Access Control on Escape Doors

For over 20 years since EN1125 panic exit devices operated by a horizontal bar and EN179 emergency exit devices operated by a lever handle or push pad was introduced the priority has been to egress from an area / building with one action of the device fitted to the door. However, balancing emergency escape with security is often challenging. While safety should take priority previous standards EN1125 and EN179 for escape doors have made it difficult to reduce security risks. With the access control market growing and more electric hardware products being used on fire doors and escape doors, the standard EN13637 was introduced. With the standard EN13637 it now means that electrical locking products such as electro-magnetic locks, electric releases, electrical panic hardware and electric locks can be used on escape doors. EN13637 is not intended to replace EN1125 or EN179 but to provide additional options to control unauthorised use of escape routes and escape doors.

EN13637 allows more flexibility and choice than EN1125 and EN179 as these standards state that the locking elements must retract immediately via a single operation. But there are instances when this may cause security related issues, therefore, EN13637 includes immediate release and two-time delay grades:-

(a) Grade 0 – Immediate Release with no time delay,
(b) Grade 1 – Up to 15 seconds time delay and
(c) Grade 2 – Double Time delay as well as including denying access.

When specifying product to EN1125 or EN179 on an escape door the door must be opened in one action by the push bar, touch bar, push pad or lever, which does not include electrical product and requires a single form of mechanical egress to withdraw the locking points. With the introduction of EN13637 it now means that electrical locking can be used and we can still offer immediate release in one action such as: –

(a) An electro-magnetic lock with a touch bar to release the armature plate by cutting off the power;
(b) An electric release with a mechanical lock;
(c) An electrical panic bar with latch bolt retraction also allowing the bolts to be withdrawn electrically from an office or an area of the building;
(d) An electric lock with either levers or push bar/touch bar on the inside;

When using electrical hardware, it is important that the system is linked to the fire alarm system so that even with a time delay, in an emergency the doors are released on the sound of the fire alarm. The benefits of having a time delay are to increase security whilst maintaining the safety of the people inside. A time delay of 15 seconds (grade 1 of EN13637) is ideal for supermarkets to stop goods being stolen, care homes to prevent the elderly from walking out of the building un-noticed and nurseries to protect the young children escaping via the escape doors. With the 15 second delay it gives a member of staff or security time to get to the door to investigate the situation.

The standard’s third time delay option must also include a CMC (Central Management Control) which is linking the system via CCTV to a control room that can deny or allow egress. This offers the advantage of controlling who gets access to an area which may require the CMC to make an area safe before allowing access. Airports are an ideal area for the use of this system, if terrorists were in an area they can be contained whilst preventing members of the public from entering the area.

When using a time delay an indicator and sounder gives a countdown to when the door will be released.

The standard EN13637 is not currently harmonised so products cannot be UKCA / CE marked therefore the standard is a guide and not mandatory. Unlike EN1125 and EN179 which are harmonised and therefore these products have to be UKCA / CE marked. However, in order to comply with EN13637 all the products involved have to be tested together as it is a system standard and not an individual product standard.

There are many options that can be used with examples of the configuration of the exit system found in the standard EN13637, which includes the use of an initiating element (i.e illminated exit button) fitted on the wall within 600mm of the door edge to release the locking element on the door, this is still classed as an immediate release or to fit an initiating element on the door such as a push bar, touch bar, push pad or lever. The specification will depend on the building use, the type of users, i.e public or trained staff and the security level.

As electro-magnetic locks have no mechanical parts which can fail, then simply removing the power releases the door with no side load pressure unlike electric locks and electric releases. Electro-magnetic locks are available with different holding forces to suite the security requirements and are more economical than many electric locks as well as being maintenance free and with less chance of being abused. To support the use of electro-magnetic locks, a battery backup in the power supply ensures that if power is cut other than from a fire alarm that the door remains secure.

Another advantage of using an EM lock with a panic device is that the panic device can be used during the period of time when the building is in use, then when the security alarm is set, once a building is empty, then linking the alarm to the EM lock secures the door. When the alarm is turned off, power to the EM locks is off and the panic hardware will conform to EN1125.

When using an electric release with a mortice lock or latch on an escape door, it is important that the items have been tested together with third-party test evidence, similar to using an electric lock with levers or a push bar/touch bar in that they must also have been tested together to ensure that releases forces are achieved and the package functions correctly.

As with all electrical locking products wiring has to be considered and as with Electro-magnetic locks and electric releases the wiring is easily installed in the header or frame as against electric locks and electrical panic hardware that will require a door loop and wiring through the door which again can affect the fire rating, therefore checking fire test evidence is important to ensure that correct intumescent is used if needed to achieve the fire rating.

When considering double doors electro-magnetic locks with a touch bar to release the doors or an electrical panic device are ideal whereas electric releases and electric locks require wiring to the door and may not function as well, particularly over time if the doors get damaged or abused and are not maintained regularly.

Escape doors are not always fire doors and therefore the door specification should be checked before specifying product. If the door is a fire door, then it is recommended that the hardware that is fitted has been fire rated for the door type i.e., timber or steel door. Securefast offer both electro-magnetic locks and electric releases that are fire rated for use on 30 and 60-minute timber fire doors. As well as fire rated the Electro-magnetic locks have been performance tested to TS010 and the electric releases have been tested to EN14846.

Finally, as with all projects it is the building regulations that are recommended and should be followed in the respective country as these may vary slightly between England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Eire and other countries around the world. Failure to follow building regulations could lead to prosecution should a fatality occur.

In Eire the Private Security Authority’s PSA 67:2021 – Licensing Requirements for Electronic Security (Access Control) now includes the standard EN13637 for escape routes and doors which allows electro-magnetic locks, electric releases, electrical panic hardware and electric locks to be used for securing the doors with an initiating element such as a horizontal bar, lever or pad on the door or an exit button on the wall to release the locking element, depending on the type of building and if members of the public will get access to the area. . The document is a copy of the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) Code of Practice (NCP109.2) which has been available in GB for many years.