Its Not Just A Turnstile
Evaluating an entrance location based on end user goals
- By Greg Schreiber
- Nov 01, 2017
Many professionals in the security industry today tend
to use the word “turnstile” to refer to all security entrances,
when, in fact, there are actually multiple
types of entrances for different applications, industries
and levels of security. These include a number
of different types of turnstiles but also mantrap portals and security
revolving doors. If assumptions are made between a customer and an
integrator around the word “turnstile,” the end user can end up with
a solution that doesn’t adequately meet their needs, is unnecessarily
costly, or worse, allows a security breach to occur when they thought
they were protected. For the integrator, it is vital to understand your
customer’s needs and requirements for an entrance location before
making a recommendation.
You can begin the process by evaluating each entrance location
based on four potential end user goals related to tailgating mitigation:
crowd control, deterrence, detection, and prevention. Clearly understanding
the goal will help you in a discussion with your customer to
determine the appropriate security entrance to deploy. In this article,
we will break down each goal and its corresponding security entrance
type, along with typical applications and benefits to the end user. Of
course, budget can be a limiting factor and you will need to work with
your customer and bring your own knowledge and experience into
the discussion regarding certain applications, but this goal-centered
approach is a great way to dispel misunderstandings up front.
TRIPOD/ WAIST HIGH TURNSTILES
Crowd control is a goal that involves slowing down traffic to count
people or collect tickets or payments. Crowd implies a high volume
of traffic, and therefore an ability to handle conditions that may
be abusive toward the entrance hardware. Mechanical waist high/
tripod turnstiles are a great fit for this goal and they are typically
seen in stadiums, public transit venues, amusement parks, shipping
ports, distribution warehouses, manufacturing plants, universities and fitness centers. They are a low security solution for crowd
management. Exception: when budgets are constrained, you might
find them in office lobbies with matching finishes such as Corian or
marble to “dress them up.” Here’s what security integrators should
know about tripod turnstiles:
- Designed to withstand high traffic, abusive conditions.
- Exterior use okay, if covered.
- High throughput, handling 30 persons per minute in one direction.
- Lack of sensors can lead to easy defeat—turnstiles can be crawled
under or jumped over without alarm/ notification to guard staff.
- Low capital cost, but high annual operating cost due to necessary
24/7 guard supervision.
- Other than counting who entered or exited, limited metrics capabilities
DETERRENCE: FULL-HEIGHT TURNSTILES
Full height turnstiles are a true deterrent to casual infiltration attempts
because it is difficult-to-impossible to go over or under them.
They are a rugged solution for perimeter fence lines, stadiums, metro
stations, industrial plants, distribution centers, and parking garages.
Upon activation, the rotor rotates 120 degrees to allow only one user
to pass through, and for this reason they also work well as an exitonly
They are typically unmanned, but if they are used in interior lobbies
leading directly into higher security areas they should be supervised
because two small people could potentially squeeze through on
a single authorization, which is known as “piggybacking.” There are
no sensors or alarms to alert when this happens, and due to these
limitations, a full height turnstile serves only as a deterrent. Here are
some other things to note about full height turnstiles.
- Low capital cost, low annual operating cost (assuming no supervision)
- Guard supervision not typical (unless directly leading into higher
- Moderate throughput, handling 18 persons per minute in one
- Only limited metrics can be retrieved – no sensors or alarms if
DETECTION: OPTICAL TURNSTILES
The goal of detection is to track when tailgating happens and notify
security personnel so they can respond quickly. Optical turnstiles satisfy
both the goals of deterrence and detection due to their ability to
sense movement during passage and alarm if tailgating occurs.
They are typically installed in many public-sector buildings including
Fortune 1000 companies, Class A office buildings, universities,
high-rise apartments and corporate call centers. Most models
available today offer sliding or swinging barriers and they can be
waist high or full height. A very common assumption in the security
industry is that optical turnstiles with barriers prevent unauthorized
entry and can be unmanned, which is not true.
Once the barriers are open, a second user could slip through, or,
in the case of a wide lane to allow for disabled use, two people could
walk through side by side. Most of the time, an alarm will sound, but
there is the possibility of a false acceptance. Therefore, the cost of 24/7
supervision must be factored into the security budget. Here are some
other points to make note.
- Moderate capital cost, but high annual operating cost due to necessary
24/7 guard supervision.
- Sensors detect tailgating and sound an alarm for post-tailgating
reaction, but turnstiles can still be defeated.
- Moderate metrics capabilities available (for example, number of
times tailgating occurred, passback rejections).
- High throughput, handling up to 30 persons per minute in one
- If traffic is bi-directional, for example during lunchtime, throughput
is reduced per direction (people have to take turns).
SECURITY REVOLVING DOORS AND PORTALS
The goal of prevention is to make it close to impossible to tailgate into
a facility. Security revolving doors and mantrap portals accomplish
this job, due to their full height and working principle.
The entry solution of choice for Fortune 1000 companies, or any
company subject to mandatory regulations (e.g. HIPAA), they are
commonly used at employee-only entrances, and sensitive applications
such as government buildings, data centers, and any facility
that requires two-factor authentication. Security revolving doors
and portals do not require supervision because they are very difficult
to defeat; sensors in the ceiling prevent tailgating (following in
a trailing compartment). Optional piggybacking detection systems
are also available (preventing two people in the same compartment
The benefits of using an unmanned door are compelling: guard
staff can be reduced or reallocated and, depending on the hourly cost
of a guard, an ROI can be achieved in as short a time span as nine
months. Here’s some more information security integrators should
know about security revolving doors and portals.
- High capital cost, low annual operating cost due to no required
- Sophisticated metrics capabilities available, allowing the end user
to prove the value of their security spend.
- Security revolving doors = 20 persons per minute, simultaneously
in two directions; Security portals = six persons per minute in one
- Ideal for multi-factor authentication and use of biometric devices.
- Bullet-resistant glass can be incorporated for an even higher level
You should know now that when a customer says the word turnstile
they could be thinking of anything from a low security, crowd
control solution to a high security, tailgating prevention entrance.
A goal-based approach to a discovery conversation will break
down this “turnstile” barrier and lead to clarity on both sides of the
table and deployment of the best long-term solution for the end
user and ultimately for installer as well. Once the goal and the type
of entrance is determined, the manufacturer can assist further with
integration needs, customizations, installation requirements, technical
training, details about metrics, integration tips, local codes and
This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Security Today.