Steve Wintle, head of CNI of Abloy UK discusses the challenges airport facilities managers face when specifying physical security solutions that are both secure, compliant and offer safe and easy access and egress.
When it comes to access control, there is no greater responsibility than specifying the correct locking function especially on emergency escape and fire doors. Fitting the correct solution can mean the difference between life and death for the occupants of a building.
Controlling access and egress in airport buildings comes with an additional set of unique challenges. Buildings are vast with a constant flow of people entering and exiting, and there are a number of areas within an airport that must reamin secure at all times even in the event of a fire such as datacentres and head offices.
For example, if a fire started in a communications or terminal building, this could have massive disruption and business continuity issues, but equally you may want to segment an area providing escape without reducing the security. In comparison, a fuel store fire would have an instant and dangerous impact, but if contained quickly would only have a short-term effect.
However, a fire in any location can pose a serious risk to the lives of people in the building. With this in mind, what considerations need to be made when designing controlled access solutions for airports?
Airport fire doors
Fire doors are used across the whole of an airport estate, including airside and landside locations. In the event of an emergency such as a fire, there needs to be a clearly identifiable and reliable exit route that allows for quick and easy escape, so ensuring the correct locking solutions are installed at these access points is crucial.
The vast majority of access control doors are secured using magnets which constantly draw power to secure the door in order to keep them closed.
But there are significant security and safety advantages to be gained by opting for an electric locking system – such as a motorised or solenoid lock.
This is because there can be fire risks associated with installing a magnet on a door which is used as a fire escape, as they require special arrangements to guarantee they are fail-safe at all times in the event of an emergency.
For example, all door magnets require power to be removed via an alarm or ‘request to exit’ button to allow someone to exit, so there could be delays for people needing swift egress in an emergency situation. In the event of a power failure doors held closed by magnets are no longer secure!
Electric locks are much more energy efficient solution when compared with magnetic locks – 13 door magnets use around the same amount of electricity as a kettle being constantly boiled all day. In comparison, electric locks will only require around 10-20 per cent of this amount of energy to operate for the same amount of time. (where has this statistic come from?)
There are also a number of building regulation standards in place that relate to access control used on escape routes in any building occupied by staff or general public. It’s essential therefore that these are adhered to, in order to ensure safety and still maintain security.
These include BSEN179 Emergency Escape (for when the building occupants are aware of the building environment), BSEN1125 Panic Escape (for environments used by the general public) and the new standard BSEN13637 Electronically Controlled Escape Systems (for use on escape routes).
These standards state that even if a door is electronically controlled for access there must be a compliant mechanical means of escape in an emergency.
In the case of fire doors this is essential to provide fire protection, to compartmentalise a building and to protect the escape routes. This is also a critical function in a terror situation – offering the ability to lockdown certain areas to terrorists but still allow egress to ensure the safety of staff and the public.
Abloy UK offers a selection of compliant security locking solutions that are ideal for use on access controlled panic and escaperoutes. The market-leading Abloy range of electric locks includes motor and solenoid locks, which are the most effective forms of electric locking, and also ensure compliance to the mandatory fire and escape standards.
Solenoid locks, like the Abloy EL560, work by controlling the external handle and are suitable for internal or external doors of any public buildings, offices, schools or hospitals.
Motorised locks, like the Abloy EL520, work by drawing the bolt back once a proximity card or token is presented. Both locks automatically secure a deadbolt upon closing, and can be used on escape routes as appropriate to the environment and application.
It’s important to remember the users and staff in airports are no different from other users from other sectors. They are human, and therefore will try and take short cuts which could mean propping a door open with the most popular door stop a fire extinguisher.
Whilst training staff to ensure their individual competencies are maintained and follow operational processes and procedures, without automation and technology, the human element will always try and overcome the correct processes and procedures.
Knowledge is power
Compliance is a vast subject and keeping up to date with ever evolving standards should be an integral part of airport facilities management.
Knowledge, education and training is key to everything. Airport operators’ estate managers, security managers, asset and operations managers might have basic knowledge and should engage with experts who can advise on the correct compliant solution.
As we have seen in recent attacks around the world, balancing security with means of escape and fire protection is becoming more challenging and complicated. This is why Abloy run the Academy training to cater for all aspects of fire and security compliance.
Ensuring compliance means people will feel safe knowing they will be able to escape from an airport through emergency doors as required, and that the fire doors will function as they were designed – which in all circumstances should save their life.