Code Requirements for Electromagnetic Locks

The newer IBC section, Electromagnetically Locked Egress Doors, allows a door-mounted release device.

With the addition of Section 1008.1.9.8 – Electromagnetically Locked Egress Doors, the door-mounted release device can be used instead of the sensor and emergency push button. Note that this section does not require the mag-lock to release upon activation of the fire alarm or sprinkler system when a door-mounted release device is used. But there are a few issues that are still unclear, even with the 2012 changes.

  • The door must unlock upon loss of power to the “listed hardware,” which in this case is the door-mounted release device. Loss of power to some types of request-to-exit switches will not unlock the mag-lock. We may see a future change to the language so that loss of power to the electromagnetic lock is required to unlock the door, but the code currently addresses the release device.
  • I-2 occupancies (Institutional – Hospitals & Nursing Homes*) are not included as acceptable locations for electromagnetically locked egress doors. This use group was added to the Access-Controlled Egress Doors section in the 2009 edition of the IBC, so hopefully the new section will catch up and include the I-2 use group in the future.
  • UL 305, the UL Standard for Panic Hardware, doesn’t address the use of panic hardware to release an electromagnetic lock. There is also a section of the IBC which states that certain doors shall not be equipped with a latch or lock unless it’s panic hardware. This should be changed to reflect the use of a mag-lock released by panic hardware.

For jurisdictions using NFPA 101 – The Life Safety Code, a new section was added in the 2009 edition - Electrically Controlled Egress Door Assemblies. The requirements are basically the same as the IBC, but there is no limitation on occupancy types and no restriction related to panic hardware.

Keep in mind that state or local requirements could differ from those of the IBC or NFPA 101, so it’s important to be aware of the codes in your project’s jurisdiction. Refer to the published codes for the detailed code requirements, and always consult the Local Authority Having Jurisdiction before purchasing or installing products.

*Refer to Chapter 3 of the International Building Code for a complete description of these use groups.


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Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI, is Spec Team Lead - New England, Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies. E-mail her at or visit for answers to hardware and code questions from IR Security Technologies.

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