System Integration: Interrogate The Integration Expert

Code Clarification

Q: Could help me clarify a code issue I'm running into? It's sort of a two-part question.

1. The elevator lobby with stair doors located inside the tenants space and the entry doors are secured by card access. The right thing seems to be to recommend fail-safe locks on the doors and fire system relays. It would seem that these doors should be considered under the same guidelines as stair doors, which would require failsafe locks but be positively latched. What would be your recommendation and do you know of any code that addresses this exact scenario?

2. What is the definition of fire rated door? It can't just simply be any door with an exit sign posted in front of it. Don't many lobby level main entrances have exit signs and they do not have to be positively latched, right?

It surprises me that there are no clear guidelines for these situations.

Egress doors must provide fail-safe operation.

A: Resolving the code issues you pose is valuable. It enables installing dealers to protect the public and deepens understanding of codes and safe practices.

Your comment about there being no clear guidelines in the codes is a bit unfounded. There are so many variations in architectural design; so many new security systems; and an ever increasing awareness of the potential life safety issues, that it is no longer surprising to encounter a situation that is not specifically addressed in the code. But still, the code writing groups are doing a pretty good job. Experience, and a knowledge of the existing codes helps you to Think Like An AHJ. Also realize that the codes are under constant review.

Codes differ from area to area but here are some universal standards for fire-rated doors. The wall, frame, and door all have to be fire rated. It would not make much sense to put a labeled door in a non rated wall just as you can't put a non labeled door in a rated wall and call the opening fire rated. The purpose of a fire rated opening is to retard fire for a specific period of time. All components of the opening will have to be rated.

The door must be self-closing. If the door is left open during a fire, that opening can't retard the fire as it was meant to so the door has to close after somebody passes through it. This is usually done by a door closer or spring hinges. Both serve the same purpose in that the door will close and serve it's purpose of holding back the fire.

The door must be self-latching. Push and pull plates cannot be used on a fire rated door. The door has to latch into the frame when closed so it stays shut until it is manually opened. This prevents the door from opening during a fire if something falls against it.

Steel ball bearing hinges must be used. Brass, bronze and other bases cannot be used, and hinges must have a steel base on fire rated doors. Plain bearing hinges cannot be used either. Ball bearing hinges ensure the door will not come loose from the frame and fall out of the opening.

The purpose of a fire rated opening is to retard fire for a specific period of time. Most labeled doors will have an A, B, or C label.

A label: 3 hour rating (for a 4 hour wall). These doors are used for openings in walls separating buildings that are joined together. No glass is allowed in these doors.

B label: 1 1/2 hour rating (for a 2 hour wall). These doors are usually used for stairwell doors but are sometimes used at all the rated walls in a building. 100 square inches of exposed glass is allowed.

C label: 3/4 hour rating (for a 1 hour wall). These doors are used for openings from a corridor into another room in the same building. 1296 square inches of exposed glass is allowed.

The arrangement of having to gain access to exit stairs that are located outside of an elevator lobby is a somewhat undesirable practice. NFPA 101: specially addresses the situation by not allowing that particular arrangement in the current code.

The 2003 edition of the Code states: Elevator lobbies shall have access to at least one exit. Such exit access shall not require the use of a key, a tool, special knowledge, or special effort.?

Robert Solomon, PE National Fire Protection Association advises: The NFPA Technical Committee on Means of Egress is currently evaluating this issue further. A proposal that has been accepted at this stage of the NFPA code development process is adding in specific language to allow for the specific lobby configuration described. A number of fail safe measures are included that will require the doors to unlock if:
Power is lost.
A manual release device is
The fire alarm system is activated.
The automatic sprinkler system is activated.

All doors leading from the elevator lobby to stairwell exits are considered door in the means of egress (NFPA 80). This could be the entrance door to an office suite and possibly a traffic control door beyond the main entrance. They may not restrict egress in the event of a fire.

Your guess that they need to provide fail-safe operation is correct. The power supply must also be tied into the fire alarm system so as to drop power (not electrically release the trim or lock) in the event of an emergency.

Indifference Defeats the Best Engineering
Q: If you spend any amount of time out in the field, you come to realize how poor training can overcome the best engineering and planning. Recently, while surveying a premise, I happened to notice the wireless alarm transmitters on several doors of the premises didn't seem quite right.? Upon closer examination, I discovered that indeed the transmitter bases had been attached to the door or the frame upside down using two-sided tape. This can't be acceptable, can it?

A: Wireless transmitters are technological marvels. Some of them even program themselves. But there are certainly none that INSTALL themselves. It still requires an installer to do that part. If the installer is apathetic, or untrained, or both, the installation can easily be botched.

Depending on the door, there are various methods to install a wireless transmitter. If you are installing on an extremely hard or non-drillable surface, then the transmitter can be attached using two-sided tape, although it is not the ideal situation. If the transmitter is mounted on the door as apposed to the frame, the jarring of the door slamming may loosen the transmitter from the door over time. The magnet portion of the unit, being extremely lightweight, may be acceptably mounted using two-sided tape, if you have ample mounting area, good tape and clean surfaces to mount to.

In the particular situation you observed, there were a few problems. The most blatant issue was that the transmitter-mounting base is inverted. The transmitter and base were designed to key' together. That is, the transmitter has holes on the back of the housing, and the transmitter is placed over corresponding studs in the base and slides down into position. The design is such that once in place, gravity holds the transmitter in position. With the base installed in a lopsided fashion not using the full surface area for the tape and being inverted eventually the vibrations associated with opening and closing the door would result in the transmitter falling out of the base, likely causing a false alarm.

