lock fail safe fail secure


Key takeaways and definition

  • A fail-safe lock keeps people safe by unlocking when there’s a power outage and allowing people to exit the building.
  • A fail-secure lock keeps spaces secure by locking when there’s a power outage to keep intruders from accessing high-security spaces.
  • Generally, where convenience is a priority, choose a fail-safe lock. However, if you’re looking to emphasize security, choose a fail-secure lock.


If you’re installing new electric locks to secure your property, you have a lot of options to choose from. However, you have two main categories of electric locks: fail-safe and fail-secure. But what is a fail-safe or fail-secure lock? Further, what’s the difference between the two, and how does that affect you and your commercial tenants or apartment residents?

In this post, we compare fail-safe vs. fail-secure locks. Then, we explain which type of lock you should use to secure different areas of your property.

This post covers:


What is a fail-safe lock?

A fail-safe lock is a type of electronic lock that depends on a constant stream of power to stay locked.

To unlock a fail-safe lock, you must disrupt the flow of power to the lock. So, when you present a valid credential — like a key or fob — the reader momentarily disrupts the flow of power to the lock. Then, the lock disengages and the door can be opened.

If there’s a total loss of power, a fail-safe lock opens. Locks that depend on electromagnetism, like magnetic locks or maglocks, depower during outages and are a common example of a fail-safe lock.

Fail-safe locks are so named because they keep people safe in the event of a power failure. In fact, by providing the ability to enter and exit a doorway freely, a fail-safe lock gives your tenants a larger range of mobility if they need to find the correct way out of the building in the event of a power outage.


Learn about the differences between electric locks and magnetic locks:


What is a fail-secure lock?

A fail-secure lock is a type of electric lock that you can unlock with a single burst of power. In contrast to a fail-safe lock, fail-secure locks don’t require electricity to stay locked.

So, when there’s a power outage, a fail-secure lock will remain locked from the side of the door that requires a credential to enter. However, you’ll still be able to open a door with a fail-secure lock from the inside.

Fail-secure electric strikes don’t grant as much freedom of movement in the event of an emergency, but they do provide a more secure way to restrict access for spaces where security is a high priority. In the event of a power failure, a fail-secure lock stays closed and secures an area.

While it may seem counterintuitive at first, fail-secure locks help increase safety in certain circumstances. For example, fail-secure locks are very helpful during fire-related emergencies. Some stairwell doors or fire doors are equipped with fail-secure locks that seal an area off and prevent fire from spreading from one section of the building to another.


fail safe vs fail secure door


Are mag locks fail-safe or fail-secure?

Maglocks are fail-safe locks. Because maglocks open during a power outage, they help people exit a building in emergencies. So, they’re considered fail-safe locks.


Recap of fail-safe vs. fail-secure door hardware

In summary, the main difference between fail-safe and fail-secure locks is their default state when they’re unpowered. A fail-safe lock is unlocked when it’s unpowered, and a fail-secure lock stays engaged when it is unpowered.


Where to use fail-secure vs. fail-safe locks

Now that you know the difference between a fail-safe and a fail-secure lock, you’re ready to decide which type of lock you should use for different entrances at your building.

Fail-safe locks should be used to secure areas that building tenants constantly use. These are the areas that require tenants to have freedom of movement in the event of an emergency.


Fail-safe vs. fail-secure scenarios

Fail-safe locks should be used to secure areas with a lot of foot traffic. These are areas where people will need freedom of movement in the event of an emergency.

Use a fail-safe lock to manage access for areas like:

  • Main entryways
  • Rooftops
  • Stairwells
  • Garages

While fail-safe locks will help keep your tenants safe during an emergency, an intruder might take advantage and enter your building while residents are exiting. This is why it’s important to guard other, highly sensitive areas of your building with fail-secure locks that remain locked during a power outage. Fail-secure strikes are also a requirement for fire-rated doors, as mentioned in guidelines issued by the National Fire Protection Association.

Use a fail-secure lock to manage access for:

  • IT server rooms
  • Inventory closets
  • Package rooms
  • Fire doors


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Ferdison Cayetano

I’m a proptech enthusiast from New Jersey who’s looking forward to the innovations that will revolutionize real estate.

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