Requests to add keyless control to a door often start with the customer saying, “I want to buzz in.” Besides revealing to the locksmith that an electric strike needs to be installed, the customer inadvertently is telling the locksmith that he or she doesn’t know what an installation entails.
Keyless hardware is required to operate safely, securely, and reliably while complying with applicable fire and building codes. Keyless hardware is held to more stringent use requirements; therefore retrofitting requires reevaluating existing usage. Sometimes, after talking with the locksmith, the customer is introduced to alternatives that are more apropos to the application.
IN PURSUIT OF CONVENIENCE
What motivates the customer to request installation is convenience. There usually is some repetitive action requiring a key or action that costs the customer time or effort.
Medical offices need electric locks to separate public waiting rooms from service areas. Warehouses and parts stores require back doors where delivery services can ring and then be “buzzed” in.
Pizza stores that stay open after hours secure their front entries with electric locks. When patrons or returning delivery jockeys are at the front door, they can decide when to allow entry.
You can bet that when a customer approaches a locksmith in regards to electric lock installation, that customer has weighed cost to implement to get the convenience. What usually hasn’t been considered is how the installation will impact liability, impede life safety, or become a maintenance nightmare.
Fortunately there are solutions to address every concern. Sometimes these solutions cost more than the customer originally anticipated.
Problems occur when an electric strike is installed without considering the brand and model of lockset or exit device with which it is matched. It is common to see electric strikes that allow the dead latch button portion of a latch assembly to fall into the latch cavity of the strike. When this occurs, the latch can be “carded” or “loided.”
There have been cases in where employees, working alone, were accosted by criminals who made entry by “carding” or “loiding” the lockset. Companies have been held to be negligent by disregarding the employee’s safety under after hour conditions.
Electric locksets can be a problem in this regard. Locksmiths should always check with the manufacturer of the electric lockset they install to make sure that the lockset can’t be bumped open.
Electric locksets have been around since the sixties. Back then many electric locksets could be “slapped” open with the bottom of a shoe. The technique required applying a slight amount of turning pressure on the knob (there were no levers then) with one hand, and then slapping the lock with the bottom of your shoe (shoe in hand) quickly. This would bounce the internal solenoid and allow the lockset to be opened, without hurting the lock.
Back then, the makers of many electric locksets weren’t interested in fixing the flaw until levers became popular. Levers accentuated the problem as the lever made for the perfect built-in “tension bar.”
Today almost all electric locksets incorporate components that thwart this trick or they use internal motors rather than solenoids. In spite of vast improvements, locksmiths needs to check to make sure their favorite electric lockset can’t be “bumped” or “slapped” open.
Electric deadbolts can be a liability. Of course electric deadbolts need to be fail-safe, but always consider that any bolt can be held shut if pressure is first applied to the door before releasing. Where this usually is not a problem, imagine pressure being continually held against a door in the case of an emergency where persons congregate at a require exit.
Electric deadbolts are especially vulnerable during an earthquake. Where a deadbolt could normally work fine, during an earthquake the door could shift and lodge the deadbolt so that it can’t retract.
Electric deadbolts are also sensitive to weather as any build-up of the bolt could create a situation where the bolt seizes while in the door.
In Figure 03, the only entry into this old building was through this door. The door would not open as the bolt was seized-up inside the door. An emergency opening required removing the shunt switch and plate, left of the deadbolt, and then using car-opening tools to realign the bolt for retraction.
(A side-note to this is that this could have been dangerous as it was assumed that this was a low-voltage deadbolt. It wasn’t.)
Before delayed-action electric hardware is installed, check with the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) who is usually the local fire marshal or building inspector. These devices require their approval before implementation.
Liability can occur if these are installed without specific approval. There is a case in which persons needed to leave an area immediately and could not. Later when it was discovered the company installed these without specific approval, the company was successfully sued.
Limit personal liability by knowing the codes and regulations in your jurisdiction.
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