The Basics of Security Door Hardware

April 17, 2009
While doors are a major factor, they’re only part of a well-designed security system

Routinely, a building’s doors are thought of as the main security deterrent. While doors are a major factor, they’re only part of a well-designed security system. A door system includes the frame, the door, hinges, the door handle, the closure, and the locking mechanism. A lock system is basically designed to prevent unauthorized entry or exit to or from a specific area. The system, which consists of design, manufacture, installation, and maintenance, must be designed for effectiveness and ease of operation.

Locks and keys are basic elements of a security system. Mechanical locks are designed so that tumblers won’t function unless properly aligned. The pin tumbler is the most common system used by architects and builders. Keys are easily replaced when lost, and are easily copied. Restricted keyways are available through most key manufacturers, but be mindful of expiring patents. Door locks can be picked or circumvented relatively easily if someone is experienced with locking mechanisms. Other types of locks include deadbolt, mortise, rim mounted, tubular, cylindrical, or padlock.

Trends in Security Hardware

The trend in security hardware is definitely leaning toward electronic systems. The reason: heightened security awareness. While most installations still use keys, electronic systems are being installed where security is a must. Institutions may still use keys, but particular departments within the institution must be segregated from normal access, and must be more tightly controlled. Buildings with higher risk values will require more sophisticated locking systems. Proper evaluations must be conducted to determine what level of protection is required, and to determine the most cost-effective system to provide this protection. One major factor to remember in using electronic systems is to maintain an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) for your electronic-locking systems.

Many institutions have evolved to electronic systems. A card-style system’s information is entered electronically, prohibiting or controlling access to specific areas, or controlling times of access. The information can be easily changed if the cards are lost or stolen. Cards can be issued on a temporary basis, and they automatically time out.

Various card styles include:

  • Hollerith cards, which are used in hotels. The card is inserted, and the lock disengages after matching registration information.
  • Magnetic stripe cards, which have a data-encoded stripe on one face that matches previously entered criteria. These cards can hold much information, but are subject to damage.
  • Proximity cards, which include embedded microcircuits that emit frequencies detectable by a reader within 2 to 4 inches.
  • Smart cards, which are the cards of the future. They contain their own processor, and they can store large amounts of data.
  • Biometric cards, which corroborate claimed identities on the basis of some unique biometric characteristic of the individual, including fingerprints, handprints, eye pattern, handwriting, voice, face, and vein identification (the newest).
  • Magnetic switches, which are magnetic and switch units combined to detect opening and closing doors.

Door closures are important to determine how long a door is to remain open. There are two types. A manual type is adjusted to determine how long the door stays open. An automatic opener is controlled by push button, motion detector, or other device, and closes automatically when it is safe to close.

Door hardware is often overlooked. The door hinge in secure areas should have non-removable pins installed with a hardened set screw. The hinges should have 3-inch screws that screw into the studs of the doorframe. Guard plates may be recommended in areas to reduce tampering with the locking mechanism.

It’s important to remember that a secure door system consists of a combination of mechanical and electronic locking devices. Your vulnerability is determined by your weakest link.

Dan Finger is a physical security consultant at Daniel R. Finger LLC, located in Jacksonville, FL.

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