Mild shocks from static electricity are a fairly common experience. Simply walking across a carpeted floor can create enough friction to cause a shock from touching a doorknob. And while this static electricity doesn’t cause harm to the human body, it is often very damaging to electronic devices which are sensitive to electrostatic discharge (ESD).
Static electricity is more problematic when there is low humidity, no matter what the season. The issue is compounded as electronic devices today are smaller and more susceptible to electrostatic discharge. Granted, most electronics have ESD protection built in; but over time or from a constant barrage of these tiny lightning-like strikes, the protection becomes corrupted, resulting in a failure. Anytime air is warmed, this only reduces the humidity further, increasing the likelihood of a static discharge.
This lesson was learned the hard way at an airport located in the Southeastern United States. A new access control system had been installed and shortly afterward access control panel and card reader failures began occurring. The problem was dry air that created ESD, damaging the internal circuitry and causing controlled doors to malfunction. Without proper surge protection for each controlled door panel, the system was extremely vulnerable.
Eventually the access control system suffered a major surge event, causing card reader and mag lock failures. Door solenoids failed, and the entry/egress doors in secured areas would not open. Employees could not enter or leave secured areas until the problem was identified and the access control system was manually overridden. Airport management had to pull security personnel from other areas of the airport to guard the secured areas until the access control system was repaired, reducing the overall physical security of the airport.
To resolve the problem, surge protection was added to each controlled door panel; the system has since suffered no further reports of malfunction or damage to the access control system.
It takes very little energy to damage modern electronics. Proper surge protection can help ensure that buildings —and their occupants and systems— are protected every day of the year.