Fail safe vs. fail secure locks: Which do you need?

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When it comes to your workplace, security is of the utmost importance. No matter what industry you work in, you need a holistic security system that keeps your business-critical data, equipment and people safe.

An important part of any comprehensive security system is the locks on your doors – but which type of lock should you choose? There are two main types of electromagnetic locks that can be used to keep your premises safe: fail safe electromagnetic locks and fail secure electromagnetic locks.

Let’s take a look at fail secure vs. fail safe, what they are and the differences between each type.

What are fail safe magnetic door locks?

A fail safe lock is a common type of lock that requires power consumption to keep it locked. They can be unlocked when a valid credential, like a keycard or a fob, is presented. This briefly interrupts the flow of power and the door can be opened.

If there is a power failure, the door will be unlocked completely, allowing people to get both in and out of the room or building and keeping your people safe in emergency situations. In the event of an emergency or natural disaster, people can escape easily, making them a popular choice for main access doors and entry points like office doors.

Using fail safe locks on entry and exit doors in commercial buildings or for classroom locks also allows emergency services access, even if the power goes out.

What are fail secure magnetic door locks?

Fail secure products, or a fail lock, on the other hand, need electrical power to unlock. If your power goes out or fails, then your doors will remain locked from the outside, keeping the room secure. That’s the main difference between fail safe and fail security – one stays locked even if the electricity fails, and the other doesn’t.

If there’s a power outage, types of commercial doors with a fail secure magnetic door lock will remain locked from the outside. However, a fail secure magnetic door lock can be unlocked manually from the inside. So, while fail secure locks make it harder for unauthorized persons to gain access during an emergency, anyone inside the room can still get out with ease. This type of lock can also be overridden to allow for emergency egress.

However, this type of fail secure electronic lock does provide more security. That makes a fail secure lock a good choice for areas which require additional protection or robust secure locks, such as server closets or rooms with valuable data or equipment.

Fail safe vs. fail secure: Which type of electromagnetic lock do you need?

Now you know the difference between fail safe and fail secure locks, but which kind do you need for your workplace or commercial setting? 

It’s important to check your local building codes and regulations for emergency systems to ensure you’re complying with the rules in your local area.

Generally speaking though, it makes sense to use fail safe locks in high-traffic areas, where people are continually coming and going. That means that, in the event of an emergency, people can easily get out, and the emergency services can get in without any access issues. 

You might want to consider using fail safe doors in areas such as:

  • Main entryways
  • Inner entryways, e.g. to corridors
  • Entrances to private offices
  • Rooftops
  • Garages
  • Stairwells requiring re-entry

The big advantage of fail safe locks is how easy they make it for your team members to come and go. However, this is also their major disadvantage. Because fail safe locks become unlocked during a power outage, it means that any unauthorized persons can also gain access to your property during this time. Fail safe security only goes so far, and you may not want to rely on this type of lock for parts of our building that are truly business-critical.

That’s why it’s important to have both types of locks in your building, to ensure that all the most important areas of your property are protected, at all times. You might want to consider using fail secure locks on areas such as:

  • Mail rooms
  • Server rooms
  • Exit doors that are infrequently used or unmonitored

Fail secure locks should be used wherever security is a concern. They ensure that no unauthorized access can be gained to your building’s most important areas, even in the event of a complete power outage. 

According to national building codes, fire doors require fail secure electric strikes to meet latching requirements. Fail safe locks cannot be used as they don’t have the positive latching required for fire safety. A positive latch is one which catches automatically when a door closes, something which is necessary for fire doors, in order to keep them closed under pressure from fire.

There’s generally no difference in cost when it comes to fail safe vs. fail secure locks. However, fail safe doors need a constant power supply to stay locked, which could affect the total cost over the lifetime of the lock. So if you’re working within a budget, this may be a consideration when it comes to which type of lock to choose, as well as how often people frequent the area, and how secure you need the area to be.

Implementing a comprehensive door entry system

A combination of fail safe and fail secure locks will ensure that you strike a balance between convenience and security. But access locks work best in conjunction with a more comprehensive access system solution.

A security system that’s designed to protect people, property and assets along with fail safe doors or fail secure locks can mitigate security concerns, promote lockdown safety, and ensure that only authorized people can get through your doors.

This technology also allows you to see at a glance what doors are open and which ones are closed. You can also remotely lock and unlock doors – even during lockdowns and emergencies – so you can keep your people safe at all times.

Motorola Solutions Access Control Manager (ACM)

  • Respond to access alerts from anywhere with a browser-based and mobile-enabled solution
  • Easily check door status and remotely lock and unlock doors 
  • Activate site lockdowns and control access during emergencies
  • Integrate with third-party wireless locking solutions with support for flexible lock configurations
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Access control and free egress

As well as only allowing authorized people to enter, access control can also ensure everyone can get out of a building in the event of an emergency. In your current building, during a power outage, would a locked door endanger lives on your premises?

Ensuring that everyone can get out safely in the event of an emergency is imperative. This is what’s defined as ‘free egress’ and it’s required by law on every door in the building. In the event of a loss of power, your door locking system should provide free egress, through automatically changing the default lock state to open, or with fail safe electrified panic hardware trim.

There is no difference between fail safe and fail security locks when it comes to emergency egress. Both types of lock allow people to safely exit the room, corridor or building – the terminology of ‘fail safe’ and ‘fail secure’ applies to entry only.

In the event of an emergency evacuation, fail secure lock strike plates can still allow for manual operation from the inside, overriding the lock function. That means everyone can still easily exit the building, so there’s no need to worry that if you have a fail secure lock, it will be difficult for your people to exit your property in case of an emergency.

Fail secure vs. fail safe security: Keep your building safe

With a better understanding of the difference between fail safe and fail security locks, and fail secure magnetic door locks and fail secure electromagnetic door locks, you can ensure your property is well-protected. No matter what industry you work in, from manufacturing to retail, a comprehensive security system will keep your people and assets safe – and a combination of fail safe doors, fail secure locks, and access control management software will provide the right level of security to keep you safe and put your mind at ease.

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