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?
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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!
All of my readers have to go through a rigorous screening process! 😀
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.
Thanks for the great insight Brad!
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!!
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.
Yes agreed! Thanx Dave;
Just an update to the information I have provided in the Past Regarding the Use of Mag-Locks in the Province of Alberta.
I have been in communication with the City of Calgary’s Fire Marshall.
As of October 1, 2022, any door equipped with a Mag-Lock, must have a Panic Device or Similar Product that has a Built in Switch to release the Mag-Lock.
They have had a total of 6 events in Calgary since Jan 1, 2022, that were either Fire Related or Emergencies, where the Fire Alarm was not activated, that doors equipped with Mag-Locks did not Release on Fire Alarm, or allow for the Egress in an Emergency.
Due to these issues, they are making these changes and they will be inspecting all Multi-Resident Buildings and all Commercial Buildings that they know are equipped with Mag-Locks.
Thanks for the update! Do you have any information on the 6 events?
The word that the Fire Department gave me was, the doors either did not release on Fire Alarm or the release devices did not allow the doors to release properly.
Seems most were controlled through the Access Control Systems, some had Touch-less switches that had failed……
So they are taking the steps of not allowing anything other than Push Bars on the doors to release the Mag-Locks, with the push bar having a mechanical switch that cuts the power directly to the Mag-Lock, no matter what.
This directive, will be above and beyond the Alberta Fire and Building Codes, as most buildings that are making renovations or new buildings were being inspected by the local building inspectors, who were not up to date on how Mag-Locks were required to work.
Now they have a Compliance and Enforcement Department within the Fire Marshals office here in Calgary, which will be given the power to pull the occupancy permits of the Building immediately, if the issues is bad enough.