Tips to Avoid Trappings of Working With Mantraps

The need to protect customers in specialized markets is often at odds with fire code and local ordinances. Where the security mission requires special locking arrangements by way of a mantrap, fire code requires free egress when a fire situation occurs.

In applications where there’s a conflict between security and life safety, confusion can result.

In recent times banking establishments and high-risk retailers have had to make difficult choices. One of those choices is the use of a mantrap to reduce the likelihood of robbery. It can be difficult for business managers to compare the security advantages realized by the use of a mantrap vs. the life-safety issues realized by a free and open entryway.

In the coming years, given the deteriorating condition of the economy, the need to assure security will necessitate a higher level of physical security. Mantraps will be incorporated so businesses can screen those who wish to enter. Likely candidates for this type of security arrangement include banks, credit unions, high-roller casinos, jewelry stores, check cashing establishments and large corporate offices.

If the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel in Mumbai, India, had been outfitted with such a mantrap, perhaps the outcome of November’s attack would have been different.

“We’ve been working with financial institutions, credit unions, retail jewelers, government and others. There is an increasing diversity of applications being developed,” says Dale Shinavar, general manager with Guardian Secure Entrance of Kissimmee, Fla.

“We know their markets and actually sell to the U.S. Postal Service, not so much for their main entrances but where people go to buy stamps and money orders,” says Manny Urbina, president of Novacomm, also of Kissimmee. Novacomm manufactures a mantrap especially designed for pre-screening applications.

This month, we’ll examine the use of mantraps for security screening and how they work. In addition, we’ll discover how fire technicians and security dealers can work together with heating, ventilation and air conditioning contractors, as well as others, to bring about a code-compliant, integrated system that satisfies all concerned.

The Secure Entrance

The screening process involves the use of a secure entrance system, such as the Access Control Vestibule™ distributed by Shinavar’s company. The vestibule consists of an entry and exist section with bulletproof glass and aluminum framing. “We have all the means to connect our system to any fire alarm in order to have the system release when a fire alarm goes off,” says Shinivar.

Novacomm’s secure vestibule incorporates several security technologies that security personnel can use to assist with the screening process. Included are: 1) an intercom for communications; 2) optional camera so personnel can see the individual requesting access; 3) metal detector to ferret out any weapons that may be present on the individual requesting access; and 4) access control for physical access to the business.

When a customer enters the vestibule a passive infrared (PIR) detector senses that someone is present within the enclosure, locking the doors behind and in front of him/her, thus forming a mantrap. The door behind the person is locked to prevent tailgating. Both doors are secured using electromagnetic locks. At no time is the person inside the entrance of the mantrap prevented from leaving through the door they first entered, but the inside door to the inner sanctum of the business cannot be opened until the metal detector has determined that no weapons are present.

A camera and intercom system allow an operator inside the facility to communicate and observe the individual inside the mantrap if the system determines that metal of a suspicious nature is present. The system allows the operator to override the vestibule protective system if they recognize them or if the individual elects to empty their pockets and be rescanned by the system.

“For applications in the state of California we also have a seismic detection system that integrates with the access control portion of our vestibule,” says Urbina. The purpose of the seismic sensor is to allow egress during times of an earthquake.

Aspects of Fire Alarm Integration

You can imagine how concerned any authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) might be when they receive the submittals for a mantrap like the one distributed by Guardian Secure Entrance (see sidebar).  As a knee-jerk reaction, the plans examiner will often go out of his/her way to require that more fire protective features be installed than normal with the intent to assure fire safety for all concerned.

From a fire safety standpoint, there are two areas of integration that the fire technician must contend with: access control and HVAC.

If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

About the Author


Al Colombo is a long-time trade journalist and professional in the security and life-safety markets. His work includes more than 40 years in security and life-safety as an installer, salesman, service tech, trade journalist, project manager,and an operations manager. You can contact Colombo through TpromoCom, a consultancy agency based in Canton, Ohio, by emailing allan@Tpromo.Com, call 330-956-9003, visit www.Tpromo.Com.

Security Is Our Business, Too

For professionals who recommend, buy and install all types of electronic security equipment, a free subscription to Security Sales & Integration is like having a consultant on call. You’ll find an ideal balance of technology and business coverage, with installation tips and techniques for products and updates on how to add sales to your bottom line.

A free subscription to the #1 resource for the residential and commercial security industry will prove to be invaluable. Subscribe today!

Subscribe Today!

Get Our Newsletters