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Turnstile gates provide a form of physical security barrier used to control access in commercial buildings or venues that attract large numbers of visitors.

Security turnstiles are available in different forms. They are a type of mechanical gate that allows one person to enter at a time and closes after a person has passed through the gate to prevent tailgating. 

Turnstile entrance gates and access control barriers enable security teams to provide access to authorized users while minimizing the risk of unauthorized intrusion. In a commercial building,  security turnstile gates only allow access to employees or visitors with valid credentials. At a large venue, such as a stadium or train station, pedestrian security gates only allow customers with valid tickets to enter through access turnstiles. 

So, what is a turnstile access control gate, and why does your business need one? This article outlines the most common types of turnstile gates, electronic turnstiles and other forms of turnstile entry control. Also highlighted are the common applications, benefits of using security turnstile systems and how entrance turnstiles can be integrated with other forms of access control as part of a comprehensive security solution.

What are turnstile gates and how do they operate?

Security turnstiles incorporate a device that is fixed to the ground and attached rotating arms that act as a physical barrier to prevent unauthorized people from entering a space. The arms in a turnstile entry system can rotate or remain fixed, depending on the type of turnstile barrier gate.

When an authorized user or paying customer presents a valid credential or ticket to a turnstile gate with card reader system, the arms of the pedestrian turnstile will rotate to allow one person through the barrier. After entry, the turnstile gate will lock until the next authorized person presents credentials. 

In some environments where there are large numbers of visitors but no credentials or tickets are required, the arms of the access turnstile rotate and lock in the same way, but only allow one person at a time to enter. This helps to reduce the risk of overcrowding and ensures safe access via the installed turnstile barrier gate for all visitors. 

Turnstile gate arms can be designed to rotate in one direction or in both directions to control both entry and exit. Some controlled access turnstiles, such as a speed gate turnstile or a glass swing turnstile, can feature doors rather than arms, but the basis of operation is the same: only one person at a time with credentials or tickets will be granted access. 

Single security turnstiles can be deployed to control access to a space or may be installed in multiple lanes to make access convenient for large crowds and minimize delays. Multiple lanes are generally used in busy venues, such as train stations or sports stadiums. 

Venues attracting large crowds may also use portable turnstile gates to control access in areas where different events are hosted, such as a stadium set up for a basketball game on one day and for a concert on a different day. Depending on the event, different access points that are not protected by the venue’s security might need to be secured with portable waist-high turnstiles. A large area that hosts a festival or trade show will also benefit from using portable turnstiles, as the spaces cannot accommodate permanent forms of security turnstiles.

Turnstile entry systems are controlled electronically. When sensors or readers recognize valid credentials, the electronic turnstile locking mechanism is released to allow access. Security turnstile manufacturers such as full-height turnstile manufacturers also produce models that allow teams to operate turnstile gates manually for establishments that require a more hands-on approach to security or depend on a stricter verification process for entry.

Where to install security turnstile gates in commercial buildings

Access turnstiles are an important component of building security and visitor management. Turnstile security gates make it possible to control access within specific locations of a building that are not covered by other forms of security, as well as prevent theft and intrusion. Office turnstiles can be installed to control access for: 

  • Lobbies and reception areas
  • Elevators at the lobby level
  • Amenities such as on-site gyms or cafeterias
  • Event spaces or large conference rooms

Benefits of turnstile access control

Security: Turnstile gates ensure that only authorized users or visitors can access restricted areas. They prevent unauthorized access by providing a physical barrier to entry to mitigate tailgating. The turnstile door hardware also acts as a visible deterrent to intruders. 

Crowd control: Access turnstiles enable security teams to monitor and manage the number of people entering a building or venue by restricting access through the barrier to allowing entry for one person at a time. This eliminates the risk of overcrowding at the access point and also provides accurate information on the number of visitors to ensure a venue does not exceed capacity.

Security integration: Turnstile gates can be integrated with other security systems, such as video intercoms and elevator security system controls, to provide a holistic view of security. 

Targeted security and access control: Controlled access turnstiles can be deployed quickly and easily in areas where vulnerabilities have been identified, but no other form of access control exists. For example, portable turnstile gates can be used to provide temporary control in spaces where traffic levels fluctuate. 