The major brands of wireless transmitters all offer multiple internal reed switches as well as contact points for the use of external magnetic contacts when required. Wireless transmitters that use a keyed base/transmitter arrangement also have an interlock so that when the transmitter is placed onto the base, it interlocks and cannot be removed without pressing a release tab of some type.

After hearing from you about the level of competency exhibited in the physical mounting of these transmitters, you have to wonder about the programming and other aspects of this company's installed systems. Are they similarly false alarm prone?

Double Gang Door Alarm w/ Keypad

Kouba Systems' Local Door Alarm (LDA) 9606/9616 monitors door contacts, motion sensors, and access control devices such as card reader systems or keypads to determine and annunciate the status of a controlled door. A sounder alerts area personnel of a door control violation, and the building alarm system is notified with alarm relay contacts. The Warning Alarm feature reduces nuisance alarms by sounding a local alarm a few seconds before a Door Held Alarm.

Some of the LDA's features include: Local Warning Alarm, Door Held Alarm, Forced Door Alarm, Supervised Door Contact Monitoring, Remote Alarm Bypass, Request to Exit, Request to Enter, Adjustable Time Delays, Automatic Alarm Reset Delay, Access and Secure LED's, Double Gang Box Mounting, Onboard Key Pad, and, a variety of colors to choose from.

The programmable keypad allows users to be added/deleted, codes to be changed, and for codes 3-6 characters in length to be used. Codes and all programming are stored in non-volatile memory and will not be lost when power is removed. For more information, visit

Achieve Advanced Integration

Bringing IP Cameras to the Install


A: Digital camera is a term now commonly applied to IP cameras. Although, for many years, most CCTV cameras employed digital image grabbers and have been marketed as digital, they're actually hybrids. The process of transmitting the image from the camera to the monitor and recorder still involved the conversion of the image from digital to analog.

IP cameras, however, take the digital image and transmit it using digital network protocol. IP cameras keep the process within the digital domain. Most also offer a certain degree of intelligent processing and may be referred to as smart cameras.

Although there is an analogy between conventional and IP cameras, there are differences in nomenclature and performance. No one IP camera will work for all your applications, so understanding the differences is essential for a successful system design.

Consider the following:
SENSITIVITY: Lighting becomes an issue when you do not have control over it, or enough of it. For interior applications, where man-made light and the viewed area can be controlled, IP cameras don't pose any more of a challenge than conventional ones. Exterior projects or applications where light sources cannot always be managed or controlled (such as sun or headlights), or for extremely low light applications, IP cameras require that the system designer is certain that the camera specified has the proper sensitivity, or that other measures are taken to provide for acceptable image quality. Artificial light sources such as Infrared, masking of image areas, and augmenting with thermal imaging are all means towards this end.

RESOLUTION: Digital image resolution and how digital images behave is somewhat different than the way analog images do. Digital camera resolution is measured in CIF (Common Intermediate Format), another popular unit of measurement is the SIF. SIF is a format for compressed video specified by the MPEG committee, with resolutions of 352 (horizontal) x 240 (vertical) x 29.97 (fps) for NTSC and 352 (horizontal) x 288 (vertical) x 25.00 (fps) for PAL. SIF-resolution video provides an image quality similar to VHS tape.

CIF: This is a format for compressed video specified by the MPEG committee, with resolutions of 352 (horizontal) x 240 (vertical) x 29.97 (fps) for NTSC and 352 (horizontal) x 288 (vertical) x 25.00 (fps) for PAL. SIF-resolution video is 84,480 Kilopixel resolution provides an image quality similar to VHS
tape. QCIF Quarter Common Intermediate Format specifies data rates of 30 frames per second (fps), with each frame containing 144 lines and 176 pixels per line. (One fourth the resolution of Full CIF). This format is suitable for video systems that use telephone transmission lines.

4 CIF (Four times CIF) provides a resolution of 704 X 480.
16 CIF (Sixteen times CIF) provides a resolution of 1280 X 1024 (1.31072 Megapixel resolution) is also referred to as HDTV.

A 4 Megapixel image (2000 X 2000) is equal to 400 ASA film; A 6 Megapixel image is equal to 100 ASA film. Originally digital standards were developed for VGA monitors (640 X 480).

PIXELS: The resolutions are in pixels, which are squares of color. Therefore, the camera must initially capture the image at a resolution adequate for the application because enlarging the image later won't produce greater detail, just bigger pixels. Although the resolution of digital images will not improve by making them larger, the amount of space required to store a digital image will decrease if it's size is reduced. It can then be enlarged later for easier viewing.

BANDWIDTH: IP cameras and network technologies can readily manipulate image size and transmission rate (fps) to adjust to the available bandwidth. Some cameras can increase frame rate or resolution during programmed times or under alarm conditions thus conserving bandwidth and storage.

Some IP cameras also provide a conventional analog output as well as digital, and can therefore be integrated into legacy systems as well as provide the benefits of a digital interface. IP cameras frequently have built in servers. This means that other computers connected to the same network, can view the camera. If the camera's network is connected to the Internet, then the camera can be viewed from literally anywhere there is access to the Internet. IP cameras are also available with other features such as motion detection, masking and pan tilt zoom. Image storage can be accomplished on a local PC or a dedicated video server.

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