Locking devices, more than meets the eye

 In Access Control, Fire Safety

Access control can be a very difficult setup, but the locking device is the most important part of the entire setup. Without the proper locking mechanism, the door may not close properly or may not stay closed, which can cause a major security risk. There are a variety of locks available for access control solutions, but they have to be paired with the correct door and door frame. In this article we will explain the different types of locks and the best practices with the locks.

Types of Locks

Electromagnetic Locks

8310-rci-mag-lockElectromagnetic locks are exactly what the name suggests. They are composed of two magnets that, if power is applied, will attract each other and hold on for dear life. Electromagnetic locks are an unusual lock because they unlock when power is taken away. Most other locks will unlock when power is applied to them, but for magnet locks that is the exact opposite. Electromagnetic locks are great for industrial and multi-door applications that require high holding force and easy exiting in case of an emergency. The great part about electromagnetic locks is that the holding force of the lock can be increased by increasing the current. The consideration with these locks is that in case of a power failure these locks require backup power, otherwise they will open and allow access to absolutely anyone. Access control systems have internal backup batteries that will kick in, in case of a power failure. But in a prolonged power failure, this may become a problem.

Door Strikes

rci-door-strikesDoor strikes are locking devices that allow access based upon a mechanical flap on the lock that will open when power is applied. The deadbolt of the door is kept in the lock, and every time a key card is swiped, the lock will activate the mechanical flap that will allow the door to be opened. These locks can be a fail secure lock, which means in case of a power failure the lock will remain locked without requiring any power. Esthetics is another major very positive part that strikes bring with them. They integrate right into the door frame, which means the lock is completely concealed. These locks come in a variety of ways to work with normal door handles, crash bars and more. Door strikes usually also have a very respectable holding force, that won’t allow for intruders to get into the building.


There are many issues that can arise from a wrong access control design. From controllable factors such as power requirements and force requirements to uncontrollable situations such as fires, power failures and more. The importance to weigh in those factors and ensure the design is covered in all aspects is essential to keeping the building secure, while also ensuring the safety of the people within. Access control locks all require power. In the case of strike locks, these unlock when power is applied. Magnet locks on the other hand unlock when power is shut off. This is a major design consideration, as magnet locks require constant power, at a much higher rate than strike locks. Beyond that, in case of a power failure, if not properly designed, magnet locks will unlock, allowing for unauthorized access into the building. Many doors in commercial buildings also have to provide certain fire ratings, to ensure the door keeps the remainder of the building safe in case of a fire. The part that is easily missed is that the lock has to hold the same standard to ensure the fire standards are met. Door holding force is another consideration that is much too important to miss. The door itself may hold thousands of pounds, but the lock is the holding force in the equation. The door frame and the lock all have to support the force requirements. Access control locks are most commonly rated at 1500lbs holding force, though there are locks out there for higher requirements. If any of these factors are missed some building codes may not be up to par, but worst of all, lives could be lost.


Power is a major design consideration in the case of access control. Some locks require more power than can be output by the access control system. These systems will then require additional power supplies to ensure the system will work. These power supplies will have to be wired into the fire alarm system to ensure that the power is deactivated in case of a fire. This is required for mag locks and hold opens, as doors need to be accessible but also closed during fire events. Power failure is also another major design consideration. In the case of door strikes, there is no problem as the strikes will fail secure, but electromagnetic locks will be unlocked in the case of a power failure. If mag locks are used, then power will have to be carefully budgeted for and proper power backups will have to be in placed to ensure the locks are secure when power fails.


Exit in case of an emergency will have to be guaranteed. Unfortunately some access control system solutions are not tied to the fire alarm system and do not allow for exit in case of fires or other emergencies. As such all access control solutions should always be tied to the fire alarm system if one is available. Doors in commercial settings oftentimes have to abide by certain fire rating rules, that require for the door to withstand a fire for a set amount of time. Access control locks will have to abide to those same standards to ensure the door will withstand the required forces. Without that consideration, the door may fail early and the building may not pass fire inspections.

Request to Exit and Emergency Pull Stations

Request to exit devices are devices that will unlock an access controlled door to allow for exit. These devices come in the form of motion detectors, laser barriers or buttons. Once someone walks up to the door and triggers the device, the door will open to allow for exit. All emergency exits need to have crash bars or a similar manual egress device on them to allow for exit. Without the proper device, people may get stuck trying to exit the building which can cause panic and other issues. Emergency pull stations should also be available, unlocking all doors if they are pulled. These stations are meant for medical emergencies and other emergencies that will require for everyone to exit the building. These pull stations can save lives, and should be used in most areas.

There’s a lot more to it

When designing an access control solution, there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. The right products have to be sourced to ensure all standards are met, but the solution also has to be designed to provide more than just protection from unauthorized access. An access control solution needs to handle emergencies, power failures, fires and regular abuse. Without the proper measures in place an access control system can become a disaster and result in not only annoyances, but a lot worse.

Our design team has experience with access control solutions, and we are also very much familiar with fire codes and other regulations to ensure all solutions we provide meet or exceed all standards set forth. When considering an access control solution the importance is to not only focus on the price, because price controls the quality of the solution. While our pricing is extremely competitive, our solutions may include extra pull stations and other features, that others may have missed. As such our quotes are full systems that can be used as is. We will not miss power supplies or other parts, and all of our systems will fulfill all standards that are required. Contact us today for a quote on your access control needs and we will make sure to provide you with a free consultation and a very comprehensive quote that will include absolutely everything that you need.

Get in Touch

Get the access control solution that will handle everything you can throw at it. We have the necessary experience and product knowledge under our belt to ensure we  can provide you with advanced, yet easy to use solutions. Feel free to contact us with any questions or comments. You can call us at any time at (403) 477-4800 or email us at [email protected].



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