How to Secure a Small Factory
There are three types of doors on a small factory: glass-and-aluminum storefront doors, steel man doors, and roll-up garage doors. We will consider these in turn. If you call a locksmith and start talking about your “steel door,” he is going to assume that you mean the steel man door with no window found on the back of the building. The one at the front entrance where the customers enter that has a big window in a narrow frame is called a “glass-and-aluminum door.”
Glass-and-Aluminum Storefront Doors
On most factories, the front entrance is by far the most insecure point of entry. The building is constructed with 30’ high walls of solid concrete 8” thick; an RPG-7 gunner could not open a hole in that wall. Even small businesses in industrial parks at least have a masonry back wall with a steel man door secured with a Grade 2 deadbolt. But one can insert a lock pick purchased on the internet for $7.07 into the cylinder on the front door, pull it out quickly and – Presto! – the door is open.
Why is this door so insecure? The principle reason is that ANSI gives locks a rating but, by some oversight, they omitted mortise cylinders, which are the type of lock installed in glass-and-aluminum doors. The result is the proliferation of mortise cylinders that appear to have been sold to contractors by the pound. No locksmith would sell such crap and these no-name brands are not even available at the locksmith supply houses.
So the first priority of the business owner is to replace the mortise cylinder on the front door. Standard-security mortise locks retail for about $15 to $20 apiece. Any brand sold by a legitimate locksmith that was purchased at a locksmith supply house – not from the $1.99 discount bin at the hardware store – will suffice. I am not going to review standard security mortise cylinders here because there is not that much difference between the name brands; American, Ilco, GMS, etc. It is just the no-name brands sold en masse to contractors that are junk.
Make sure that you purchase a six-pin mortise cylinder and that the locksmith gives you a six-pin key. It amazes me how many locksmiths – even seemingly legitimate ones – will use five-pin cylinders or dump the sixth pin chamber so they can save a few pennies and a minute of their time by using five-pin keys in six-pin locks. This is just pure laziness and money grubbing. Six pins are significantly better than five and, since you are the one paying for this service, you should insist on getting your money’s worth.
High-security mortise cylinders are not just a better grade of conventional lock, but use a completely different technology. Medeco, ASSA and Primus are the most common. In my preceding column, A Proposal for a New Grade of Lock, I gave Medeco and ASSA Grade 1 and Primus Grade 3. In my next column, I will discuss Rights Amplification in Master-Keyed Mechanical Locks, against which ASSA is strong and both Medeco and Primus are weak. But we are not discussing a masterkey system here, just the replacement of a single mortise cylinder. For this purpose, Medeco and ASSA are equally secure. Primus is weaker, but not horrendously bad, and it has the advantage that the Primus key can operate existing Schlage locks, so you will still have only one key to carry.
If your business is located in a strip mall, then install a mortise cylinder on the inside of your glass-and-aluminum door, not a thumb turn. It may happen that you put an expensive high-security mortise cylinder on your front door while your neighbor has a cheap no-name mortise cylinder. If the burglar picks your neighbor’s lock, he can drop through the suspended ceiling into your business. The lock on the inside of the door prevents him from going out the door. Also, if a woman is left alone in the store, a rapist can lock the front door behind him if it has a thumb turn; a lock on the inside of the door makes it less likely that he will commit a time-consuming crime like rape.
But there is no reason for this inside mortise cylinder to be high-security. A money-grubbing locksmith might give you the same sales pitch that I just presented and then sell you two high-security mortise cylinders, one for the outside and one for the inside, when it would have been less expensive by half to put a standard-security mortise cylinder on the inside. Of course, this is less convenient because you have different keys for the inside and the outside; but the consumer should be given this choice, not just have it made for him in the expensive way.
So, having replaced your no-name junk mortise cylinder with a name-brand six-pin standard-security mortise cylinder or, if you can afford it, a high-security mortise cylinder, what is the next step? Install a hardened ring (sometimes called a “spinner”) to prevent burglars from wrenching the cylinder out; also, install a steel plate over the bolt to prevent burglars from cutting it with a reciprocating saw. This is sufficient. I am a mobile service, but locksmiths who lease a storefront in a strip mall do not do any more to secure their own front door than what I have described here. They too install a high-security mortise cylinder, a hardened ring and a steel plate.
Steel Man Doors
A concrete-filled steel frame set into an 8” thick solid concrete wall with a heavy steel door is actually quite strong. The only assured means of forcing it open is to ram it with a forklift. Thus, the single most important precaution that a business owner can take to secure these doors is to park his forklift inside at night.
