Decoding Security Entrances: Getting Familiar with Local Codes
Understanding safety issues helps end-users choose security solutions wisely
The popularity of security turnstiles and revolving doors has never been higher. The expanding deployment of these traditional security entrances has evolved with the times and the growing threats. Both turnstiles and doors are being integrated with advanced electronic access control, video surveillance and other intrusion sensors to provide enhanced security and cost-effective operational management options that help save on manned guard resources and offer real-time analytics.
However, revolving doors and turnstiles are subject to special code requirements that are different than codes for swinging or sliding doors to ensure the safety of building occupants if emergency evacuation is necessary.
According to the International Council (ICC), codes are a jurisdiction’s official statement on building safety. Codes are especially important for egress because they are a set of minimum standards to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the people. Codes address all aspects of building construction––fire, life safety, structural, plumbing, electrical and mechanical.
Rule standards are established by organizations such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the International Building Code (IBC), which are the primary entities that provide standards on the behavior of security entrances during an emergency. Supporting standards, compliance and test methods for emergency egress are set forth by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL’s, such as United Laboratories).
All of these organizations agree that security entrances, which provide a seamless access control solution in all types of buildings, are typically not intended to be the sole or only means of emergency egress from a facility. They can, however, play an active role if certain criteria are met and, in some cases, egress alternatives are in place. Let’s take a look…
Standards for Revolving Door Safety
The national standards for the comfort and safety of revolving doors are found in American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 156.27, American National Standard for Power and Manual Operated Revolving Pedestrian Doors.
This standard stipulates requirements for all types of revolving doors: manual, automatic and security revolving doors. The objective is to provide performance standards and provisions to reduce the chance of user injury and entrapment. For example, manual revolving doors cannot exceed 12 rotations per minute to ensure safe passage. Automatic revolving doors have differing speed maximums based on their diameter and type. They also require special signage and detection sensors to protect users from contact by slowing or stopping door rotation.
Security revolving doors are under a different class of automatic revolving door due to their specialized purpose: security and tailgating prevention. ANSI doesn’t require as many signs and sensors for security revolvers because they are intended for “trained traffic”, (i.e., people who are taught the procedure on how to present a credential and enter correctly) and not intended for public use.
To allow for emergency egress, the IBC says that all revolving doors must be able to collapse or book fold during an emergency; this is possible by unlocking the center shaft so that users can forcibly push the door wings open, creating a passageway inside the door to allow escape. Another egress requirement is that a separate, swinging, emergency egress door must be within 10 feet and on the same plane (wall) as a revolving door to provide additional egress. Revolving doors are also not allowed to be part of the primary means of egress if there is only one other exit in the building.
If a revolving door is being used, then at least two other means of egress need to be provided.
Turnstile Egress Considerations
Like revolving doors, turnstiles are also covered by strict safety standards to protect occupants during emergency evacuations. Turnstiles that do not exceed 39” in height (e.g., tripod or optical turnstiles) can be credited for partial egress capability (up to 50 persons) but may not be the sole means of egress. An exception to this are “Security Access Turnstiles" mentioned below.
Both tripod turnstiles and full height turnstiles can be set to freely rotate in an emergency to allow egress, but IBC and NFPA codes do not permit these types of turnstiles to be placed where they would obstruct any free flowing means of egress.
Optical turnstiles have a special category with the NFPA and IBC known as “security access turnstiles”, separating them from rotating turnstiles such as tripod and full height turnstiles when it comes to applying egress calculations. To begin with, they can be considered as part of the means of egress if the building is protected by an automatic sprinkler system and, in an emergency, they must automatically retract their barriers or swing them open in the direction of egress.
If they also have a clear passage width of 32” or more, this potentially qualifies for an egress capacity of greater than 50 persons per lane, which is why wider lanes are becoming very popular. Most codes also require other means of egress nearby, such as exit doors equipped with panic bars or similar hardware.
The Final Point
The bottom line for end-users is to make sure they have a Standard Operating Procedure established for the safe operation of any secured entrance in their facility, and that they consult with the manufacturer, the architect, and especially the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) regarding their building’s occupancy and entrance requirements to be sure that their operational, safety and security needs satisfy the requirements of local safety codes.