

Magnetic locks and electronic strikes

  • Magnetic locks and other electronic locking devices that provide electronic access control must meet the referenced code requirements indicated above. However, electronic strikes need not meet the referenced code requirements if the occupant can exit (or leave the room) by manually turning the latch/lever set. In other words, electronic strikes are often used as part of an electronic access control system for entering a room without providing electronic access control for exiting a room, and thereby eliminating the need for the push-button and motion sensor to deactivate the electronic strike.

  • Magnetic locks must unlock with activation of the fire alarm as prescribed by the code. As a safeguard, however, a door contact may be placed with the magnetic lock that activates a camera to record the door in the event of entry or exit during a fire alarm.

  • A possible alternative to magnetic locks is the use of electronic strikes with a card reader on the outside wall face.

  • A door contact may be provided to signal an alarm of unauthorized entry or exiting.

  • The outside card reader may retract (or unlock) the electronic strike, as well as shunt the door contact, thus allowing entry without alarm.

  • A second card reader may be provided on the inside wall face to shunt the door contact upon exiting. Leaving the room without use of the card reader activates an alarm.

  • The interior card reader need not control the electric strike. Exiting the room need only require manually turning the lock/lever set.

  • The door contact may activate a camera to record the event when the interior card reader is not utilized to exit.

  • Electronic strikes are becoming more powerful and are available with holding power equal to or greater than magnetic locks. Prior to Sept. 11, most grade 1 electronic strikes had a holding force of less than 1000 pounds, thus creating the weakest point of a typical commercial grade, metal door frame and hardware assembly. However, current electronic strikes are available with holding power near 3000 pounds. Conversely, magnetic locks, once provided to strengthen door assemblies, are now manufactured by fewer and fewer sources, probably as a result of their vulnerabilities related to fire alarm activations.

  • Doors may swing in or out with this option, unless the occupant load exceeds 500, in which case they must swing out and there must be two exit doors per code requirements. If two doors are required by code, they are both considered means of egress and must comply with access control requirements.

  • A sign should be placed on the inside door face indicating that exiting without use of a card reader will activate an alarm (and camera).

  • Electronic strikes utilized with existing doorframes must be selected to properly interface with all existing lock/lever sets’ latches and frame profiles. It is not uncommon to retrofit existing doorframes with a variety of electric strike sizes as a result of the variety of existing latch configurations or unusual frame profiles. If retrofit work is needed, proper surveys are required to verify existing latch configurations and frame profiles. Or, existing lock/lever sets may be replaced with sets with latches that properly fit the new electronic strikes. If this is done, proper surveys are required to verify existing door cutout characteristics.

  • Existing latch/lever sets may also need replacement with new sets that have the ability and function to allow free exiting without use of keys or special requirements. Again, proper surveys are required to verify the adequacy of existing latch/sets in allowing free exiting with electronic strikes. Should electronic methods be required to retract the electric strike from the inside to allow exiting, then this situation is considered access control for both entering and egress and all of the provisions listed above must be met. In other words, motion sensors and push-buttons are required and the system must interface with the buildings electrical power system and fire alarm system.

  • Providing electronic strikes in existing doorframes is done frequently with wiring concealed within hollow stud walls. Unfortunately, grouted frames that abut mason and even stud walls will require additional work to modify the frame. With this situation, exposed wiring is usually required and is placed in conduit on the protected side along the doorframe. It is important to verify and indicate doorframe construction characteristics, including grouted and non-grouted frames, in contract documents, as this may be a source of additional costs for the contractor.

  • Double doors present more complicated issues for electronic strikes. Efforts are required to match the electronic strike with the various latch points that may include top and side locations. Often the electronic strike is placed at the secondary inactive door and therefore requires an internal wiring path and an electrified center hinge.

Additional considerations

  • Unions or other employee representation organizations have often objected to the concept of card-to-exit systems. The owner should consider the implications of card-to-exit systems with such organizations before committing to this system.

  • Building code officials and fire department officials have numerous and conflicting opinions with regard to card-to-exit systems and should be part of the planning team prior to implementation.

However, this analysis only touches on the basis code requirements and planning principles for card-to-exit systems. Every security situation, whether within new buildings or existing buildings, presents unique circumstances and conditions that will likely arise during the planning and application of the work. The end user should obtain additional consultation, advice and opinions from professionals for their specific projects.

Sidebar: Code Requirements

An egress door is defined by NFPA 101 as a door or doors required to serve as an exit from a room, area or building. The code also defines characteristics for the doors, corridors and other exiting elements, which are beyond the scope of this report. The National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 101, dated 2003, section, permits entrance and egress electronic access control systems for egress doors if equipped with the following provisions:

  • Motion sensor on egress side shall unlock access control device, such as magnetic locks or panic hardware on exit side shall unlock access control device.

  • Loss of electrical power shall unlock access control device.

  • Manual release device (push-button), mounted (per code requirements) on egress side shall unlock access control device.

  • Manual release device (push-button) shall indicate ‘PUSH TO EXIT.’

  • Manual release device (push-button) shall keep access control unlocked for at least 30 seconds.

  • Activation of fire protective signaling system shall unlock access control device.

  • Activation of fire sprinkler system shall unlock access control device.

This exit control device aims at traffic control for inside doors.

Sidebar: Door Exit Tech Advances

Numerous manufacturers have a diversity of door controls aimed at special, inside-of-the-building applications, delayed egress uses and even illuminated touchpads to make the secured exit more visible.

Simpler and more traditional than card-to-exit approaches, these mechanical locks and locking hardware, electromagnetic locks, electronic strikes and delayed egress equipment have their own set of tech advances.

One example is an exit device that also boasts green-blue electroluminescent light in the touchpad. Supplementing existing codes of egress lighting, the exit device increases visibility of exit locations in dark and smoke-filled passages. From Sargent of Essex Industries, New Haven, Conn., the SARGuide guides workers and visitors directly to the means of egress – the exit device touchbar. Highly visible in smoke, SARGuide uses electroluminescent developed by E-Lite Technologies to provide a patented FLATLITE electroluminescent lamp embedded within the Lexan touchpad.

The illuminated touchbar can be wired for continuous operation or activation by a fire alarm system.

YSG Door Security Consultants of Monroe, N.C., has additional exit control advances from its Folger Adam company. For example, the FAM38 provides 600 pounds of “traffic control” security for applications where physical assault on the door is not excepted, such as access-controlled interior rooms and secured areas within buildings. The FAM68 Series, on the other hand, has a holding power of 1,200 pounds for exterior and perimeter doors.

On the Yale side, the SecureX is an electromechanical device used to secure interior or exterior openings. When armed, it delays egress for 15 or 30 seconds upon depression of the push pad. Once the delay cycle is timed out, the device releases for egress; however, it remains armed to sound an alarm until reset. It combines heavy-duty construction and contemporary design.