Combine Security and Safety With the Right Door Hardware

With security in the news more than ever, administrators at all institutions are striving to reach a higher level of security for their facilities without sacrificing life safety. Ever-present budget constraints make the administrator’s job even more difficult. Following are some of the hardware solutions that address individual door security and life safety concerns while also keeping costs in line.

Exit Device Variations

Exit devices have long been the first means of providing safety with security. The original push bar designs, still in widespread use, allow safe egress in an emergency while keeping doors locked from the outside. Doors equipped with these devices are easy to block open, which compromises the security function. To provide some protection, such doors may be equipped with a monitor strike or door position switch to signal an open door.

Touch pad exit devices can be electrified and offer more options for security without affecting life safety. Electric dogging, electric latch retraction and alarmed, delayed exit devices are typical examples. Delayed exit devices such as the Chexit device are particularly effective at preventing doors from being blocked open, yet still provide a safe way out in an emergency.

Some institutions have found a cost-effective solution in using exit devices with Electric Latch (EL) retraction devices for perimeter doors. The latches on these devices can be held in the retracted position (“dogged down”) electrically from a central location to keep doors open for easy passage during class changes while also locking them during class hours. This keeps buildings locked from the outside and forces visitors to come to a central, supervised entry, while the exit devices provide necessary emergency egress.

Magnetic Solutions

Electromagnetic locks, if used properly and installed according to all applicable codes, can provide added security without sacrificing the control needed to meet life safety requirements. Because they must be tied into a building’s fire alarm system, they allow egress in an emergency. Yet they are available with up to 1,800 lbs. of holding force for maximum security. Often, they can be used as an auxiliary lock and installed with presence detectors or request-to-exit switches to allow safe egress from the secure side. Because they are normally surface-mounted, magnetic locks are a popular choice for renovating existing buildings.

Electronic Access Control

Some colleges use electronic access control systems, which can include stand-alone electronic key control systems such as Schlage’s e.Primus, as well as magnetic stripe card readers and keypads. This provides excellent control of access to specific doors (even at specific times), to achieve the level of security needed for personal life safety protection from intruders as well as theft and vandalism. The use of audit trail records helps track potential security problems. These systems also make it easy to accommodate widely varying student and staff needs. Because the electronic user codes or cards can be issued with specific times of authorization and expiration, they can be given to those whose schedules may not coincide with regular building hours. User codes and magnetic cards are easily revoked if lost or if the person to whom they were issued no longer needs access. This eliminates the need for rekeying locks.

Simple Hardware Solutions

There are many inexpensive ways to improve the safety and security profile of a building using door hardware. For example, a more secure “comfort zone” for classroom areas or administrative offices may be achieved with something as simple as a mortise lock with integral thumb turn deadbolt. This provides a secure dead-bolted door lock when necessary to protect occupants of an area, yet the lever trim inside the room also retracts the latchbolt in one motion for safe egress when necessary.

Two-part fire strikes installed on perimeter doors also prevent someone from inserting a prybar to open a door. These two-part strikes incorporate an interlock design to maintain door and frame integrity during a fire.

Door mullions are another way to improve door security. By creating a more stable interface at the latch surface, they help prevent forced entries. If a larger opening is necessary at times -- to move equipment in and out -- easily removable mullions are available.

Installing door hardware with security fasteners is an easy way to prevent tampering or removal of locks by unauthorized persons, for whatever purpose. Lock protectors can be installed for inexpensive protection against forced entry, particulary on pairs of doors.

A Successful Approach

The simplest solutions are often the best, as shown by the way one university is upgrading its classroom locks and related door hardware. By eliminating levers or knobs and installing exit devices inside the classrooms, officials have been able to reduce hardware damage and improve security without compromising life safety.

As part of an overall modernization program, officials there are now controlling their problems by standardizing on one family of commercial door hardware, including a high-security cylinder system; eliminating most active exterior trim; and installing exit devices with latches that can be set in the retracted position with a key from inside the classrooms.

With the ease of duplicating keys in a standard key system, it was impossible to know exactly who had which keys. Schlage’s Primus high-security cylinder system is now used, which features a specially designed, patent-protected key that is available only from the manufacturer by authorized signature. To prevent vandalism damage and provide safe egress, Von Duprin 98 Series exit devices are used inside the classroom doors. With only a key and pull handle on the outside, a locked door can be opened only by a key, and there is no functional trim outside to get damaged. Inside, an exit device keeps the door secure and locked when necessary, yet allows safe egress from the classroom in an emergency.

Patrick R. Olmstead is marketing communications manager for Indianapolis-based Von Duprin, Ingersoll-Rand Exit Device Division.

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