5 Essentials for Door Security

07/24/2012 | By Jennie Morton

Alarms, security guards, and sensors can boost door security initiatives

Deter unwarranted access with real-time door alarms such as panic bars, infrared sensors, and card readers.

Are you confident that your doors are properly secured? Cylindrical locks and metal keys provide basic protection against unwanted access, but this traditional form of door security is passive – you won’t know a breach occurred until after the fact.

For a more proactive approach, look to electronic devices that can alert security personnel to attempts at unauthorized access in real time. Local alarms, panic bars, and infrared sensors create an additional deterrent against would-be trespassers.

Select Your Alarm
Beyond your main entrance, you likely have a variety of back and side doors, emergency exits, and authorized access points. Depending on how stringent you want security to be at individual points, each door may require a different alarm device.

“Clearly define the operational parameters of each door opening with your security consultant or integrator,” recommends Kurt Roeper, director of industry affairs, codes, and standards for ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions. “This allows you to fully customize how you want the alarms and sensors to function.”

To strengthen security for each entrance, consider these five options:

  1. Local Alarms – These alarms audibly sound an alert if a door is forced open. They are typically paired with a pressure sensor or door position switch, which communicates with the alarm if the door deviates from the pre-assigned position.

  2. Emergency Exits – Available as a push bar, these devices prevent users from opening an emergency-only exit. An alarm will sound if the door is opened or a delayed egress option will unlock the door after 15 seconds of continuous pressure. During emergency conditions, the doors will automatically release to guide occupants to safety.

  3. Infrared Sensors – These alarms use infrared technology to sense when someone crosses a threshold. They can detect if two people gain entrance on one card swipe (tailgating), which complicates access records and occupancy levels. They can also be used as a defensive strategy to alert security if someone approaches a restricted door.

  4. Authentication Alarms – If you want to authenticate access, pair your doors with a card reader. Each occupant is issued a credential that uses smart or RFID technology. If the card reader doesn’t recognize the card, the door simply won’t open.

    The system can keep a record of all access attempts and notify security when invalid credentials are presented. However, the reader can’t detect if the card matches the holder without an additional security layer, such as biometric scanners or a guard visually confirming IDs.

  5. Surveillance – Use an eye in the sky or on the ground to effectively deter trespassers from overriding your entrances. The presence of a guard or surveillance signage at a door can ensure that any gaps or breaches in technology are covered by a human response.

Test the System
Make sure to routinely test your entrance security systems. As the years go by, lax maintenance, improper installation, electrical malfunctions, and damaged parts can erode an entrance’s ability to secure access.

“Particularly with retrofits, you have to be cognizant of additional wiring or modifications to the existing assembly that affect fire-rated doors and frames,” Roeper cautions. “It’s far too common for a fire-rated component to be compromised because an installer wasn’t aware of the restrictions, such as when drilling an alarm into a fire-rated door or frame.”

You can also condition your door alarms by conducting door challenges. See if the alarms will sound, how long it takes for security to respond, and how far someone can penetrate into the building before being stopped.

This test can also reveal how often your own occupants are gaming your system.

“A door alarm can be an effective way to limit unauthorized access without impeding emergency egress,” says Sean Ahrens, project manager with Aon Fire Protection Engineering. “But if you don’t have any type of disciplinary process for responding to door alarms when they go off, then occupants will continue to abuse them. What you’re trying to do is condition your building population so their movements can be identified.”


Jennie Morton (jennie.morton@buildings.com) is associate editor of BUILDINGS.


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