Magazine article Security Management

Electronic Safe Locks: A New Current

Magazine article Security Management

Electronic Safe Locks: A New Current

Article excerpt

AS YOU READ THIS, A FRUSTRATED person somewhere is trying for the third, fourth, maybe even the fifth time to dial a safe combination. "Just one more try," he tells himself, "and it will open."

He's not a thief. He's at work, carrying out his daily routine. Part of that routine is coaxing the safe open, dialing and redialing until it finally catches, " or whatever it is the lock does in there. His business day can't start until that happens.

For countless legitimate users, the safe takes on an inscrutable and uncooperative persona. It seems to function almost grudgingly, if at all, and then only if the user remembers and correctly performs a mechanical ritual.

Getting close isn't good enough. Some users pay homage to the safe several times a day-"four turns left to 22, three right to 75, two left to 44or was it 77, then 44? Three turns or four? Right or left?" Start again ! Security professionals get direct and indirect exposure to safe and vault Problems. Difficulties caused by these essential pieces of equipment can run the gamut from minor inconveniences to major operational snags and security risks.

Safe problems exact a toll of frustration, embarrassment, wasted time, vendors' fees, and diminished security. A significant percentage of safe problems are lock related.

Some common lock-related safe problems are dialing errors, locks that are hard to open, the need for regular combination changes, slow-running time locks, lost combinations, time-lock overwinds, dual-control problems, safekeeping of combination records, malfunctions, and the cost of service. The problems reinforce the widely held opinion that safes and vaults are costly and irksome-but necessary.

Over the last century the standards, designs, materials, and production methods of combination locks have changed appreciably. Despite all the changes, the basic mechanical principles by which a combination lock operates have not changed.

Now, after more than 10 decades of variations on a theme, safe and lock manufacturers are making large, ambitious technical strides. Their goal is multifaceted: to develop cost-effective, user-friendly, retrofittable safe and vault locks while maintaining or improving the security offered.

Several electromechanical and electronic locks that meet those needs are currently available, with more slated for release. The shift to electronic safe locking has begun in earnest, and the security world is feeling the first drops of a deluge of change.

You may soon be considering purchasing safes or vaults, upgradinxpg existing ones, or drafting security and usage policies for your organization. Electronic locks are among your options, and it will help You to know something about them. MECHANICAL SAFE LOCKS HAVE ALways had some well-known shortcomings, along with others that aren't common knowledge. Until recently mechanical safe locks were the only game in town. To appreciate how electronics enhances security and function, it's necessary to review some disadvantages of mechanical combination locks.

Mechanical locks are hard to operate. Many safe users consider it unusual if their safes open on the first try. They routinely dial and redial. Over a business year, extra dialing minutes add up: Three extra minutes spent every workday amount to 600 lost minutes, or 10 work hours lost every 200 workdays. Lost productive time equals asset drain.

The idea that using mechanical combination locks is hard is a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you think it's difficult, it is. Right or wrong, this perception has the same effect: frustration, lost time, and sometimes needless expense.

Many users incur needless expense by insisting to safe companies' service representatives that their safes "must be broken" because they can't open them. After users hear "There's nothing wrong with your lock - you're dialing incorrectly" a few irritating times, the idea that safes are time-consuming annoyances becomes firmly fixed. …

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