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Oct 23 2012

Mag-Locks – Security Impact

Category: Electrified Hardware,NewsLori @ 5:39 pm Comments (7)

For the second time in two months, a news story came across my desk that involved the impact of mag-locks on security.  For some involved in the security industry, mag-locks are perceived to be an easy way to retrofit a high level of protection, because the field preparation is limited and the manufacturers’ literature shows holding force specifications which seem like more than enough to keep out the average burglar.

Mag-locks have their place.  But when a mag-lock is required by code to unlock upon fire alarm and/or power failure, this provides an “opening” for a would-be intruder.  As more people understand the effect of pulling the fire alarm on these doors, we’ll see more of these security breaches.  Note that the  new code requirements for mag-locks with a door-mounted release device do not require the mag-lock to unlock upon fire alarm.  These new requirements may not apply to your jurisdiction, so verify the current codes before you make any changes.

From the Dutch News…

Kunsthal security doors were not fully bolted on evening of theft

The thieves who stole seven valuable paintings from the Kunsthal in Rotterdam last week were able to strike so quickly because the door was not fully locked, according to Nos television.

The broadcaster says according to a statement from the gallery director, the doors are normally locked ‘mechanically and electronically’. However, after the alarm is activated, the electronic lock turns off automatically, in line with fire regulations, the statement said.

The burglars only had to force the mechanical lock to gain entrance. Security camera footage shows they were in and out in two minutes with the seven works of art. The police arrived at the museum five minutes after the alarm went off but the thieves had already gone.

The door locking system has since been revised, with the permission of fire officials.

So far, police have had 60 tips in connection with the heist. The seven paintings, including works by Matisse, Monet and Picasso, are worth up to €7m.

After watching the security camera footage I’m wondering if these doors had shear locks because I don’t see a mag-lock.


From WFAA in Dallas:

Intruder removed from WFAA Dallas studio

DALLAS — Dallas police and firefighters had to respond to WFAA’s Victory Park studios on Tuesday evening.

Police believe a woman pulled a fire alarm at a nearby restaurant and made her way inside our studio. She then laid down on the floor and refused to leave voluntarily.

The unidentified woman had to be lifted off the ground by emergency personnel. She was taken into custody about 9:20 p.m.

The 10 p.m. newscast that had been scheduled to be broadcast from Victory Park originated at WFAA’s Young Street studio because the fire alarm could not be turned off in time.

When and where do YOU use mag-locks?  Have you ever refused to specify, supply, or install them in a certain application?

7 Responses to “Mag-Locks – Security Impact”

  1. Ron Hansen says:

    I hope there are no would-be burglars or activists that receive your blog, Lori!
    The valuable education and relevant issues that you provide should always be used for good and not evil!

  2. Brad Keyes says:


    Nearly every week, I am in a different hospital, offering advice and consultation services on Life Safety Code compliance. I can say, without hesitation, every single hospital that I can remember ever being in has some problem with mag-locks. What I witness mostly is ignorance of the code requirements by the designer, installing contractor, the building owner’s representative, and the authorities having jurisdiction who conduct surveys and inspections in hospitals.

    The biggest code violation I find with mag-locks, is the lack of a motion sensor and the ‘Push to Exit’ button when the magnets are installed on a door in the path of egress. Usually what I find is a mag-lock connected to a card-swipe reader on a cross-corridor door, right underneath the ‘Exit’ sign. When I point out the deficiencies, the most common answer I get it, “But the mag-lock is connected to the fire alarm system”, as if that satisfies all concerns.

    Other issues I often find are:
    1. The ‘Push to Exit’ button does not interrupt power to the mag-lock for a minimum of 30 seconds
    2. The ‘Push to Exit’ button is not within 5 feet of the door
    3. Mag-locks on delayed egress locks do not have the requisite signage posted on the door
    4. Delayed egress locks are installed on doors in buildings which are not fully protected with automatic sprinklers.

    In the industry where I reside, I see general improvements made by Joint Commission surveyors and CMS inspectors, to find and cite these deficiencies, but overall, the healthcare industry is in not in good shape. No matter where you are located in the country, if you have a loved one in the hospital, take a look at their mag-locks and see if they are code compliant. Best guess is, they are not.

  3. Dave says:

    Lori; If I am reading this correctly,it sounds like the security alarm shut off the maglock. Why would that be a code requirement? Am I missing something?
    Every day is a learning experience!!

    • Lori says:

      When I read the article about the museum heist, I read “alarm” as “fire alarm”. In reading more articles about it, it’s unclear whether it was the security alarm or the fire alarm that unlocked the doors. One of the articles said, “thieves apparently took advantage of the electronic lock system, which opened to comply with fire safety standards.” I don’t know of any reason that activating the burglar / security alarm would need to unlock the doors, but activating the fire alarm does unlock the doors if the locks are installed per the Access Controlled Egress Door requirements.

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