Secured entrances present an access control challenge

Jan. 30, 2019
Finding the balance between security and safety, along with throughput rates offer unique management planning issues

Security entrances have long demonstrated their value in helping keep unwanted individuals from entering facilities while facilitating access control. Not only can they provide robust risk mitigation as part of an overall security plan, but they can also prevent or eliminate tailgating.

When choosing to install security entrances such as turnstiles or security revolving doors, it is important to give special consideration to safety. All automatic entrance types have barriers that move: they swing, rotate, slide or drop. When people pass through moving barriers, there is a chance of contact and potential injury.

Looking beyond safety, you must also properly balance the other key factors of security and throughput in order to provide the optimal functionality and experience for users. You want to find your “sweet spot” where you’ve addressed all three to the best degree possible.  

In order to make that determination, you will need to take a closer look at each goal, and at some of the ways, you can balance priorities when you have more than one key objective.


For facilities, buildings or areas that require the highest level of security, intrusion prevention is of greatest priority. Examples of this include data centers, vital records storage buildings, or any facility that requires compliance with government regulations. To prevent unauthorized access and potentially millions of dollars in fines, damages, and liability, you’ll want a security entrance that prevents tailgating and unauthorized entry attempts and sounds an alarm if any such attempt is detected. The security entrance should be calibrated to stay closed when at rest and the barriers of optical turnstiles should be set to close quickly after each authorized individual passes through.

When security is the highest priority, you will likely place a higher priority on protecting the secure area vs. avoiding accidental contact with barriers. Therefore, the more secure the entrance is, the more training is required to help personnel use the doors properly and safely. Training is always crucial, and especially in the case where a turnstile or door is configured to the highest security levels.

Also note that the more secure the entrance is, the more likely it is that you will use highly encrypted card reader technology and/or biometric technology. This results in a fractionally greater lag between the card being presented and the door opening – another important reason for training personnel so that their expectations are in line with the way the entrance will function.

If you want high security but also want to increase the safety level to accommodate some level of human error, consider calibrating the entrance to operate at a slightly slower speed so that it moves more predictably. This adjustment will limit your throughput, and could negatively impact the user experience, depending on your situation. The best practice here would be to test a range of different settings to see what works best for the specifics of your installation.

Another option for high-security locations is to rely on a nearby or remote guard (with camera visibility) to respond to each user: the user presents their credentials and the guard subsequently unlocks the entrance. It is important to position security officers behind and not in front of entrances, better enabling them to stop and screen anyone who may tailgate.


For facilities that do not require the highest level of security, user safety may be your highest priority while maintaining enough security. As mentioned above, training helps personnel use entrances more safely, but in some cases, this is not practical. For example, there are organizations with a high turnover of users interacting with security entrances. Some great examples of these include universities, large call centers or distribution centers. In those situations, you cannot depend on 100 percent of personnel having been properly trained or becoming accustomed to the operation of the security entrances.

Organizations can take actions to help minimize any problems. For example, an organization can place visual instructions in clear view of all users to assist in proper usage. We also strongly recommend that you place the card reader with ease of the user experience in mind – it should be clearly visible and ideally, placed where it can be used easily in advance of the entrance opening (don’t put it too far away or it’s possible a different person could enter in front of the user). This way it is more likely to be used correctly and allows enough time for the credential to be processed and the entrance to open or unlock as needed.

To that end, the entrance should also be configured to allow generous time for each individual to pass through. This is where the balance point must be found with security and throughput – because increasing the time also increases the potential for tailgating or piggybacking. In addition, a longer entrance cycle can cause users to form a waiting line during busy periods. As always, security personnel or staff stationed nearby on the secure side can respond to tailgating or piggybacking alarms if a non-authorized person has entered.


When dozens, hundreds or thousands of people need to pass into a secure area a virtually the same time, throughput becomes the driving factor. This can easily be the case at the beginning of a shift at a large manufacturing facility, construction site, and public locations such as transit stations or stadiums. Employees may be eager to get their credentials read and “clock in” for their shifts on time and earn their hourly wages. Commuters and travelers may be eager to board their train or plane on time. In all of these cases, both Throughput and Security are top priorities.

For organizations with employees, training can be a challenge if the turnover rate for personnel is high, or if there are a high number of visitors. In these cases, security entrances will need to provide the highest levels of speed and safety even for those people who have never used them before. This way, you’ll avoid one person having a problem and causing a crowd to pile up behind them.

Considering throughput against safety and security, if you require high throughput it might make sense to consider manually operated waist high turnstiles or full height turnstiles, as they are controlled directly by each user. This makes a lot of sense in high throughput, abusive environments with high turnover where training is difficult.

Increasing Safety in all Deployments

Whether you choose to use automatic turnstiles, security revolving doors or the simpler, manual turnstiles, you can increase the safety and security level by adding alarms, security officers or other technologies, like cameras. Additionally, many of today’s security entrances come equipped with advanced sensor technology that is placed strategically to prevent contact.

With careful analysis of your needs, you can find the best balance between Safety, Security and Throughput for your situation. While they are all important, each deployment is unique and there are specific products and settings that work best to optimize every situation. Above all, whenever possible, training personnel on correct usage of the security entrances can help minimize mistakes that could cause any issues – enabling you to support all three of these important factors.

About the author: Mark Perkins is a VP of Enterprise Security Accounts at Boon Edam.