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Life Safety, Security, and Operational Conflicts in Houses of Worship
By: Trice Kastein

When asked to think about houses of worship, we don't often think about the physical building(s) or what role security should play. The buildings and systems we interact with every day are designed to limit exposure to the risk of fire, bodily harm, and other threats. 

Many take for granted the safety features offered by these systems. Established fire and life safety codes ensure buildings are designed so we can quickly and safely exit during a fire. 

But, do we really think about the security and access control systems that are needed to protect staff and members from these threats? 

Oftentimes, the life safety guidelines that are put into place can conflict with security measures, and, as membership and staff grows, so can the conflict. 

For instance, how can authorized staff move throughout your facility, accessing areas that are restricted to the general public, but still allow egress during an emergency? How effective are access control systems if the door is propped open? Can we put controls in place, but still meet ADA requirements? 

We give these threats little thought, until the unthinkable is broadcast on national new, and then we scramble to safeguard our facility against similar threats.

Managing these conflicts with technology can provide a safer environment and peace of mind. The days of locking the doors and handing out keys should be gone. 

Access control systems, door prop alarms, and automatic door operators complement electrified door hardware products, such as latch retraction, delayed egress, and electric dogging exit devices. These products can provide greater protection and more conveniences and avoid the unimaginable. 

Delayed egress devices prevent exit through secured openings, controlling foot traffic in areas of the facility that may be restricted. Delayed egress can be combined with electric latch retraction and automatic operators for access control, which allows staff to move throughout the facility, while controlling access to the general public. 

Many facilities today include schools and daycares. Playgrounds with emergency exits gates opening near a busy street are cause for concern. 

Life safety code may restrict locking of gates and weatherized delayed egress may be an acceptable application. Weatherized delayed egress would provide a loud, local alarm, encouraging a child to move away from the area, alerting staff that a child is attempting to exit through the gate. 

The 15-second delay provides staff time to react before the gate unlocks and helps to avoid a dangerous situation. All delayed egress, even exterior weatherized systems, must be tied into a fire alarm override, providing safe, un-delayed exit during a fire emergency. 

The key is guaranteeing all the pieces of technology will work together. Manufacturers, along with some dealers, will create a kit with its products configured with wiring and riser illustrations to fit your application.

Find a supplier that understands your needs, has the best-in-class products to stand the test of time, and make sure they can support the installation with wiring diagrams, riser illustrations, and technical support.

Trice Kastein is manager of institutional sales at Detex Corporation, www.detex.com.

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