I’ve written about related topics before, but this Quick Question keeps coming back:

On which types of access-control doors do the model codes require the installation of an auxiliary push button to release the electrified lock?

Here is the quick answer:

An auxiliary push button is required by the model codes where the electrified lock is released by a sensor that detects a building occupant approaching the door on the egress side and unlocks the door.

The requirements for this switch are found in these model code sections:

  • IBC: Sensor release of electrically locked egress doors (prior to the 2015 edition, this section was called Access controlled egress doors) (2021: 1010.2.12; 2018: 1010.1.9.9; 2015: 1010.1.9.8; 2012: 1008.1.9.8; 2009: 1008.1.4.4; 2006, 2003: 1008.1.3.4)
  • NFPA 101: Sensor-release of electrical locking systems (prior to the 2018 edition, this section was called Access controlled egress doors) (

These sections apply to electromagnetic locks that are released by a sensor, although the requirements would also apply to other types of locks released by a sensor, such as power bolts.  The sensor is the key.  If the electrified lock is not released by a sensor, this section does not apply.  In addition to requiring the locks to release upon a signal from the sensor, fire alarm/sprinkler activation, and loss of power, the model codes require the auxiliary push button to release the lock.  There are specific requirements for the button and it’s operation.  The push button must be:

  • readily accessible,
  • installed between 40 inches and 48 inches above the floor, within 5 feet of the door,
  • marked “push to exit”,
  • and when operated, must result in direct interruption of power to the electrified lock – independent of other electronics – and the lock must remain unlocked for at least 30 seconds.

In case you have follow-up Quick Questions, here are some answers…

Is an auxiliary push button required for:

  • Electromagnetic locks released by a switch in door-mounted hardware?
    • No, the model code sections addressing door hardware release of electrically locked egress door assemblies do not require the auxiliary push button or the fire alarm/sprinkler release.  The lock must unlock via the switch in the door mounted hardware, and upon loss of power.  This video covers the code requirements for electromagnetic locks.
  • Electrified hardware where an access control reader controls access but egress is not affected?
    • No, the most common type of access control application has door hardware that allows free egress, and the auxiliary push button is not required.  This application would typically include an electromechanical lockset, electrified trim for panic hardware, an electric strike, or electric latch retraction panic hardware.  Because this hardware allows free egress at all times, the model codes do not require an auxiliary push button.  This type of system is Type 7 in this Decoded article.
  • Delayed egress locks?
    • No, the model code sections addressing delayed egress locks do not require an auxiliary push button.  Delayed egress locks must release 15 seconds after an attempt to exit (or 30 seconds where approved by the AHJ).  In addition, delayed egress locks must allow immediate egress (no delay) upon activation of the fire alarm/sprinkler system, upon loss of power, and in some cases via a remote switch – for example, at the fire command center.  This video addresses delayed egress locks as well as controlled egress locks.
  • Controlled egress locks in health care facilities?
    • No, in health care units where patients require containment for their safety or security, the model codes allow the egress doors to be locked indefinitely and an auxiliary push button beside the door is not required.  Staff must carry the keys, codes, or credentials to unlock the doors if there is a need to evacuate patients.  There are requirements for other release methods which vary slightly depending on which model code has been adopted and the type of unit.  This webinar includes detailed information about controlled egress (and delayed egress).
  • Electrified locks used for stairwell reentry?
    • No, these locks typically allow free egress into the stairwell and control access to tenant floors under normal operation – there is no requirement in the model codes for an auxiliary push button.  During a fire, the stairwell doors allow building occupants to leave the stairwell and seek another exit if the stairwell becomes compromised by smoke.  Here is a short video on the code requirements for stairwell doors.
  • Elevator lobby door locks?
    • No, NFPA 101 allows these doors to be locked electrically with mandated release methods and a two-way communication system, but does not require an auxiliary push button.  The IBC does not currently contain a similar section addressing these doors.  Some cities and states have modified the IBC to allow elevator lobby doors to be electrically locked, so it’s important to check the adopted code for specifics.  Here is a blog post about the code requirements for these doors.

Have you run into this question before?  If you want to keep this post handy for future reference, you can register and save it in your custom library.  Keep in mind that local code requirements may vary from the model codes.

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