Access Denied! Preventing Access Control System Failures

From physical security to business intelligence, there is no shortage of use cases for access control systems. Housing complexes utilize access control to keep non-residents out, data centers apply access control to protect the valuable information inside, and airports install such systems to ensure only those with the right credentials have access to highly secure areas. Given the seriousness of these needs, it is essential to keep access control systems operational at all times, as the alternative can plunge organizations into chaos.

Protecting Access Control Systems

Access Control Systems Need Protection from Electrical Surges

Most organizations do not plan for their access control system to go down, and may overlook the need for surge protection. Power events that can disrupt service are often unforeseen, but all too common. Every unprotected electronic security system, including access control, is likely to incur some damage during its lifetime from damaging power surges and spikes. While these electrical events will not cause every system to fail, every unprotected system has an increased chance of failure versus a fully protected system.

When an access control system fails, the chaos experienced across every industry is unique. Here is what that chaos could look like in a variety of industries and how to prevent such fallout:

Housing Complexes

Access control systems are gaining popularity in housing complexes because they provide real-time deterrence for crimes such as theft, vandalism, and violence. They also provide powerful functionality, accountability, and data for housing complex managers that cannot be provided by traditional key-based control systems. When an access control system fails in this environment, it opens the door (literally) to a number of physical security risks and operational mishaps for which management can be found liable. Residents also use the level of security offered by a complex to determine their willingness to lease a unit at a given price point. A failed access control system can adversely affect tenant perception and lead to an increase in negative reviews and decrease in lease renewals.

Read More About Surge Protection Solutions for Housing Complex Access Control

Offices and Commercial Facilities

Mitigating security risks is one of the biggest reasons organizations choose to install access control systems in their commercial facilities, however more frequently organizations are discovering the secondary benefits of these systems. Data gathered from access control systems can be used for greater business intelligence such as space utilization planning and occupancy measures, but only if the system is functioning properly 100% of the time. Access control systems in office environments are also commonly used for time and attendance reporting, which if non-functional, can cause organizations to revert to inaccurate, manual methods of time and attendance reporting. If all of these functions are disabled due to a power surge, the organization loses valuable data, safety functions, and operational advantages.


Airports are known to be one of the most controlled security environments that still require public access. As such, there is a need for highly restricted access to areas that could be vulnerable to sabotage, theft, and other terrorist activities. A failed access control system in this environment is therefore a direct threat to national security. Failed access control systems at airports can also impact an airline’s bottom line. For example, two jet aircrafts were waiting to enter a gated area at a small airport when the gate failed to respond to electronic signals to open. During the 30 minutes it took to get the gate opened manually, more than $17,000 in jet fuel was needlessly wasted.

Read More About Surge Protection Solutions for Outdoor Airport Areas


Whether it be to limit access to dangerous machinery, expensive equipment, and valuable medications, or for visitor management and patient safety purposes, hospitals rely on access control systems to meet a variety of needs. Without such systems performing their functions, theft and abuse of assets are both highly-possible outcomes. Access control systems are also frequently installed in hospitals to limit access to volatile patient rooms (i.e. during legal proceedings, power of attorney issues, mental health concerns, etc.), making non-operation a non-option.

Read More About Electrical Surge Protection for Hospitals


Schools and university campuses rely on access control systems largely for identity verification purposes. From athletic facilities to science labs, student housing, dining services, administrative offices, and beyond, these systems are used to limit access to some of education’s most important facilities based on identity. With campus violence and heath-safety concerns on the rise, a school’s dependence on such systems only grows. An inoperable access control system offers criminals and other ill-intentioned individuals a chance to enter otherwise secured areas for purposes such as theft, violence, vandalism, and more.

Learn More About Protecting the Systems that Protect Our Schools

Additional Industries

The aforementioned environments only scratch the surface of places where access control systems are utilized. Data centers and government facilities, for example, house valuable, confidential data for which specialized access is required. Public recreation environments such as stadiums, gaming, and theme parks rely on access control to balance the fine line between public vs. private access. Retail settings, especially those highly regulated locations involving weapons or cannabis sales, are often legally required to employ access control systems for the security of the assets inside. The loss of functionality to access control systems in any industriy poses a significant risk to security, potential loss in revenue, and the intangible repercussions caused by a damaged or destroyed system.

Preventing the Chaos

Access control systems are made up of a number of sensitive electronic components, all at risk from damaging power surges and spikes. When affected by an electrical event, these components can become damaged individually or potentially cause the entire system to fail. Moreover, access control systems require a large number of customized data files, including information about identities and their associated permissions, as well as current status data outlining who is presently on the premises. Without these custom data files, the access control system would not know who to let in, even if all the associated equipment was functioning.

It is therefore essential that every organization in every industry employing an access control system adopt a layered approach to surge protection. This includes installing surge protection devices (SPDs) at the system’s supplied power connection, in addition to surge protection installed at the facility power entry point. It is also necessary to install surge protection at both ends of all connected network equipment, as the network cabling provides a conductive path for electrical power surges. This is especially vital for cabling paths that run to exterior areas including outdoor access control readers, gate control panels, electronic locks, or any other networked electronics. All of these layers provide whole facility protection from damaging power surges that can originate from both outside and inside the facility itself.

Installing surge protection on your access control system can help prevent damage and destruction from one of the greatest known adversaries of sensitive electronic systems – power surges. This protection, in turn, prevents the chaos associated with a failed access control system and ensures that the system’s safety and security functions are working as required.

Understanding the Importance of Protecting Access Control Systems

Choosing the Right Provider

For some organizations, the implications of a failed access control system could be catastrophic. Theft, financial loss, and violence are just some of the risks of a failed system. Reducing access control system downtime via surge protection begins simply by working with a trusted partner. DITEK offers a wide range of products for access control systems using cutting-edge technologies for maximum performance and ease of use. Our products are made in the USA and backed by comprehensive warranties so your access control system can experience maximum uptime for years to come.

Discover DITEK Surge Protection for Access Control