Interrogate The Integration Expert

: Recently I was called to perform repairs on a loss prevention system in a shoe store. It was a dual magnetic lock on a pair of doors: the entrance and exit for the store. There were also inner lobby doors. Just inside the inner lobby doors was a tubular portal. This store uses RFID tags on products. If someone attempts to pass through the portal with a tag still attached to merchandise, not only does an audible signal occur, but the outer doors to the store are electrically locked preventing egress. The system had recently detained a shoplifter who went berserk when trapped in the lobby and caused damaged to the doors, the locks and the flushbolts trying to break out. The electromagnetic locks did seem to have been installed well in the first place; there was no visible signage that informed shoppers the locking system was installed. Nor where there any methods for overriding the system in case of a malfunction. Is this a legal locking arrangement?

A: Your question underscores the importance of building codes and how vital it is for the security professional to remain alert. Before you perform repairs on this system, you should do some homework because there are several liability issues involved.

Robert Solomon of the NFPA offers his take on this situation. "The arrangement described is not expressly permitted under the NFPA codes," he says. "It sounds as though it is some hybrid version of the delayed egress locking arrangement."

Building Regulations and the AHJ
At a class recently attended, the instructors said the three building codes are IBC, BOCA and NFPA. Is one code favored over the other by geographic location, type of construction or any other factors?

A: Lately, from the amount of discussion about codes and revisions, it would seem this has become a hot button topic (see "Grill the Fire Expert" on page 40 for more code enforcement agency information). The code which applies to your project will be determined by your local AHJ (authority having jurisdiction). The building department for your region issues the certificate of occupancy, while the Fire Marshal determines if the building and its systems meet safety requirements.

The NFPA is a good basic guideline. It was not until recently that electric locking hardware, life safety systems and special locking arrangements have been formally recognized and regulated in building codes. Because of the NFPA's detailed codes relating to electrical wiring, life safety and fire alarm systems, many dealers and consultants still gravitate towards NFPA. However, remember that all codes are subject to the interpretation by AHJ.

NFPA's Solomon frequently provides expert testimony for code discussions. He comments: "Two building codes are currently available: NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code and the IBC. The NBC (BOCA), SBC (SBCCI) and UBC (ICBO) are no longer being updated or maintained. Some of the preference comes down to conservatism of the code (NFPA 5000 has stricter criteria in several cases); the codes ability to deal with broad subjects such as performance based designs and existing buildings; and, philosophy of how the code is developed."

Security Dealer Technical Editor Tim O'Leary is a 30-year veteran in the security industry and a 10-year contributor to the magazine. O'Leary's background encompasses having been a security consultant since 1986 and an independent security company owner/operator, in addition to his research and evaluation of new technologies and products introduced to the physical and electronic security fields. He is a member of the VBFAA (Virginia Burglar and Fire Alarm Association); certified for Electronic Security Technician and Sales by the VADCJS (Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services); and has served as a judge for the SIA New Product Showcase. Send your integration questions to