Question: Is there a code requirement for how often the delayed egress hardware in my facility must be tested?
Answer: The 2009 International Building Code (IBC) doesn’t include testing guidelines in section 1008.1.9.7 Delayed Egress Locks, but that makes sense because the IBC is used during construction and not for ongoing maintenance. I checked the 2009 International Fire Code, and the section for delayed egress locks is exactly the same as the one in the IBC. But since a delayed egress lock requires immediate release upon fire alarm, I thought I might find something in Chapter 9 of the IFC – Fire Protection Systems. In the section on Testing, Inspection, and Maintenance (907.9), I found this statement: “Testing. Testing shall be performed in accordance with the schedules in NFPA 72 or more frequently where required by the fire code official.”
NFPA 72 is the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. There were some changes in the 2010 edition relative to this question, so I used that edition in my research. According to NFPA 72-2010, “door unlocking” falls into the category of “emergency control functions”: “Emergency control functions (i.e., fan control, smoke damper operation, elevator recall, elevator power shutdown, door holder release, shutter release, door unlocking, etc.) shall be tested by operating or simulating alarm signals. Testing frequency for emergency control functions shall be the same as the frequency required for the initiating device that activates the emergency control function.” (Table 18.104.22.168).
Here’s some related information from Annex A – Explanatory Material:
Table 22.214.171.124, Item 23. Initiating devices configured to operate an emergency control function are required to be tested per the test methods listed in Table 126.96.36.199, Item 14 and the test frequencies listed in Table 14.4.5, Item 15. Whenever an emergency control function is observed to not operate properly during a test of an emergency control function initiating device, the problem should be reported to the building owner or designated representative. The failure of the emergency control function should be reported as a possible failure of the fire safety feature and not necessarily of the fire alarm system.
Here’s what NFPA 72-2010 says in the inspection/testing section about emergency control functions:
14.2.6 Interface Equipment and Emergency Control Functions.
188.8.131.52* Testing personnel shall be qualified and experienced in the arrangement and operation of interface equipment and emergency control functions.
184.108.40.206 Testing shall be accomplished in accordance with Table 220.127.116.11.
And finally, Table 14.4.5 says that emergency control functions must be tested annually, as well as upon acceptance/reacceptance. So a delayed egress lock must be tested when it is installed, repaired, or replaced, and then annually after that. Since NFPA 72 deals with fire alarm systems, the testing requirement is probably more related to whether the fire alarm unlocks the doors, but I think it makes sense to test the 15-second release at least annually too. I don’t know of a specific requirement for testing that part of the delayed egress lock, other than the NFPA 101 – Life Safety Code requirement for certain egress doors to be inspected annually, depending on the occupancy type. Local jurisdictions may require more frequent testing / inspection, and facilities may choose to increase the required frequency of testing and establish a specific process to ensure the safety of building occupants.
If any of you have more information that would apply to this Q&A, please leave a comment and I will incorporate it.