Increased safety: Overcrowding can lead to theft and present safety issues. Access control turnstiles reduces the risk of overcrowding and minimizes consequent threats to security by controlling the flow of traffic. 

Revenue protection: In venues where people must show tickets, proof of membership or make other forms of payment, turnstile gates with card readers ensure that people cannot avoid payment, helping to maintain revenue for the organization.

Accurate usage data: Data from turnstile gates with card readers provides security staff and management teams with accurate information on venue usage as a basis for analysis or capacity planning. The data can also help security teams monitor how many visitors are on-site to ensure a venue does not exceed capacity. 

Controlled access turnstile use cases

Turnstile gates and turnstile doors are used in a wide variety of venues. Among the most common applications are entertainment venues, sports stadiums, museums and visitor centers, commercial offices, gyms and fitness centers, amusement parks and public transport hubs. 

Entertainment venues: Turnstile gates provide convenient access for ticket holders. They ensure that only valid ticket holders can enter, preventing the risk of overcrowding. Depending on the size of the venue, single access control turnstile barriers or multiple lanes will be installed. 

Sports stadiums: Like entertainment venues, turnstile security gates are used to limit access to ticket holders. In large stadiums, outdoor turnstile gates are installed at main entrances or at entrances to different zones of the stadium. Some models, like a slim speed gate turnstile, can also be used to manage foot traffic in busy match-day areas, such as merchandise stores or refreshment areas, to reduce the chance of unsafe bottlenecks. 

Museums and visitor centers: Many of these venues are free to visit, but still require a secure form of access control for capacity management. Installing a turnstile gate at the entrance to the venue enables security and customer service teams to monitor and manage the number of visitors in the venue. If visitors have to pay to enter, a turnstile gate with a card reader provides a secure and convenient method of ensuring only ticket holders can enter. 

Commercial offices: Turnstile security gates are installed within the building to manage access from an entrance lobby or reception area to offices, allowing visitors to enter but restricting them from venturing beyond reception without checking in. Access control turnstile systems may also be used in different areas of the building if multiple tenants require their own local access security. To gain access, employees or visitors must present valid credentials such as mobile credentials or request approval from security teams.

Gyms and fitness centers: Gyms and fitness centers may offer membership-only facilities or be open to the public. Turnstile gates can be installed at the entrance to allow members to present valid credentials or membership. Security turnstiles can also be installed within the fitness center to control access to specific facilities, such as swimming pools or weights rooms, that require higher membership levels or different passes. 

Amusement parks: Multiple lanes of turnstile gates are used to manage crowd access at the entrance to the park, and visitors must present general entrance tickets to enter. A sliding turnstile barrier gate may also be used to control access to specific rides or events where extra payment is required. At peak periods, such as vacations or weekends, access control turnstiles can help enforce capacity limits and prevent unauthorized entry when the park is full. 

Public transport hubs: Train terminals, subway stations, airports and other public transport hubs need to provide convenient access to ticket holders while preventing non-ticket holders from using the facilities. The controlled access turnstiles must be robust and reliable to handle high traffic levels and operate quickly to prevent delays or congestion during peak travel periods.

Types of security turnstile gates, doors and systems

Turnstile manufacturers produce turnstile gates and door turnstile devices available in a number of different sizes, shapes, finishes and configurations. The main types of turnstile gates are:

  • Waist-high turnstiles
  • Full-height turnstile doors
  • Optical turnstiles 
  • ADA gates 
  • Portable turnstile gates

Waist-high turnstiles

Waist-high turnstiles are fixed models measuring about 40 inches high, with a central post and three rotating arms or other types of barriers to control access. Models with three arms are also known as tripod turnstiles and feature a comfortable height for most people to pass through. Waist-high turnstiles can also incorporate flaps or single arms that open or drop to allow access.

This type of turnstile gate can be used as a standalone access point in confined spaces or set up in multiple lanes for wider, high-traffic areas. Waist-high security turnstiles are a cost-effective solution for most applications and can be used indoors or in outside areas. This type of turnstile gate price is affordable, making them a popular choice for a wide variety of establishments. They can be used to manage both entry and exit, and can incorporate readers or other devices to validate tickets or credentials. 

While these models are convenient, simple to use and reliable in regular operation, they can cause bottlenecks and delays at busy times or when large crowds are expected. It is also easier for unauthorized individuals to enter through a waist-high turnstile, as people can climb or leap over the barriers to avoid payment. 

