Tech-Challenge #2: Why Did The Door Mysteriously Open For The Crackhead?

Like Luke Maslin and nearly everyone else here, I get those 911 calls from customers. Since I prevailed in the last challenge, I will post the next one. This was yesterday so it is fresh off the presses. (I would post video, but I don't have permission, and it really is not relevant). This is a card access control problem; not video, but still a good one that I am sure the technicians at heart will enjoy.

The scene is a large operations center that is staffed 24 X 7. Exterior doors locked, no schedules. Enterprise level system (Pro-Watch 4.1); we program initial up fits and additions, the customer maintains the data and performs routine additions and deletions, unlocks doors for extended periods etc. Several panels in this building, multiple doors. The main entrance is double glass doors that both open out. Simple maglocks are installed at the header of each door. The I-Class prox reader is on the door jamb, next to the handicap operator. The building has a backup generator and dedicated load power outlets. In place is a PW6K1IC controller, 4 -PW6K1R2 dual reader boards, PW6K2E2PS controller power supply for the boards and readers (batteries included), 1-AL1012ULM Altronix power supply with fire alarm interface installed. There is an Optex PIR for exit, along with a manual over-ride button on the inside. No one else could be seen anywhere in the video.

The system has worked flawlessly for 2 years. Yesterday morning, a local crack-head walks up to the doors, pulls on it and comes right on in. He has a seat and promptly goes to sleep. When the PD arrive, they wake him up and he was nice enough, but honestly does not even know where he was much less how he got in (he has no card, and on the video I could see that he did not touch the reader, did not go near the handicap access button, and while he may have been large enough, did not muscle the doors open. He literally walked up, pulled on the door and walked in). There are other doors on this panel and they all continued to function properly. It was 6:15 am, so I am thinking no one is even in that has the authority to make changes.

When the customer arrived on the scene he used his card and the system performed flawlessly 5 or 6 times. He was clueless. Called me, emailed me the video clip and sent off red flares. 30 minutes later the door did it again, the went back to performing flawlessly.

Our area tech was scheduled to be on-scene anyway, so he made that his first priority.

What was the issue?

PS. I don't check in as often as Luke, so you may have to wait a while for any answers to questions, and it is Friday, Memorial Day. Enjoy your days off.

Inside PIR sensor triggered by early AM glare or other reflection, allowing entrance.

I'll go with 'A' here too. Something is wonky with the RTE, likely the PIR.

well, this used to routinely happen from homeless peeing in the mail slot and activating the RQE device, but I'll assume that isn't the case here. Is the RQE wired to the panel or just through the local lock power? What's in the activity log for the door?

If I were homeless and I discovered my urine could defeat a high-tech access system, I'd feel invincible.

Yes. Apparently some manufacturers are producing products with inadequate 'IP' protection.

Putting this to the test would probably make an interesting IPVM 'shootout' were it not for the fact that the inevitable finger pointing would turn it in to just another pissing contest.

He looks like he knows something we don't. Nice picture Matt. I am sure you remember mine. He wore the bunny ears at Easter.

I have seen the urine thing before with video, but that is another story. Yes, the lock power is wired directly through the RQE, the activity log for the door showed only valid reads. We do not monitor door opens since it is occupied 24 x 7, and there is no door prop.

I'd check the door closer first and see if it was pulling the door in properly. Also I've seen airconditioning positive building pressure hold a door open against a well functioning door closer.

The crackhead is, in fact.. MacGyver

The problem should be with your Motion Rex, and either someone from HR or Marketing decided to hang something that is blowing around in the morning HVAC air or the sun is creating glare, something tripped that door open.

Just one question, why aren't you monitoring door forced opens on your exterior public facing doors? if you have a monitoring staff there 24/7 playing solitair at all hours of the night, these guys need a little audio/flashing alert to keep them occupied.

or you have a programming issue that is firing that output when another door is opened.

That is the first thing I checked for in the video - moving objects. None. Zero.

I like your thinking though. It expresses confidence in the equipment and the installation.

They do use door forced at most sites but here there is a guard 24 x 7.

If you have ruled out end user intervention, and if the Rex isn't to blame, then i would suggest possibly a stuck relay in the panel, or in the power supply, or inside your override. Which I have had cause similar intermittent problems like this, and you probably tapped on the relay and caused it to relock.

You know "30 minutes" would seem to be a scheduled event. But the log should reflect that too but likely in a different location.

The system has worked flawlessly for 2 years.

By this you mean that there have been no other reported malfunctions, I assume.

Can you be sure it was never errantly unlocked before, even if no one attempted to open it?

Have you explicitly dismissed the glare or shadow cast theories?


There have been no other reported issues, and trust me, I would have heard about it.

No I cannot be sure if the door unlock or relocked and no one noticed.

As to your 3rd question, yes, you can dismiss it in this particular case.

I've seen PIRs triggered by air flow of significant temperature differentials as well - a current that's substantially warmer or cooler than the ambient air. If the HVAC had recently kicked on, in either heating or cooling function, and there's a vent near the PIR... maybe that's doing it. If the RQE is simply interrupting strike power without signalling the panel, the door could be unlocked regularly with nothing to indicate it to the system.

