Door Hardware: Meeting the ACCESS Test

Rising security concerns prompt managers to rethink their expectations of door hardware in protecting facilities, assets and occupants

By Thomas A. Westerkamp  

The growing need for safety and security in all institutional and commercial facilities means managers must consider a wider range of products and equipment, including door hardware. For this reason, managers must stay abreast of technology advances in the latest generation of key door hardware components, such as locksets, closers and hinges and alarm systems.

They also need a standard against which to measure product performance to ensure products meet facility needs. To this end, managers should consider the ACCESS test — access control, control of egress, safety and security — as a tool to measure performance and preparedness.

Changing priorities
Heightened awareness and often-conflicting demands of safety, security and ease of entry or exit have led to an increasing array of solutions. Authorized personnel need access and, in emergency situations, rapid and safe egress.

On the other hand, security systems must exclude unauthorized personnel, while firefighters or other emergency personnel need ease of entry to locate and evacuate victims rapidly.

Maintenance and engineering managers more often are are installing card and lock systems using personal identification numbers. They also are reconfiguring traffic flow to channel visitors at elevator lobbies toward properly staffed and secure reception areas. Only authorized personnel can enter locked lobby doors, and stairwells are being equipped with closed-circuit television (CCTV) and sound-monitoring devices.

A new generation
Among the key hardware employed for security upgrades to facilitate these upgraded measures includes the following:


    • size and weight of the door
    • closer mounting position
    • interior or exterior door
    • functions, e.g. hold open, positive stop or fusible link
    • installation specifications.
  • Locksets. Devices in this category include deadbolts, knobs, lock cylinders, levers, entry handsets, wired remote open or turn-on devices, and wireless remote devices. Some steps being taken more often include simply changing lock cylinders more often to installing more elaborate, electromechanical and electronic, remote-controlled devices.

    Lock-cylinder change kits include the outside cylinder, cylinder housing and keys. The keys can be made to fit copies of existing cylinders or other new cylinders. Blanks not available at the local hardware store can be obtained from the manufacturer to make it more difficult to get key copies.

    Closers. Managers have a variety of standard and custom door closers from which to choose. These include surface-mounted or hidden, heavy-duty closers for high-cycle or windy conditions, as well as ADA-compliant, force-to-operate-compliant closers. Closers might contain both spring and fluid operators, with separate valves for each open and close cycle.

    A typical range of five cycles, with separate valves controlling each cycle, illustrates how the door closer works. The open cycle compresses the spring and positions fluid through the open valve for closing. The delay valve controls the hold-open time for allowing slower-moving traffic to pass. The closing valve controls the closing speed to within 6 inches of the stop, while the latching valve controls speed for the last 6 inches.

    Closer specification considerations recommended by manufacturers are:

    When using custom hinges, door stops, pivots, overhead holders, or sound and smoke seals, the installer should refer to the manufacturer's template book to ensure proper installation locations for the hardware.

    Hinges. An intruder can get through the standard hinged door, even when locked, simply by removing the hinge pins. Technicians can make hinges more secure by removing one hinge screw and inserting a special peg with screw threads on the end inserted into the hinge and a cylindrical pin on the other end that projects from the hinge surface.

    With this pin in place, the closed and locked door can’t be removed from the door frame, even when the hinge pins are removed.

    Alarms. Recent additions to door-hardware systems include radio-wave tamper alarms, which activates when a conductor — for example a vehicle or person — moves through and disturbs a radio-wave field. Motion detectors or infrared-type alarms often give false signals. Technicians can adjust the signal strength of the radio wave so the alarm is energized from a distance or by actual contact.

    The circuitry consists of two components: a small, saucer-sized control box and an antenna. The power source sends radio waves through the antenna surrounding anything the antenna touches, including a door, window, fence, vehicle or unattended building. Audio alarms can be attached, and silent alarms connected to police, a CCTV or access-control system can be activated.

The ACCESS test
After security has been compromised, it is too late to begin security planning. Managers can't start any sooner than now, or any later, to secure a facility. The first step is a high degree of management involvement, starting with a comprehensive security policy recognizing the legal obligation of an owner to provide for the safety and security of the facility and its occupants.

Funding limitations mean that security is a continuing need. As soon as managers do the first iteration, planning for the next update starts. Managers should set aside a piece of the annual budget for the continuous improvement of the security plan.

The ACCESS test is a systematic method to assess and upgrade access-system controls to minimize risk. Experts in the field believe that a structured approach to assessing and evaluating the current system is an important stepping-stone to heightened security of the facility.

Managers will need architectural plans, as well as plans for any modifications or additions, since the original facility was built. These plans identify the assets managers want to protect, as well as location and means of entry and egress.

In addition to plans, original construction specifications offer key pieces of information because they contain product description details, such as lock set, closer and hinge manufacturer, model number, style, size, quantity, and standards to which the hardware was designed and tested, information that cannot fit on the plans.

First, consider the assets to protect. Managers must consider both personnel — employees, contractors and visitors — and property assets. Property includes physical assets, the facility itself, associated electrical and mechanical equipment, furniture, data contained in storage media — both hard copy and electronic — and inventory.

Second, consider the natural or manmade events that can jeopardize the safety and security of each asset.

What are the odds of each event occurring? Who would have planned for the terrorist attack of Sept. 11. And who would have foreseen a 4.5 magnitude earthquake in the Midwest 70 miles southwest of Chicago or a bear walking through an unattended, automatic door into a hospital? While these two latter events are unlikely, they happened. So do threats from storms, theft, disgruntled employees, fire, flood, and power outage.

Managers must consider these and other contingencies. For example, are electronic door locks power-on or power-off? Do they depend on a central power supply, or do they have their own self-contained, independent power supply? How would your existing security systems measure up to the challenges? What would the relative severity of consequences be if they couldn't?

These questions will lead managers to focus on the security weaknesses and measures that would reduce or eliminate each weakness in the existing system. They also will assist managers to prioritize the upgrades to the system, first addressing the highest-probability occurrences with the greatest consequences.

While the list of upgrades and cost estimates might exceed those that can be implemented immediately due to cost or time constraints, managers can start at the top of the priority list and work down as far as possible this year. Then, use the remaining list for risk management and budgeting next year.

  • American Hardware Manufacturers Association, 801 N. Plaza Drive, Schaumburg, IL 60173. (847) 605-1025; fax (847) 601-1093.

  • American Society for Industrial Security, 1625 Prince St., Alexandria, VA 22314

  • Associated Locksmiths of America, 3003 Live Oak St., Dallas, TX 75204

  • Building Officials and Code Administrators International Inc., 4051 Flossmoor Road, Country Club Hills, IL 60477

  • Door Hardware Institute, 14150 Newbrook Drive, Suite 200, Chantilly, VA 20151-2223. (703) 222-2010; fax (703) 222-2410.

  • National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, 7101 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814

  • Window and Door Manufacturers Association, 1400 E. Touhy Ave., Suite 470, Des Plaines, IL 60018. (800) 223-2301; fax 847-299-1286. E-mail

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  posted on 7/1/2004   Article Use Policy

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