Full-height turnstiles

As the name suggests, full-height turnstiles are much larger barriers and operate in a way that is similar to a revolving door. These models are designed to provide one-way access or allow both entry and exit. Some turnstile suppliers offer tandem models that support side-by-side entry and exit.

Full-height turnstiles are generally about seven to eight feet high. The taller height prevents people from climbing over turnstile gates. Full-height turnstile gates can be designed with an open appearance using vertical and horizontal bars or made from a solid material to provide maximum security. They are generally used in higher security environments like government facilities.

While full-height models offer security and durability due to their robust construction, they present a large, bulky appearance and can also cause bottlenecks during high-traffic periods.

Optical turnstiles

Optical turnstiles control access by using infrared sensors to detect people passing through a beam. Where people require permission to enter, users can present credentials to a turnstile gate with a card reader attached. If the credentials are valid, the person can pass through the turnstile door access control. If the person does not have valid credentials, any attempt to enter will trigger a visible or audible alarm to alert security. 

Optical turnstiles allow controlled access using valid tickets and credentials or free access. In free access applications, the barrier simply counts the number of people entering to ensure the venue is not exceeding capacity and records the numbers of visitors for analysis. This data can provide insight into other areas of business. For example, a museum would refer to the recorded number of visitors to compare the popularity of different exhibitions.

Optical turnstiles present a more technologically advanced and aesthetically pleasing form of access control barrier. They enable fast, convenient access for authorized users, minimizing bottlenecks even during peak times. They are generally used for interior applications, but offer less security than physical barriers. In some applications where security is important, it will be necessary to have security staff on-site to respond to alarms or notifications.

ADA gates

ADA-enabled turnstiles are essential for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. They provide a hands-free access solution that allows unobstructed access to visitors in wheelchairs or mobility vehicles. ADA gates-enabled turnstiles are also wider than standard turnstiles to improve convenience.

Portable turnstile gates

Portable turnstile gates look similar to waist-high turnstiles, but are not fixed to the ground and can be quickly and easily moved to positions where they are needed for temporary access control. These turnstile gate models have a strong base plate attached to the central post with wheels placed under the base plate for easy movement. 

Portable access control turnstiles enable security teams to temporarily control crowds  in zones or locations with no permanent method of controlling access, particularly where traffic levels vary. The devices can also be used as temporary access control barriers in buildings or venues where permanent barriers are not permitted. 

Integrating turnstile gates with security systems

Security turnstiles can be used as standalone access control solutions or integrated with other security systems as part of a larger security solution. By integrating turnstile gates with video security cameras, for example, security professionals can capture images of all users and visitors for analysis and evidence in the event of an incident. 

Turnstile gates with card readers can use the same authentication database as other access control systems, so that security teams have a single, consistent record of all access events. This provides a holistic view of security, and supports capacity management and planning. In emergency situations, data from turnstile gates with card readers can be integrated with other occupancy data to provide accurate numbers in support of lockdowns, evacuations and other emergency access control measures. 

Planning security turnstile gate installation

In planning a turnstile installation, it’s essential to take different factors into consideration and ask the following questions:

  • Is the turnstile gate required for high security or convenient access control?
  • How many access points require turnstile gates?
  • What are the average and peak traffic levels for each location or access point?
  • Will security turnstile operation require credentials, tickets or other forms of identity for authorization?
  • Should turnstile gate operation be automated or require manual intervention?
  • Will the turnstile gate be used inside or outside of a building?
  • Is speed of access more important than security? 
  • Will the venue require ADA gates to meet compliance requirements? 
  • Are aesthetics an important consideration? 
  • Will portable models be required as part of the overall turnstile access control system?
  • Will the security turnstile  system be integrated with other security systems?

If you need help in deciding which turnstile security system is best for your business, professional security consultants or access control installers can offer guidance on the most suitable types of security turnstile gate and turnstile door hardware for your establishment, as well as provide practical turnstile installation, system design, integration and support services.

Turnstile door access control systems for your building

Installing security turnstile or turnstyle” gates can help to improve security and visitor management for your building. The variety of turnstile gates and turnstile doors available means it is possible to develop a flexible and customized solution for any location. 

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