Several questions were prompted by my recent webinar on touchless hardware, about the requirements addressing automatic operators and non-latching hardware on fire doors.  Some people were unaware of the requirement for automatic operators on fire doors to be deactivated upon fire alarm.  Others didn’t realize that there was a way to hold the latch retracted on a fire door assembly.

This post is a quick re-cap of these requirements, with some excerpts from NFPA 80 – Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives.

Latching Hardware on Fire Doors

Fire doors are required to have an active latchbolt to ensure that the door remains latched during a fire.  However, NFPA 80 does allow fire door assemblies to have hardware that doesn’t latch under normal operation, as long as the door will automatically latch upon activation of an automatic fire detector.

For example, a fail secure electric strike or the electric latch retraction feature on fire exit hardware could be used to keep the door unlatched, but it must receive a signal from the fire alarm system to ensure that the door is latched during a fire.  Otherwise, a toggle credential or timer used in the access control system could have the door in the unlatched mode during a fire.  NFPA 80 covers this here: Latching arrangements that do not provide positive latching in the normal mode shall be permitted to be used provided that, in a fire emergency, the door becomes positively latched by means of an automatic fail-safe device that is activated by an automatic fire detector. (See Section 4.7.)

Automatic Operators on Fire Doors

An automatic operator may be installed on a fire door assembly, if the operator is listed to UL 10C / NFPA 252.  If it is a retrofit installation, the job-site preparations must be in compliance with the limitations stated in NFPA 80, or must be allowed as a field modification.  In addition, the auto operator must be disconnected when the fire alarm is activated, so the door will function as a self-closing door.  Here is where this is stated in NFPA 80: Power-Operated Fire Doors. Power-operated fire doors shall be equipped with a releasing device that shall automatically disconnect the power operator at the time of fire, allowing a self-closing or automatic device to close and latch the door regardless of power failure or manual operation.

Each of the model codes references NFPA 80 for the requirements for fire doors, so the sections above apply in most jurisdictions.  If you have any follow-up questions, you can leave them in the reply box below.  There is a Decoded article on touchless hardware available here.

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