It has not been possible to hotwire a passenger car since the 1950s and, today, anybody who uses the term “hotwire” with regards to auto theft is exposing himself as a fool. That came to an end a half a century ago with the invention of the locking steering wheel. But the story is different with regards to forklifts and excavating equipment. Their steering wheels do not lock, their electrical systems are primitive and their ignition switches are easy to pick or bypass. If you must leave such equipment in your yard, it should be chained up. Also, the yard itself should have a sturdy chain-link fence around it and a chain on the gate. I can sell you a hardened chain that cannot be cut with bolt-cutters or with reciprocating saws as well as a sturdy padlock that uses the same key as the building.
The deadbolt itself is the weakest point of a steel man door. Grade 1 deadbolts are about twice the price of Grade 2 deadbolts and are bulky, heavy locks, but they are worth it. I have seen Grade 2 deadbolts smashed with a sledge hammer until the bolt was bent over at a right angle and the door came open. Both grades of deadbolt come with good quality standard-security cylinders, but they can also be upgraded to accept high-security cylinders.
A deadbolt gives the burglar a target to aim his sledge hammer at; thus, even more so than buying an expensive deadbolt, one can improve security by installing a barrel bolt on the inside of the door. These are inexpensive (I charge $45 for both parts and labor) and they will hang in longer than a deadbolt, largely because the burglar is not aiming his sledge hammer blows directly at them. They are mounted entirely inside the door and so are invisible to him.
If you are purchasing the door new, ask yourself if you really need to ever enter through it, or only exit. If you enter the building elsewhere, you may not need a lock that is operable from the outside; employees can just prop the door open while they are using it in the course of their work. But at night it is secured on the inside with one or two barrel bolts and presents the burglar a smooth surface with no aiming points. If you must install a deadbolt, order the door company to drill a 1½" hole (not the more common 2⅛" hole) at eye level. A deadbolt can be hammered through a 2⅛" hole in the door, but not through a 1½" hole. Also, one can put a lot more force on a sledge hammer if the target is near waist level than if it is at eye level. If you are really going all-out for security, then order two 1½” holes, one near the bottom of the door and one near the top. This is what military installations look like.
The biggest insecurity arises from man doors that are required to be fire exits. In many cases this requirement is just silly; there are not half a dozen employees in the building and there are huge roll-up garage doors that are left open all day long, so the chance of someone dying in a fire is nil. But it is also true that panic bars are sometimes desirable because one can push the door open with a cart and that is a lot quicker and easier than having to turn a lever, not to mention the fact that the cart might knock the lever off as it goes by, while it will just scrape along a panic bar. I can easily convert a door that currently has a lever to one with a panic bar. But, if this is to be a fire exit, the fire marshal will insist that the deadbolt and barrel bolt be removed.
If you are buying the door new, then you should get it with the type of panic bar that has vertical rods going to the top and bottom of the door frame. These are more secure but considerably more expensive than the ones that just attach to the face of the door and latch on the edge of the door. If you cannot afford vertical rods, then get a door with no pre-cut holes and I will install a panic bar that does not have an exterior lever. At least the burglars will not have an aiming point for their sledge hammer, nor will they even know that it is just a panic bar and not the more secure barrel bolt.
Roll-Up Garage Doors
These are insecure because a hole can be cut through them with a reciprocating saw. The doors have to be made light enough that they can be rolled up into the ceiling; if they were made out of the same material as steel man doors, they would be inoperable. On the bright side, the loading dock precludes ramming them with a forklift. It is sometimes possible to put some sort of gate across the roll-up door that swings out of the way during the daytime. Also, any money spent on cameras and motion detectors should be focused at this weak point. But all I, the locksmith, can really help you with is the prevention of pilferage. I can sell you a padlock to go on the inside of the door that uses the same key as the building and prevents employees from opening the door and putting boxes out on the loading dock to be surreptitiously picked up by their partner in crime. Similarly, the barrel bolt that I install on the inside of a steel man door can be given a padlock to hold it either in the open position (this will not satisfy the fire marshal) to assure easy egress, or in the closed position to prevent pilferage.
Conclusion: Install a high-security or at least a name-brand mortise cylinder on the glass-and-aluminum door, along with a hardened ring and a steel plate. Install a barrel bolt on the inside of a man door and put a padlock that uses the same key as the building on both it and the roll-up garage door to prevent pilferage.
Sneak Peek! In this column I have explained how to secure a factory. Since I recommended barrel bolts on the inside of all the man doors and a high security mortise cylinder on the front door, this column was not concerned with the masterkey system, which is probably only on the interior offices. However, a chain of retail stores has master-keyed locks on both the exterior doors as well as interior doors like the cash office and stock rooms of expensive items. Also, large factories require masterkey systems. The next column will address the problem of Rights Amplification in Master-Keyed Mechanical Locks.