Best practices for selecting and installing door interlock technology

by Bryan Sanderford

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Choosing a door control system for a facility is of the utmost importance to ensure the safety and security of people, property, and assets. Owners and designers need to select a system that is appropriate based on the flow of people, the type of assets held within the facility, and current and future security threats.

Doors are usually thought of as a means of keeping someone out, or alternately, keeping someone in. Doors provide privacy and, when locked, a level of security that is both simple and effective. There are many ways doors can be opened or closed. They can be manually operated with a handle or push bar, revolve, swing, or even slide into a pocket in the wall. They can be operated automatically with the push of a button, the swipe of a card, or a proximity device, or be programmed to lock if another door is open or unsecure.

There are more options for door technology on the market than ever before, including advanced programmable door interlock systems (often called mantraps), which provide very high levels of security. By gaining a better understanding of how different door interlock systems work, designers and specifiers can select the most appropriate configuration for a given project.

There are numerous applications for interlock systems spanning a variety of industries. Some of the most prevalent users include:

  • casinos, in areas where cash is handled;
  • armored car facilities, to control vehicle entry;
  • prisons and police stations, for transporting detainees;
  • medical facilities, for patient transport and deliveries;
  • secure government facilities, such as federal reserves and military R&D installations;
  • sensitive compartmented information facilities (SCIF) where sensitive information and conversations take place;
  • high risk wholesale and retail establishments where expensive merchandise, such as jewelry, is exchanged;
  • check cashing facilities, to monitor individuals entering areas where cash transactions take place;
  • schools where access areas require added security; and
  • laboratory and pharmaceutical facilities where clean rooms are deployed.

Door interlock systems provide a form of protection not afforded by conventional access control systems, which, typically, can be more easily compromised due to their connection to a networked computer susceptible to hacking.

In its simplest form, a door interlock system is composed of two doors electronically connected so one cannot open until the other has closed. A good way to visualize the technology is by picturing an entryway with a door at either end. Using some form of access control device, a user is granted access through the first door to enter the hallway. Once the first door is closed, the second door can then be opened automatically or triggered by an operator, allowing the user to pass through the second door. Such simple applications are often used in applications like inner city jewelry stores where an employee grants initial access to a visitor, and then visually screens them before allowing entry into the sales area. This same basic door interlocking set-up has countless applications across many different industries.

Office complexes and industrial facilities are increasingly employing door interlock systems as they represent a very reliable and secure means of managing both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. There are several important criteria to consider when choosing a door interlocking system, based on the type of facility and the specific application. The parameters for each installation vary greatly depending on the client’s specific security objectives. Typically, a design consultant or systems integrator is tasked with working out the design and installation specifics.

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