“Fail-safe” and “fail-secure” sound like high-tech jargon from a movie or video game. So how do these terms relate to securing your property? To put it in layman’s terms, these electronic locks differ in how they operate during a power outage. Understanding the difference between fail-safe and fail-secure locks will help to ensure that your property is secure and that personnel have a means of exit in case of an emergency.

How do fail-safe and fail-secure locks work?

Whether a lock is fail-safe or fail-secure is dependent on its default position. When power is received by an electronic lock, the lock uses this power to move the mechanisms in the lock from its default position to its secondary position. If the power is interrupted for any reason, the lock returns to its default position. Think of it like this: when there’s no power with a fail-safe lock, you’re safe to exit; when there’s no power with a fail-secure lock, you’re secure inside.

Fail-safe locks

When fail-safe locks lose power, the lock returns to its default position of being unlocked, allowing safe passage through the door and preventing lock-outs. Fail-safe locks are ideal in situations when access to a property or parts of it are needed during emergencies.

Fail-secure locks

Fail-secure locks are more commonly used, as these locks will stay in their default position of locked if the power is interrupted. This type of electronic lock is used in many businesses so that in the case of a power outage, the door still keeps the building secure from intruders.

What to do if you’re locked out of a fail-secure lock

Fail-secure locks, while more secure than fail-safe locks, can be troubling in situations when there is no power and you’re locked out. This is why having a manual override, most commonly in the form of a traditional key, is usually mandatory (and always recommended).

How to choose which lock is right for you

When selecting a lock, you should consider the purpose that the lock will serve. A fail-safe lock is often used in situations where personal safety is a concern because it allows for easy exiting, while a fail-secure lock is typically used when property or assets need protection.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that, regardless of which kind of lock you choose, it must not hinder the ability of personnel to exit. If it is an exterior door, you will be required to have a manual override system for the lock that may be subject to regulations that permit emergency services access to your property.

The Bottom Line

Both fail-safe and fail-secure locks have their place in maintaining security and safety. You may want to consider using them in conjunction with one another to make sure that the different areas of your property have the most efficient security. To learn more about fail-safe and fail-secure locks, visit our website at popalock.com.


Pop-A-Lock was founded in 1991 by local law enforcement officers who recognized the need for a mobile, on-site locksmith in their area. Since then, Pop-A-lock has grown to become one of the nation’s largest and most trusted local locksmiths, providing peace of mind to over 8,500 communities. In addition to automotive services, Pop-A-Lock also offers at-the-door residential and commercial services. To learn more, visit popalock.com.