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Mar 12 2018

WWYD? Fail Safe Access Control?

Category: Electrified Hardware,WWYD?Lori @ 1:30 pm Comments (4)

I recently updated an article that I wrote back in 2012, and it was included in this month’s Codes & Education newsletter from Allegion.  The article addresses fail safe and fail secure products, and the common locations for each (the updated article is here).  In the article I said that when I specify an electric strike, I almost always specify a fail secure strike rather than fail safe.  Here’s an excerpt from that section of the article:

There are very limited situations where access upon fire alarm is required (see below regarding stairwell re-entry). I have been asked, “What about firefighter access?” The use of an electric strike really doesn’t change anything in regard to firefighter access. Their method for access on a door with a mechanical lockset can still be used. That might be a key or access-control credential in the key box or a tool, depending on what type of hardware is on the door.

One of my security-consultant pals emailed me to say that on a fire door leading to an office area, the building occupants need to be able to gain access – even during a fire alarm – because in many cases the entire building is not immediately evacuated.  If a fail secure electric strike is installed on the fire-rated office door, power is cut to the strike during a fire alarm to ensure that the door is latched.  In this situation, the access-control credential won’t operate the strike and occupants can not access the space.  The same thing goes for the credential in the key box, intended for use by firefighters.

He has a point.  So what’s the answer?  Electric strikes shouldn’t be used for this application?  Are there other considerations for the access control system when the building may be occupied during a fire alarm?  What if there is an access-control credential in the key box but the power has been cut and the access control system isn’t functioning?

For all of the access-control gurus out there…WWYD?

4 Responses to “WWYD? Fail Safe Access Control?”

  1. Domenic LoBello says:

    Hi Lori, for fire rated openings requiring re-entry or fire department access I always use an electrified lockset or E trim for panic hardware. A fail safe electric strike does not provide positive latching when unlocked by the fire alarm system.
    Even for non-rated openings I always prefer an electrified lockset over an electric strike.

    • Lori says:

      Thanks Domenic! I would always use electrified locks or electrified panic/fire exit hardware trim where I need the fail safe function. But in a building that might not be completely evacuated during a fire alarm (like a high-rise), is the access control system functional during the fire alarm? What happens to the access control system if the power fails? Would you use fail safe locks? Or battery-backup in the access control system?

      – Lori

  2. Brendan Daley says:

    I try hard to design 4 hours of battery backup into the access control systems I do for both the system and locking hardware.
    But I do not use fail safe unless otherwise required by code or AHJ, they doors in high rise office that have access hold some of the most critical company information in those rules are sometimes dictated by Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPPA, NERC, etc…

  3. Jim Elder says:

    I agree with both. I do not use electric strikes anywhere unless there is a very good reason. And I don’t like fail safe locksets of any type. Touch the lever of a fail safe lock and you immediately know that pulling the fire alarm will unlock the door. Electric strikes get warm as well. Uniquely, the strikes don’t fail safe; they must fail secure (the reason why E strikes can’t be used on rated stairs where reentry is required. But when this occurs it knocks out the ability of authorized employee’s card use (unless you know the special circuit that results in a card reader working under either condition).

    Also, note that there are critical processes that cannot be immediately shut down, including chemical transfer, scientific experiments, patient care . In my earlier days, we called these people “critical or hazardous process operators”. They (today, they would In a particular space, at least one had to be “certified” (meaning special training and sometimes equipment). Anyone else would have to leave.

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