Can a Public Entrance also be Secure?

Can a Public Entrance also be Secure?

Take a fresh look at manual revolving doors with new features to secure public-use entrances

A few years ago, an urban bank branch was the target of a public protest. A large crowd gathered, pushed inside the building and took over the interior lobby. The protesters disrupted the retail banking business in the lobby, and attempted to block employees from going up the escalator to work on the upper floors. The disruption lasted for hours, disrupting productivity and causing headaches for management as the news cycled for several days. Luckily, no one was injured.

Soon, their security manager called. It turned out that my company had made the manual revolving doors the crowd had pushed through, and he was hoping a security upgrade would be possible. I was glad to tell him there are now new technologies today that can address physical security…even on standard, architectural revolving doors used as high-volume public entrances.

When Bad Actors Seek Entry

While crime and violence make for great books or movies, the following examples involving public entrances can lead to nightmare outcomes for occupants and building managers:

An angry male student; his girlfriend has just broken up with him; he heads to her dormitory in the middle of the night, and walks right in.

When a gang member is hospitalized, and the opposing gang enters the hospital intending to finish what they started.

The Department of Education states in 2017, campuses in the United States reported 38,100 criminal offenses. That is more than 104 occurrences every day, which could include theft, rape, murder, robbery, aggravated assault and burglary. A study by the FBI on active shooter incidents reported that 22 percent of all occurrences between 2016 and 2017 occurred in healthcare and educational facilities, second only to commerce areas and “open spaces.”

It is clear that even schools and hospitals are not immune to the damaging impact of crime and violence. Other applications that have a lot of public traffic are: libraries, museums, attractions, municipal buildings, government buildings and urban office buildings that include retail and banking on the ground floor, to name a few. Manual revolving doors are often used at all of these building types.

The Potential Liability

When considering security at a main entrance it is worth mentioning the impact and liability from crime. The tangible impacts of violent crime include bad press, a loss of productivity, potential property damage, and worse, death. An often-overlooked tangible impact is liability: the potential for lawsuits from victims or victim’s families involved in the incident. According to reviewjournal.com, after the United States’ largest mass shooting to date in Las Vegas, 450 injured people filed lawsuits claiming negligence by multiple parties. There are also intangible impacts, which can have a profound and lasting impact on staff or occupants. These intangibles include physical pain and suffering, and feelings of anxiety, stress, and insecurity as everyone wonders what could happen tomorrow.

The Manual Revolving Door for Public Entrances

In the crime scenarios mentioned earlier, there are common weaknesses: the exterior door, which often is a public entrance during the day. If front desk personnel see trouble outside (distress, fights, weapons, protests), they need a quick and effective way to stop it from coming inside and harming others. Exterior entrances must also be lockable to restrict access outside operating hours.

Typically, architects specify manual revolving doors for new construction because they save space and energy while elevating the prestige of a building. They are “always open” to pedestrians and “always closed” to the outside elements, creating comfortable and draft-free building interiors.

Manual revolving doors can also help mitigate violence and crime because they support public access during open hours and can support controlled access at other times. With the right options, manual revolving doors can stop unwanted intruders, buying time to get security staff or law enforcement to deal with a dangerous situation.

Security Feature Options

The following options can be added to manual revolving doors to provide additional security functionality:

Emergency security lockdown. In the event of an immediate security threat outside the entrance (protests, drunk and disorderly conduct, etc.), staff can electrically lock the door wings immediately, regardless of position, at the push of a remotely-located button, keeping danger from entering through the front doors.

Remote locking. In the old days, you had to walk up to a door and push a pin manually into the floor itself to lock a revolving door. Today, staff can remotely push a button to lock door wings for the night, or, an access control system can lock the door wings automatically. If anyone is still in transit in a compartment during the lock command, the door lets them through and then slows down and stops with the wings pointed at the end posts in the “x” position and locks for the night. Once locked, internal guard staff can unlock it remotely when there is a visitor and they are “approved” via communication on an intercom system.

Access control integration. Secure afterhours access is possible via an access control device mounted on the outside of the door. Upon valid authorization, usually by means of an access card reader, the door wings will unlock and the user can push to enter the facility. Once all compartments are clear, the door slows down rotation, positions itself and relocks.

Thinking of these three features, consider a library or museum: public visitors can enter during the day under the supervision of reception staff or guards. At 9 p.m., the door locks and denies entry to anyone but students who have access credentials. At any time, day or night, if anything threatening occurs outside the entrance, inside staff can immediately lock the doors to keep trouble out and call for help.

While incidents pile up in the news, security professionals must consider all the options available today. Manual revolving doors in existing buildings or new construction are worth a second look as part of a complete physical security plan.

This article originally appeared in the March April 2020 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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