Unlocking EM Locks (From Un-Secure Side)

Our Scenario:

  • Access panels are installed in secure side (its a single door controller)
  • Doors are fitted with EM locks
  • From secured side we have break glass to escape the during emergency/controller failure


  • How to open the door (from unsecured side) during no response/malfunctioning from controller/controller?

Did anyone faced like this issue? any solution other than keeping a key-override at secure side???

Its really simple if you are using most any brand of Electronic Mag-locks. Go down to your local hardware store and pick up a pair of Vice-Grips. You can 'pinch' the Sex bolt holding the armature in place and unscrew it.

If you use the 'weld' Loctite you will have issues. We use the next one down that holds well but will let you remove with tools. There will be naysayers of course, but I have actually done this.

WA - La door opens.

I'm confused.

Are you saying that you have installed mag-locks where anyone could unscrew the bolt from the outside with vice grips?

It is 'generally' that easy YES. This is why you should integrate your system with a monitoring entity of some sort through the access control system or possibly have the system backed up with a second door contact attached to a reliable electronic security system that will report to the proper authority when a door has been breached with out a 'card read' or otherwise.

Every installation has a different set of circumstances. There are other ways such as:

  • Allowing yourself a means to remote into the system via internet?
  • Hook up some sort of wireless receiver and button in series with the lock
  • Kill the electricity and wait for the battery to die

Most do not like to admit this but it is what it is.

I have to say if I read this correctly, this is wrong on several levels. I don't know where you are, but you should never install or tolerate the installation of EM locks in a manner that users have to break the glass to get out. This violates the Life Safety Code 101 in its entirety not to mention common sense. You should install a mechanical means of egress (usually a big green button) adjacent to the door that is tied directly to lock power. Pushing the button interrupts the power if the controller fails. You absolutely must provide a means for escape.

With the other poster, if you have an EM lock that can be removed that easily from the outside, that is another total failure on someone's part.

Second, you should seriously consider replacing or repairing that controller. It is either bad or is a POS.

Lastly, we use a WEB Relay tied to lock power as a backup. Never had to use it, but we test it annually and it works like a snap. We can open the door with any mobile device that has the app or a desktop, from hundreds of mile away. Only two people have access to it. As long as you have internet access at the facility, it works.

This violates the Life Safety Code 101 in its entirety not to mention common sense...

Even if you can break the glass with one hand in an outwardly directed movement?

Just kidding. ;)

But technically, he didn't say they were egress doors, though I admit it sounds like they may be...

Like I said "Most do not like to admit this but it is what it is"

Judging by the sound of and the manner of this install my guess is you don't have a backup battery for the Maglock. the easiest and least destructive solution is to turn off the power source to the lock.

Second easiest is to drill the sex-bolt or better off if you have a grinder just cut off the head of it. if you do it carefully enough you will not damage anything other than the bolt itself.

...the easiest and least destructive solution is to turn off the power source to the lock.

What's the easiest way to do that from the outside?

Sounds like a "low bidder installation"

Proper installation of the correct equipment would correct the problem.

1. Install a Rex sensor with two relays. One to send a signal to the panel Rex input, and one to break the power to the mag lock in case of panel failure.

2. For redundancy, Install a pneumatic push button to break power to the mag lock.

1. EM/Maglocks should not be used in any application where breaking glass or the door is requisite of egress. In blunt terms; this is not secure, it is a deathtrap.

Use Request to Exit devices on the inside/secured side.

2. OKC - or 'Outside Key Control' switches are often used to interrupt power to the maglocks from the outside. It essentially is a power switch that is keyed with a typical mechanical key that can be turned to manually cut power if the inside controller is unresponsive:


only problem with your OKC is that it is now the weakest point in this installation. I can pick this lock, unscrew it from the wall, or just rip the cylinder out with pliers and open the door.

Similar problem exist with self contained readers and keypads where there is no controller in the secured side

The door should typically be otherwise sensored or alarmed to indicate an opening without credential (forced door) has been made.

When installed right, defeating a key switch is not a quick job. So you're right, it is a risk. But the practicality of that risk is small.

Key switches are not new and have been used to control barriers like overhead doors and rolling grilles (in addition to interrupting lock power) for years. I am not familiar with anyone who avoids using them (even on backdoor of retail stores hypersensitive to risk) because they are too vulnerable.

Actually all you have to do is determine if the egress is motion based (glass door helps to see this) and stick something between the doors and wave it back and forth. I have done this with a large desk calendar. FYI I did NOT install this door and would have created a more secure situation. I have had better, but not perfect, success with floor mats. This isn't the emergency procedure intended but I thought I'd throw it out there anyway.

An audible "scream cover" over a button is typical for releasing a maglock in an emergency. It's loud enough to be intimidating to people who forgot their ID and works to alert others its being used.