Fail Safe Locks vs. Fail Secure Locks: Which One Is Right for Your Door?

Posted by Jeremy Hillpot on Jun 24, 2019 12:00:00 PM


The access control system in your office building relies on electrical power to lock and unlock the doors. So, when the power goes down, is your office still secure? Fortunately, most buildings have a backup battery to keep the locks operational in the event of a temporary power outage.

However, what if the battery fails? In this case, the security of your building depends on whether your locks are “fail safe” or “fail secure.”


What Are Fail Secure Locks?

Fail secure locks require electrical power to unlock. Therefore, in their natural, unpowered state, they will remain locked until power is applied. If areas of your building are equipped with fail secure locks, and the power “fails,” then those areas will stay “secure.”

Building owners who need to keep the contents and interiors of the building safe will usually equip their facilities with fail secure locks, especially in sensitive areas. Banks, companies with expensive electrical gear or facilities with valuable equipment will usually want fail secure locks for security purposes. In some cases, business owners will use fail secure locks on IT rooms, storage rooms and other areas that could be sensitive to theft or robbery.


What Are Fail Safe Locks?

Wherever safety from injury is the number one priority as opposed to the security of assets, business owners should select “fail safe” locks to protect their facilities. Fail safe locks automatically open during a power outage because they require electricity to stay locked.

Building owners usually install fail safe locks on entry and exit points—such as doors to enter and exit emergency stairwells. These exit doors need to be open in the event of an emergency. For example, a fire could take out the electrical supply to an entire building. The building occupants have to escape as quickly as possible, and emergency officials need to enter—regardless of whether the power is working. This is why fail safe locks are required for all fire exit doors.


Which Do You Need: Fail Safe or Fail Secure?

Since every building needs to have designated fire exit doors, some of the doors in your facility must have fail safe locks. That said, you’ll probably want a mix of fail safe and fail secure locks for your building.

To decide which doors need fail safe locks and which need fail secure, make a list of the doors at your office. Then ask the following questions:

  • Does this door lead to a fire exit? If yes, choose a fail safe lock.

  • Does this door close a room that contains valuable items? If yes, a fail secure lock is likely appropriate.


Configuring Locks as Fail Safe or Fail Secure

At Openpath, our patented mobile access control systems are both safe and secure. If you’re unsure about what you need in terms of fail safe and fail secure locks, our team can help you plan a mobile access control solution from the inside out. Contact us now to learn about your access control options.



Fascinated by emerging technologies and the laws and market trends that follow them, Jeremy Hillpot’s background in consumer fraud litigation provides a unique perspective on a vast array of topics including smart technology, building security, investments, startups, cryptocurrencies and the law. Contact Jeremy at or

Topics: Access Control, Security, SmartOffice

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