(8) Door is self-latching in the closed position.

(8) Door is self-latching in the closed position.

When a fire door is closed, it must also be latched to prevent the door from being forced open by the pressure from a fire.  Because some building occupants are inconvenienced by a door that is constantly closing, latching, and sometimes locking, people sometimes employ creative ways of holding the latch retracted in order the keep the door unlocked.

The only code-compliant way to hold the latch retracted on a fire door is with a fail-safe device that becomes positively latched upon fire alarm.  This is typically electric latch retraction fire exit hardware (panic hardware).  A fail secure electric strike could be used in a similar manner, allowing the latchbolt to be pulled through the keeper under normal operation, but securing the latchbolt upon fire alarm.

Some other lock-related requirements of NFPA 80 include:

  • Locksets/latchsets and fire exit hardware must be labeled.
  • When fire exit hardware is used, it must be labeled for both fire and panic, and it can only be installed on a door with a label stating that the door is equipped with fire exit hardware.
  • Deadbolts may be used in addition to an active latch bolt on doors other than those used in the means of egress or where acceptable to the code official (take note of accessibility or egress codes which may require one motion to unlatch the door).
  • Doors within a means of egress may be equipped with interconnected locks which release the deadbolt and latchbolt when the lever is turned.
  • Where permitted by the code official, pairs of doors without an astragal may have fire exit hardware and an open back strike.
  • When the inactive leaf is not required for egress width, automatic flush bolts may be used (with a coordinator).
  • Manual flush bolts may be used on pairs of doors to rooms not normally occupied by humans if acceptable to the code official.
  • Minimum latch throw is determined by the door manufacturer’s listings.

Here are some non-code-compliant ways of preventing a fire door from latching (click photo to enlarge):

Latch Retraction High Security Dogging Latchbolt Removed Tie-Wrap Dogging

Source: NFPA 80 2007, 2010 – 6.4.4

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Have you seen a creative means of holding a latch retracted?  Email me a photo.