Feedback on this page
Communal entrance doors to blocks of flats
The timber, aluminium or steel entrance door to your block of flats may be quite robust in appearance and is likely to be operated using either magnetic locks or electromechanical locks or a combination of both. Entry will probably be made using a proximity reader and fob and exit will be made by pressing a switch or button located to the side of the door in the entrance hall. The glazed panels in the door (and these are necessary to enable activity in the entrance hall to be seen from the street) are likely to be either toughened or laminated glass or possibly polycarbonate. (See Glazing for domestic security )
Most of these doors will provide a reasonable level of security when they are working, but as research has shown, the more people who use the door the more it tends to break down. So the main security problem for all doors to blocks of flats is the maintenance of them. As with all communal doors it is essential that they are repaired as soon as possible and if you are waiting days for a repair to be made then you and your neighbours need to make a fuss!
If the entrance door is going to be replaced I recommend that it is replaced with a door that is certificated to one of the security standards shown in Enhanced security doorsets . For blocks of flats, the best standard to aim for is the LPCB's LPS 1175 Issue 6 SR2 or Exova Warrington's STS 202 BR2, but at the time of writing there are very few manufacturers are producing them.
For large blocks of flats we have an added problem of ‘anonymity’. This simply means that a block is so large that the residents only know perhaps half a dozen of the other residents. The consequence of this is that when residents come through the secure entrance door many of them will allow a person to follow them in. This is called ‘tailgating’. Non residents and people up to no good will deliberately wait for someone to enter or leave the block to get in that way.
Another weakness is the fact that one or two residents will allow non residents in when someone calls their flat number from the call panel. Although this is less likely if there is a visual link to the door some will still do it and put their neighbours at risk.
Then there is the problem associated with deliveries of all types of goods and services to the block. If the design is right and there is a concierge and secure mailboxes in the foyer then this problem is not so bad. But if these facilities don’t exist then there is often a requirement for a trades release button. If they operate between 6am and 10am then it’s not such a problem for security, because most villains tend to be tucked up in bed, but if it operates after that period (and I’ve known some to operate up until 1pm!) then there almost seems to be little point having access control in the first place.
The final problem (and one which is all too common) is where a resident or non-resident person working in the block jambs the door open. In my time in the police I have seen cardboard glued to the face of the magnets of magnetically locking entrance doors and bricks placed into the jam on the hinge side of an electromechanically locked door. Workers do it because they need to go to their vehicles to fetch materials and tools and find it difficult to regain access and tenants do it for any number of reasons, which will include laziness and forgetfulness. Sometimes the person doing it is the visitor of a tenant and in some cases the people doing it are simply trespassers using the block for nefarious purposes.
This is a flagrant disregard for the security of all the tenants and must be discouraged by the landlord/management agency. At the very least a sign should be displayed inside the foyer telling people not to do it. Regular misuse of the entrance door should be reported to the landlord/managing agent for further action.
Many local authority housing departments and housing associations have gone one step further for block security and added secure, staffed reception areas at the entrances to very large blocks. Such concierge systems have been a part of life in private blocks of flats for many years. Their effectiveness has been mixed and this is due mostly to a certain minority of residents. It only takes one or two errant people in a block to badly affect the security of the rest. Fortunately social landlords have been more effective at dealing with these wayward tenants in recent years and on many occasions have had them evicted.
If your block of flats doesn't have a communal street entrance door speak with the landlord/managing agent about the possibility of installing one. This is not going to be cheap to do, because apart from the door (or doors) you'll also need the access controls wired to each flat. It would be sensible for all the residents in the block to meet with the installer to discuss the various access control options and design of the door. You should ask for a door that has been certificated to the Enhanced Security Standards as discussed above. In my opinion a street entrance door to a block of flats is an absolute must!
Alternative exit doors from blocks of flats
Many blocks of flats will have alternative exit doors. These could be used solely for means of escape in an emergency or for access to a garden or car park. It is therefore very difficult for me to recommend any particular methods for security improvements as this will depend upon the door’s use, its location and the extent to which the public have access to the door from the outside.
It is possible that the alternative exit door might have been fitted with a panic exit device operated by a horizontal bar, something that you will be more familiar with in a commercial building, such as a supermarket, cinema and office. These panic exits devices should be certificated to BS EN 179:2008 Building hardware. Emergency exit devices operated by a lever handle or push pad, for use on escape routes. Requirements and test methods or BS EN 1125:2008 Building hardware. Panic exit devices operated by a horizontal bar, for use on escape routes. Requirements and test methods. Panic exit devices are used when it is expected that most of the people who are going to use them in an emergency will not have had any formal training in the use of the emergency exits and so they must be able to open them easily. The use of a horizontal bar means that people can even fall against the door and it will open. If your block of flats has one of these doors then any glazing in it must be further protected against an intruder smashing the glass to operate the exit device. If the door is deeply recessed refer also to Recessed doors in houses and blocks of flats to see what else you can do.
Alternative entry exit doors that are used to access a garden or car park to the back of a block of flats are normally fitted with a single mortice latch operated by a simple handle on the inside to aid emergency exit. These doors are often fitted with door closers and to get back in you would need to use a key (or possibly a fob if it was an electronic lock). Again, the glazing must be further protected against the intruder smashing the glass and it is important that the mortice latch has automatic deadlocking on the latch bolt, which will reduce the possibility of it being slipped from the outside. Although this type of door could be fitted with electronic access control operated from each flat, it would seem more sensible to direct people to the main entrance door for access, which may require a door phone in some circumstances.
It is hoped that any rear garden or car park has its own security arrangements to make it difficult for trespassers to enter the grounds and reach the rear door in the first place.
Updated September 2017