David Johnson suggests excessive positive HVAC pressure holding the door slightly ajar - I've seen this as well, leading a temporary fix of removing some weather strip long the door edges until an HVAC guy could deal with it. Counter to this, poor or missing weather stripping on that door could be allowing a gust from outside to pass in front of the PIR...

I should not do this in the spirit of the challenge, but PIR tripping by any source can be ruled out.

I have seen the positive air flow issue as well, but it is not the case here.

As an interesting side note, this same customer built a 13 story building with a stairwell in the center than ran basement to penthouse. At the last moment, the locks were assigned to a different vendor by the GC, not us. I probably frowned, but did not complain.

The airflow in the stairwell was so far out of spec the building failed it's inspection (the fire doors in the stairwell would not close) and delayed opening by several months. Along with a few other similar sized issues, the owner wound up suing the GC and Arch for over 60 million. In retrospect, foregoing the profit on the door locks seems like a small price to pay to be clear on this fallout.

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend and remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Don't forget to tip generously.

Time of day, Lights on, Ramping up of enviornment for day.

Check Connections to see if loose or nicked wiring.Locks, Pir, Power supplies, Verify Programming

As things energize they tend to spike power supplies ,

You need to have someone check out the system for the time mentioned each morning to see if it is a regular accurance and no one seen this untill now. about 3-5 days have management veriy each morning at 2 different times .

Hi Mark, I'd love to take part in your tech-challenge but I'm not an access control guy. However I'm enjoying watching from the sidelines. Thanks for posting this most intriguing challenge. I look forward to learning the answer.

Totally cool Luke. Enjoy your weekend.

I just worked it out! There was a crack in the door ;-)

I think the answer is pretty simple and agree with this solution above. If there was no power failure then the door simply didn't close all the way and bond with the magnet. The door closer may need adjustment to positively close the door. Install a mag with a magnetic bond sensor so you will know if it is bonded and locked without a doubt.

Was the mag lock properly wired according to Honeywell recommendations? ... Ala S4 surge suppressors at the lock and at the panel. After 2 years, the relay contacts on the reader board may be pitted causing intermittant operation; Sometimes closing properly, not making contact the next time.

Thought 2 would be the armature. Is the bonding plate on the door loose or too tight? This would cause the plate not to align properly all the time.

Good thoughts Chuck. We inherited the building and door lock install. When we checked the door we actually did find a problem with the armature mounting, but that was not the cause of the problem. The previous company did not use the spacers, nor did they use the pins to hold the armature. Pretty sloppy really. We did use surge surpressors, board showed no signs of pitting.

I do my fair share of buildings where the crackhead factor comes in to play. We have a dispraportionate number of doors that lose their alignment and fail to fully close. This is due to to years of abuse to the door (or sometimes only months depending on the veracity of the crackheads). Since it has operated well for two years, I would tend to expect this type of wear and tear problem first (wear and tear tends to affect the mechanical compenents long before the electronics). Your customers reaction gives me pause though. Most of the time we see this it is pretty evident there is something "wrong" with the way the door closes, even to our customer.

My second thought would be power supply. Usually, those do not tend to cause intermittent problems, but the AL1012ULM is PTC protected. Maybe that circuit is intermittenly tripping the thermal protection and then auto resetting.

Controller board crashing and dropping relay while it reboots?

I would like to thank everyone who participated in the edition of Tech-Challenge. Even though it was not a video problem, an awful lot of us work with many different kinds of systems routinely. Because it was access control, I did narrow the field a bit with my description. Trust me the brief video clip would have been no help to you. Just a guy walking up and opening a door without any creds.

The winner is - James Talmage. Those that listed door closer were very close. The closer would not close the door because the door had indeed fallen out of alignment. When the technician took a picture of the outside of the door, the gap around the door was more significant on the top left edge than on the right top edge. The door was "leaning" in and down, dragging on the threshold. So it would not completely close every time. It was hit and miss. Mind you the customer had already been to the door, opening and closing it several times. He did not notice it either.

Convinced there was an equipment issue, he called us. I wonder how many out there understand what I mean when I say you "marry" that building, particularly with access control. It has been my experience that more often than not, when a door issue crops up, the access company is the first call regardless. I am sure IP video companies inherit network issues in much the same way.

Congratulations to Mr. Talmage. It would appear that both your knowledge and experience carried you over the goal on this one. Several of you centered your solutions on the door hardware which impresses me. You have confidence that your equipment is performing as it should be. Outside forces often cause us all headaches.

We were very fortunate to have a technician at the building only minutes away by foot.

I hope everyone had a great holiday. Lets all have a great week!!

Congratulations to Mr. Talmage.

Batting cleanup J.T. knocks it out. Thanks for giving everyone else a chance. I would also like to thank myself for showing restraint by not randomly guessing 'MOV diode' as was my first impulse.

thanks mark!