Forced Door Alarms For Access Control Tutorial

By: Brian Rhodes, Published on Apr 04, 2018

One of the most important access control alarms is also often ignored.

"Forced Door" provides a vital and even critical notification against security risks, but many users simply dismiss them as too minor for a response.

Why is this the case? How can the situation be corrected? We examine these key factors inside:

  • Why Forced Door Alarms Are Ignored As Nuisance
  • Ignoring Them Is A Bad Policy
  • False Alarm Root Causes
  • Common Preventions For False Forced Door Alarms
  • Forced Door Alarms Are Option, But Valuable For Security

Forced Door Is Common Nuisance Alarm

Despite the dramatic name, a 'forced door alarm' almost never means an external threat has pried open a door.

Instead, when a guard or security operator is dispatched to check out the alarm, often what is discovered is an otherwise locked and perfectly functioning door.

Coupled with its rather frequent occurrence, many quickly learn to dismiss the notification as 'noise' and choose to focus on more urgent and likely threats.

Simply Ignoring Is Bad Solution

However, ignoring these outright presents a huge problem. While the risk may be low, being promptly notified when someone forces open a door is a core value of EAC. Letting a system malfunction persist and dismissing it as a 'nuisance' is shortsighted and can result in disaster.

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The Root Causes Of False Forced Door Alarms

Despite the same alarm message appearing on different doors, the actual root cause can differ. Inspecting the door, lock hardware, and access devices for tampering is the first step; if nothing appears out of the ordinary, then observing user behavior through the door is next.

The most common sources are:

Hardware Maladjustment or Tampering

Due to simple mechanical wear or malicious tampering of latches and sensors, an EAC system may mistakenly send 'forced door' alarms. The first aspect to troubleshoot is checking that all locks (electric strikes/ drop bolts / maglocks) are free of tampering and are in proper alignment. Especially around doors commonly used for break areas (eg: smoke break lean-tos, cafeteria access) hardware tampering is a prime culprit. Taped down latch bolts, trash inserted into strike boxes, and copy paper stuck between armature and magnet can result in doors being closed but not secured.

RTE PIRs

Aside from tampering or wear, the RTE devices, specifically PIR sensors, are the biggest cause of forced door alarming. The timing of the sensor is often different than the delay periods programmed into the access system, and if the operation of the two elements is out of sync, alarms can result.

Mechanical Keys

When no mechanical issue is found, the root cause is often 'outside' the system via unauthorized use of mechanical keys to open doors. Users sometimes 'rebel' to gain entry and continue the habits of unlocking doors without using electronic credentials.

Other more specific causes may be present, such as malfunctioning or improperly configured sensors with the door controller or discrepancies in programming logic of the EAC system.

Common Solutions

Fortunately, correcting these issues is typically simple and inexpensive:

  • Hardware Misadjustment or Tampering: Locking hardware, particularly commercial grades, are durable and dependable devices. While periodic tightening of screws or position adjustments may be required, once done the lock is typically good for many more reliable cycles. In the case of tampering, simply cleaning up trash, tightening down sensors, or removing tape and other foreign objects from the opening is sufficient to get doors in order.
  • RTE PIRs: Adjusting PIR / EAC system interaction is more complex than adjusting hardware. In many cases, the time a sensor is active/contacts latched must agree with the timing in the panel, and some trial and error may be required to completely eliminate the problem. This may include replacing the PIR to be based on timed behavior or adjustable settings.
  • Mechanical Keys: Accounting for all issued mechanical keys is the crux of solving this issue. Many keying systems fall out of management well before an EAC system is installed, so revoking and restricting their use is a critical step. Breaking old habits are difficult, but training users on the proper use of credentials in lieu of keys is a necessary step.  Controlling access to mechanical keys with an EAC system via electronic lockbox is one method of dealing with this.

Not Required, But Useful

Many end-users choose to disable or do not use 'forced door' notifications altogether. Facilities that do not actively monitor system status, or only passively respond to events often just leave those features unconfigured. Since EAC system status alarms are only useful if actively dispatched against, the feature would be ignored regardless of accuracy.

However, for facilities interested in using EAC as a cross-functional intrusion alarm system, using properly configured 'Forced Door' alarms could potentially save hundreds of dollars in purchasing redundant intrusion alarm system components. Many EAC systems and Intrusion alarm systems can be integrated together, and if configured correctly, the alarms from the EAC system can greatly enhance the monitored visibility of an intrusion system.

[Note: This guide was originally written in 2013, but substantially updated in 2018.]

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