What Happens When An Access Control System Loses Power?

Jay360 can help. We have a team of highly experienced access control technicians with skills to troubleshoot most access control system issues. We also do fresh installations and upgrades. Contact us for more information on our services.

Access control systems use electronic devices that need power to operate smoothly and without interruptions. If power is lost in your building and you do not have a backup, you will lose use of your access control system.

To avoid reverting to manual access control because your access control system has lost power and therefore inoperable, it is essential to have a good power backup system. Many organizations use rechargeable batteries, generators, and uninterrupted power supply (UPS) systems.

Which components of your access control system is most affected by loss of power?

Unless you use seperate power supplies, the loss of power essentially cripples your whole access control system.

Even if you use more than one power supply, if the system’s controller loses power, the whole system becomes inoperable. The controller needs power to receive authentication requests from credential readers and to communicate back.

Again if the system server, where all user data and permissions are stored, is local, loss of power would also paralyze the access control system. However, most modern systems are now hosted in the cloud and only need internet connection to access.

Why it’s critical that electric locks don’t lose power

It needs no mention that where you have multiple power supplies, your card readers and electric locks must have power for the system to be of any use.

It does not help that the controller has power while the locks and readers are not powered. It is only the doors where both the lock and the reader have power that will work as intended.

Having said that, we need to discuss the two different types of electric locks and how loss of power affects their operation:

Fail-safe locks suit emergency exits

Depending on the type of electric locks you use with your system, the locks may default to a locked or unlocked position. With fail-safe locks, the lock remains active, and the door locked, as long as there is power.

Unlocking the door switches off power, releasing the lock. So if the power goes out, the door automatically unlocks. This type of lock is more suitable for emergency exits as it ensures people don’t get locked in during a fire or other emergency. These locking systems prioritize safety over security.

Fail-secure locks are designed to secure assets

Fail-secure locks are the opposite of fail-safe locks. These locks remain in lock mode as long as they are not powered. They unlock only when the power is turned on. It is the unlock command that switches on power and opens the door.

With fail-secure locks, in the event that you lose power, your doors remain locked by default. This protects your assets as intruders will not take advantage of the loss of power to get in without without authorization.

Fail-secure locks, therefore, will be suitable for high security parts of your building, like your server rooms and HAZMAT storage areas. An unwanted consequence is that you will not be able to access that part of your building without backup power. Unless, of course, you bypass the access control system.

What causes loss of power?

Power outages disrupt work, which has implications on productivity. More critically, they can shut down your access control and security surveillance systems. Needless to say, you need to find out what is causing power outages so you may devise a solution and avoid a recurrence.

Security guards can be corrupted or, if you get a lot of visitors, overwhelmed and not be as thorough with subject authentication.

What to choose between centralized and door-by-door power supply

Depending on your building and access control priorities, you have the two options of centralized and door-by-door power supply. A door-by-door power supply suits a large building where wiring the access control system’s power supply may be a challenge.

Powering doors individually also prevents failure of the entire system in instances there is a localized power outage. It also makes troubleshooting easy.

If you choose fused circuits or door-by-door power supply, it is possible to have back-up power for the controller and selected doors only so these would continue to work for a while after power goes out.

On the other hand, if you have concerns that intruders may tamper with individually powered doors, a centralized power supply is best. After all, an access control system must boost security, not weaken it.

Are you having trouble with constant outages and downtime on your access control system?

Jay360 can help. We have a team of highly experienced access control technicians with skills to troubleshoot most access control system issues. We also do fresh installations and upgrades. Contact us for more information on our services.
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