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Amazing Ways Magnets Work for Safety & Security

By Shalea Hardison

From deterring shoplifters to preventing catastrophe at gas stations, magnets play a unique role in security in places you might not even suspect.

You might be surprised to know magnets are used in some pretty useful – and amazing – applications rooted in security. Here’s our top picks for ways magnets keep us safe and sound.

Breakaway Gas Pumps

If you’ve ever witnessed someone drive away from a gas station with the gas pump still attached to their car – without the gas spewing like Old Faithful – chances are there’s a magnet behind this safety system.

Known as breakaway pumps, these hoses separate cleanly into two pieces when enough force is applied without damaging the gas pump. A magnetic coupling with rare earth magnets provide powerful and reliable holding.  No fireballs, no explosions.

Want to know more about the mechanics of how magnets work for safety in breakaway pumps? Northwest Pump has a great video explaining more!

At the pump

Retail Security

We’ve all heard the annoying beeping as someone tries to leave a store with a purchase that hasn’t had the security tag removed or deactivated. Referred to as acousto-magnetic tags or magnetostrictive tags, these little devices create a lot of ruckus aimed at deterring shoplifting.

Inside the tags is a strip of magnetostrictive metal and a magnetically semi-hard metallic strip.  Together they convert magnetic energy into mechanical vibrations. If not de-magnetized, this energy is read by sensors at retailers’ exits creating an alarm.

Another popular security measure used by retailers are magnetic peg hook locks. In this case, merchandise is still displayed for shoppers, but can’t be accessed without a magnetic key.

Both of these simple magnetic security options help retailers reduce shrink, saving consumers money in the long run.

Retail SecurityHard magnetic tags and soft magnetic tags provide retailers with different security options.

Door Locks

Another everyday example of how magnets work security and safety are magnetic key cards. While credit card companies may have ditched magnet stripes, hotels still use access control key cards with magnetic stripes worldwide. The magnetic stripe is programmed with information that a sensor in the lock reads to determine if the lock can be opened. These key cards are easily reprogrammed for each new guest.

Other uses with magnetic locks are more difficult to see. Hidden magnetic locks employ concealed magnetic latches that when closed appear as if there is no door at all. The door opens when a strong magnet is placed over the hidden latch. This type of magnetic lock is popular for all sorts of safes, baby latches on cabinets and areas where smooth finish is desired.

Unlock more information in this blog post by United Locksmith about unique magnetic locks.

Magnetic Door Locks

Security Sensors

Many home security systems rely on magnets for some their most widely used components. We trust door, window and entry sensors to alert us to intruders or notify of us if a child has opened a door.

You might think cutting edge technology drives these systems, but these security devices are really just basic reed switches. Reed switches are simple electrical switches operated by the presence of a magnet.

In the case of home security, removal of the sensor from the magnetic field triggers an alarm. Because they are very sensitive to disruption, reed sensors make the ideal entry alarms.

Home Security

Photo of window sensor taken from Simplisafe. More great security sensor information on the Simplisafe blog.

These are just a few examples of ways magnets work for safety and security. If you have another great application, share it with in the comments section.

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