Mitigating Protests, Smart Mobs and Crime with Revolving Doors

An old invention, the manual revolving door, has a new spin on making public entrances more secure.

Mitigating Protests, Smart Mobs and Crime with Revolving Doors

Revolving doors can mitigate threats in public establishments like commercial buildings, libraries and dorms.

Recently, a well-known financial company in the Midwest experienced something unexpected: their downtown, highrise location was the target of a protest due to their financing of a controversial initiative.

A large crowd gathered outside on the street and then pushed inside the building and took over the interior lobby. The protesters disrupted the retail banking business at the lobby level and attempted to block employees from going up the escalator to work on the upper floors.

It lasted hours and disrupted business, which was stressful for employees. The C-suite experienced a huge headache as the news cycled the story for several days. Luckily, no one was hurt.

The incident prompted their security manager to take a closer look at the manual revolving doors that the crowd had pushed through. Fortunately for him, there are new technologies today that can address physical security — even on plain old manual revolving doors used as public entrances.

When crimes happen, there often is a common weakness: the exterior door, which often is a public entrance during the day. If front desk personnel happen to notice any trouble brewing outside (distress, fights, weapons, protests, etc.), they need a quick and effective way to stop it from coming inside and harming others. The same entrance should also restrict access at night to prevent anyone from simply coming in.

Typically, architects specify manual revolving doors for new construction because they save space and energy and elevate 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, even during heavy use (when swinging or sliding doors would stay open).

So, can manual revolving doors mitigate violence and crime too? Yes. Today, they are being deployed in buildings where public use is needed during the day but controlled access is required in the evening.

Examples are banks, museums, commercial buildings, condominiums, libraries, dorms, recreational centers and more. By using electricity and integrating with other solutions, like access control systems, manual revolving doors can potentially save lives or buy time to get security staff or law enforcement to deal with a dangerous situation.

Manual Revolving Doors Can Have 3 Security Features

The following security features can be bundled into manual revolving doors:

  1. Emergency Lockdown – In the event of an immediate security threat outside the entrance (weapons, protests, drunk and disorderly conduct, etc.), facility or reception staff can electrically lock the door wings immediately, regardless of position, at the push of a remotely located button, keeping danger from gaining access through the front doors.
  2. Remote Locking – In the old days, you had to walk up to a door and push a pin manually into the floor to lock the 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 allows them to exit, 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.
  3. Access Control Integration – Secure after-hours 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.

Taking all three of these features into consideration, consider a residence hall or library: students, guests or the public can enter during the day (reception or guard staff can process guests). At 9 p.m., the door locks and only students have access and must present their credentials to enter. Day or night, if anything threatening occurs outside, inside staff (often these are lightly trained students trying to earn some extra cash) can immediately lock the doors to keep trouble out and call for help.

Be Sure to Consider These Factors

There are a couple of things to take into consideration prior to deployment of manual revolving doors to ensure success.

Physical Security Needs Layers

Standard revolving doors are designed as public access entrances and are not equipped to detect or prevent tailgating (an unauthorized person following an authorized person through an entrance). They should not be confused with a security revolving door, which is intended for trained traffic at employee-only entrances, not the public.

With this in mind, consider that with access control integration, a manual revolving door will unlock when presented with an authorized credential, but will continue to rotate as long as anyone is inside the door to prevent entrapment. It is therefore possible for multiple users to enter on a single authorization, so manual revolving doors should be the first of several layers of physical security within a building (additional turnstiles inside, staff, cameras, locks on private doors, etc.).

Code Requirements

Today, code requirements for revolving doors are defined by a number of different agencies — ANSI, IBC, NFPA. All require that a revolving door’s wings be able to collapse or “book fold” to create a path of escape during a fire, and a swinging or sliding door must be present within 10 feet of any revolving door on the same building plane. How do you make sure this additional door isn’t the weak point in your attempt to keep crime and violence outside? The extra sliding or swinging door can be “exit only,” that is, locked to those trying to enter from outside the building, but unlocked to those trying to exit from inside the building.

While incidents pile up in the news, security professionals have to consider all the options available today. Manual revolving doors are likely the last thing a security professional would think of, but when it comes to existing buildings with revolving doors or even potential new buildings, they are worth a second look, especially when taking into account a complete physical security plan. That plan can begin right at the public entrance because today what’s old is new again!


Glen Tracy is the business development manager for Boon Edam Inc.

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