Stand Alone Access Control (Sargent)By Brian Rhodes, Published Apr 29, 2013, 08:00pm EDT
Classroom safety is a key concern, especially with fears of school shooting. Door hardware plays a key role in keeping doors locked at critical times. One of the oldest names in locks, Sargent, has introduced an offline, standalone access control lock that can be remotely secured during emergencies. In this note, we examine it, analyzing key strengths and weaknesses.
Understanding the available, code-approved 'functions' of door locks is central in seeing the value of Sargent's offering. These functions standardize the manner hardware operates. Classroom Locks are especially complex, due to requirements they must always allow escape from a room even if locked from the outside. Another distinguishing feature of the function is they must be locked by a key from the 'safe side' inside of the room, meaning only an authorised user (ie: teacher) can lockdown the door without exposing themselves or the room to outside threats.
The Sargent v.G1.5 [link no longer available] provides this function via a RF-style keyfob, meaning the teacher can remotely lock the door without being at the door. Instead of a mechanical key, this user has a unique credential that prevents tampering or accidental 'lockouts'.
The manufacturer's promotional video below demonstrates the operation of the 'classroom lockdown' feature:
Other notable attributes of the lockset are:
- Stand Alone: The unit integrates with both offline/online access control systems. Units with keypads, prox readers, and mechanical keys are offered.
- Power Options: The unit can be powered via onboard battery packs of 6 AA batteries, or has the option for hardwired power.
- Germ Resistant: The contact portions of the lock are coated in the SARguard [link no longer available] anti-microbal finish to inhibit the spread of communicable bacteria.
The locks are offered in a range of models costing between ~$850 to ~$1100. The RF 'lockdown' feature is not available in the lower priced 'standalone' lock only models, but is a feature of the access control enabled models (TU, TP, and TA models) averaging ~$975+.
Pricing increases with each additional 'input'. For example adding a keypad adds about $100 onto the base price, while adding a keypad and a prox reader adds almost $200.
Each 'lockdown' keyfob adds ~$75 to the purchase cost. Multiple fobs can be programmed into a lock, which allows for a single fob to control an entire group of locks during an emergency.
The unit offers real advantages in the target School/Daycare vertical market:
- Inexpensive: Compared to full-blown, hardwired, enterprise access control systems costing $2000 or more per door, the Sargent v.G1.5 costs roughly half as much, and installation can be performed in minutes into a range of door preps.
- Standalone: The unit is not 'hostbound', meaning it will operate in an autonomous fashion without being networked to a central controller. This architecture is ideal for retrofit applications and remote locations.
- Remote Controlled: The lock functions can be actuated by the fob up to 75 feet away, meaning that a teacher or school administrator can control the security of the door from where they stand, not requiring them to go to the door to lock it
However, the locks have several weaknesses / vulnerabilities:
- RF Fob: While wireless command of the lock is convenient, it relies on a battery powered, expensive fob to issue commands. Unlike networked 'lockdown' systems that can be executed from any computer client, you must possess the fobs in order to remotely cycle the 'classroom' function. At ~$75 per fob, cash-strapped schools are not likely to purchase and maintain large quantities of them.
- One Door at a Time: Also, unlike a networked 'lockdown' command that simultaneously locks all doors at once, the v.G1.5 must be individually programmed, meaning that there is a risk of doors remaining unsecured during emergencies.
- Batteries: Likewise, while the 'standalone' operation is an advantage, the consumption of AA batteries is a downside. While the spec sheets claim 'up to 90,000 cycles per set of batteries', this claim fails to take the abnormal use/abuse of a classroom into account. Batteries may sit unused for long summer periods, shortening their service life, and the cost of replacing 6 AA batteries in even a small number of 20 or 30 doors can creep into thousands of dollars.
Compared to hardwired enterprise access control, this Sargent product is about half the typical cost. However, there are sharp differences in manageability and central administration between these locks and enterprise EAC. In general, the Sargent product will be deployed as a 'solo' solution and is best compared to other 'standalone' lock offerings. When contrasted with Schlage's AD series of lock sets, build specifications, available lock functions, finish options, and pricing is almost equal between the two, however neither the Schlage AD nor other standalone locks feature Sargent's remote 'lockdown' function.
Likewise, the 'classroom lock' function can be achieved through mechanical-only product for less than $300. Like the v.G1.5, these leversets can be retrofit to existing doors with no additional prep and can match existing keying systems. However, aside from the remote lockdown feature, the Sargent lock allows multiple credentials aside from keys. The proxcard and keypad readers options permit multiple credentials to be used, and the lock's configuration allows a schedule to limit access at certain times.
In contrast to a mechanical key-only lock, the added 'access control' features of the Sargent allow for much tighter security administration of school facilities. The ~$1000 pricetag of the Sargent v.G1.5 adds scheduled, hierarchy based access control to a door where the sub $300 mechanical only solution cannot.
As a result of recent school and other campus tragedies, many entities are weighing access control options and looking for answers in how best to tighten up facility security. Large school districts and universities are reviewing a vast array of options to shore up glaring vulnerabilities, from premium enterprise access control systems to inexpensive mechanical door locks.
Sargent's offering is a compelling mid-tier option for these facilities, with a mix of features placing it a step above mechanical-only options but with a price tag well beneath enterprise access control. The Sargent lock enhances classroom security without requiring the the capital budget for enterprise access control.
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