Security or Safety

Security or safety? It’s like the chicken or the egg, which came first?

When I was a new in this industry, as a fire inspector, the use of keyed locks or dead bolts were common. It took time and hard work to educate business and property owners about the value of a safe means of egress. We can all list tragedies where inadequate non-compliant means of egress was the cause.

Now we face numerous new security issues from international terrorism to industrial espionage and/or employee dishonesty. No individual involved with these issues should have access to buildings. The question is, which scenario should take precedence over the other? In today’s technologically advanced world, they are all equally important. I don’t think one should take precedence. Safety and security can be achieved with thought and in some cases new technology.

When starting a project the first thing to do is list safety and security measures to accomplish.

Let’s deal with a hypothetical issue. A building owner wants to limit access through rear exit doors. A guard station used to check credentials to allow entry protects the main entrance. The rear exits are locked from the outside, so there can be no entry through the rear doors and the code has no specific requirements for rear exits to be locked from the outside, assuming the rear doors are not required for handicapped or fire department access.

Next the building owner wants to limit egress through rear doors. The code specifically indicates all egress doors shall open from the inside without a key. There is a section for delayed egress locks. In certain groups, this allows the use of specialized hardware. This specialized hardware enables the egress doors to be locked but still allows for egress. The doors unlock if an alarm is activated or power fails. If an occupant attempts to open the door when no alarm is activated, the door will automatically open after a certain period (15 to 30 seconds).

There is no code requirement, which would not allow a security alarm to activate when a door is opened or attempted to be opened from the inside.

The area would also require signage and emergency lights.
In this situation, we have complied with both safety and security objectives. So when considering which comes first, the chicken or egg, we only have to worry about: scrambled or fried.