Family Changing Room Security


YMCA executives have lots of concerns – they come with the job. Recently a branch executive related his first awareness of a truly frightening one. He was standing near the end of a corridor talking with a member of his staff. He didn’t really pay any attention to the couple walking hand-in-hand towards them until the young man didn’t enter the men’s locker room. Simple curiosity edged towards anxiety when the pair passed the women’s locker room without slowing. As they approached his position he asked as casually as he was able “So, where are you two headed?” fully aware that only the family changing rooms were beyond where he was standing. Their response was an innocent “To our locker room.” Anxiety now spiking towards panic, he suggested that perhaps they were not the intended users of family changing rooms and redirected them to their gender-specific locker rooms. As they walked away he shook his head, thinking “Great! We introduced family changing rooms to serve families, not to make them.”

Control of service areas, program space not actively in use, family changing areas, or other isolated areas is very important. Most of these spaces are relatively easy to protect – simple locks, when actually utilized by your staff, will keep unauthorized people out of those areas. Family changing rooms are different – they are designed for patrons to use. Providing this convenience for those who assist the young, elderly, or challenged is good, but not preventing access for predatory or illicit use might be considered irresponsible or even negligent.

The primary means of controlling any space are to restrict entry, limit access, or monitor access. Monitoring the access by camera or staff provides some deterrence, and recording, documenting, and using notifying signage even more. However, in this case monitoring is best used as a supplemental control. Limiting access by positioning entries in a public spot removes much of the exposure of misuse, but not all – stuff still happens – and when family changing areas are retrofitted into existing buildings such positioning generally is not a viable option.

Restricting entry is the only relatively sure way of control, but standard locks are impractical – key control becomes an operational nightmare and the failure of keys to return requires re-keying the locks or compromising protection since such keys are easily and inexpensively duplicated.

Coded (i.e., push-button) locks provide some protection, but without daily code changes there is minimal security and even then compromise is both easy and undetectable.

Card-locks are a better solution – some use your YMCA ID-cards, but those require expensive locks, software that can identify those who are authorized to use the area, and communication between the devices.

A more viable solution uses simple hotel card-key locks, with card keys being given to appropriate patrons at the front desk. The keys are easily programmed, relatively inexpensive, will last nearly forever if not damaged. The basic task is inexpensive and quick – about $120 per door with about five minutes to switch locksets. While the programming can be done at the lock with no additional cost, such practice prevents use of their most valuable attribute. The addition of a card encoder (about $550) allows for easier and quicker coding of key cards, but more importantly it allows encoding that restricts the cards validity, e.g., to two hours, after which the card will no longer open the lock. Lost or stolen cards become a non-issue as they will not function past their designated termination. Note: if you do not use the encoder a change protocol must be established, e.g., daily, or whenever a card is not returned to the front desk. Without a change protocol security is compromised whenever a key is not returned.

There are many vendors and other options – the one above is the BS-66 IC Smart Card Lock available from For a relatively modest investment the cited executive may perhaps sleep a little more easily – one concern relieved.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.


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