Security and systems integrators across the nation are recommending and providing long-term security solutions to their customers. But when it comes to physical security entrances, integrators can easily fall into the trap of simply fulfilling an end user’s exact request without much pushback. Why? We believe the complexity and variety of entrances available makes it difficult to consult on the best solution, but also because there are a lot of assumptions at play.

Determining The Correct Security Entrance Solution

There is confusion in the security industry on the meaning of the word, “turnstile.” End users, when requesting a solution, tend to use the word “turnstile” to describe anything from an old fashioned, 3-arm turnstile to a high-tech optical turnstile to a security revolving door.

We encourage security integrators to ask questions to discover how their clients want to mitigate the risk of unauthorized entry or “tailgating.” This can help determine the correct security entrance solution to meet the end user’s goal and budget. By asking the right questions and offering true solutions, you can enhance a relationship built on trust and consultation leading to potential repeat business.

Below are four physical security goals—crowd , deterrence, detection, and prevention—accompanied by the type of “turnstile” and its capabilities. This breakdown can help the integrator to confidently address an end user’s request for a “turnstile,” and then recommend a solution that truly fulfills their security goals.

1. Crowd Control: Tripod/Waist-high Turnstiles

Typically seen in stadiums, amusement parks, universities, and fitness centers, tripod turnstiles are considered a low security solution for crowd management. Designed for counting employees or slowing down high traffic volume to collect tickets or payments, tripod turnstiles are built to withstand the most abusive of conditions. Here’s what security integrators should know about tripod turnstiles:

  • Low capital cost, but high annual operating cost due to needed 24/7 guard supervision
  • Lack of sensors can lead to defeat – turnstiles can be crawled under or jumped over without alarm/notification to guard staff
  • Little to no metrics capabilities available – no sensors or alarms if defeated
  • High throughput, handling 30 persons per minute in one direction

Full height turnstiles are a tall, robust solution for perimeter fence lines, metro stations or parking garages
Optical turnstiles employ sensors and alarms to detect tailgating when it occurs


2. Deterrent: Full-height Turnstiles

A physical deterrent to infiltration, full height turnstiles are a tall, robust solution for perimeter fence lines, metro stations or parking garages. While full height turnstiles do physically stop tailgating (an unauthorized person following someone in the next compartment), they have no means to prevent piggybacking. Two people in collusion can gain access through the full height turnstile by badging once and then squeezing into the same compartment. Here are some other things to note about full height turnstiles:

  • Low capital cost, low annual operating cost
  • Guard supervision is up to the user
  • Little to no metrics capabilities available – no sensors or alarms if defeated
  • Moderate throughput, handling 18 persons per minute in one direction

3. Detection: Optical Turnstiles

A staple in lobby security to accommodate visitors, optical turnstiles utilize complex sensors to detect a tailgating attempt. Most models available today offer sliding or swinging barriers. A very common assumption in the security industry is that optical turnstiles prevent unauthorized entry, which isn’t true. In fact, once the barriers are open, a second user can slip through. Or, in the case of a wide lane for disabled use, two people can walk through side by side. In either case, an alarm is generated and supervision is therefore essential in order to respond swiftly. The cost of 24/7 supervision must be factored into the security budget. Here are some other points to make note of:

  • Moderate capital cost, but high annual operating cost due to need for 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, # times tailgating occurred, passback rejection)
  • High throughput, handling up to 30 persons per minute in one direction

4. Prevention: Security Revolving Doors And Portals

The entry solution of choice for Fortune 1000 companies, security revolving doors and mantrap portals completely prevent tailgating due to their working principle, ensuring the safety and security of staff and visitors. Commonly used at employee-only entrances, security doors are an unmanned entrance solution that cannot be defeated; 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 from entering).

The benefits of utilizing a truly unmanned door are unparalleled: guard staff can be reduced or reallocated, and this entrance offers an ROI of just 1-2 years. Here’s more information security integrators should know about security revolving doors and portals:

  • High capital cost, low annual operating cost due to no required guard supervision
  • Sophisticated metrics capabilities available, allowing the end user to prove the value of their security investment
  • Security revolving doors = 20 persons per minute, simultaneously in two directions; Security portals = 6 persons per minute in one direction
  • Biometric devices and bullet-resistant glass can be incorporated for an even higher level of security

As we’ve demonstrated here, “turnstile,” in the eyes of an end user, is a complex term that can range from a low security, crowd control solution to a high security, tailgating prevention entrance. Security integrators need to first accurately determine the security goals of their customers and then break down the “turnstile” barrier of confusion to recommend the best solution for fulfilling those goals.