What is a 999 Key?

A 999 key is a special type of key used for restricted access in buildings and facilities. These keys are often referred to as “grand master keys”, master keys, or emergency keys since they can open any lock in a master key system.

Background on Master Key Systems

Before diving into 999 keys specifically, it helps to understand master key systems. In these systems, each lock has its own unique key that opens only that lock. However, there are also separate master keys that can open multiple locks within the system.

Levels of Master Keys

There are different levels of master keys:

  • Master key: Opens all locks in a group or section within a master key system
  • Sub-master key: Opens a subset of locks within a system
  • Grand master key: Opens all the locks in an entire master key system

Benefits of Master Key Systems

Master key systems offer several benefits:

  • Convenience: Master keys allow access to multiple areas without needing separate keys. Facility managers can access restricted areas quickly.
  • Flexibility: Locks can be easily re-keyed and arranged into different groups.
  • Security: If a key is lost or stolen, only one group is affected. The other locks and master keys still work.

What is a 999 Key?

A 999 key is essentially a grand master key on steroids. It can open any lock at a location set up with a master key system—not just the locks within one system.

Names for 999 Keys

999 keys go by several other names:

  • Grand master keys
  • Master keys
  • Emergency keys

These all refer to keys that can open every lock and provide access to all areas. Properties with advanced master key systems often give special names to keys with this unlimited access.

Uses for 999 Keys

Typical uses for 999 keys include:

  • Providing emergency access to first responders like firefighters
  • Enabling building managers to quickly enter any room or restricted area
  • Allowing security personnel and guards to patrol and access all areas

Security for 999 Keys

Due to their power, 999 keys require strict security measures:

  • Only one or two copies should exist
  • Keys must be carefully tracked and signed out/in when used
  • Access should only be granted to authorized personnel

Pros and Cons of 999 Keys

Pros Cons
Quick emergency access Increased risk if lost or stolen
Flexibility for managers Requires strict accountability
Ability to open all areas Higher re-keying costs if compromised

Best Practices for 999 Keys

Organizations using 999 keys should follow these best practices:

  • Store keys in a secure, access-controlled location like a key box, safe, or cabinet
  • Only allow checkout by authorized personnel
  • Control duplication – zero or very few copies should exist
  • Have a clear checkout process that logs who accesses keys and when
  • Require return/check-in of keys immediately after use
  • Re-key locks and replace 999 keys if lost, stolen or compromised
  • Conduct audits to ensure key accountability and track copies

Following procedures like this ensures 999 keys provide access as needed while minimizing security risks.

Final Tips

999 keys enable convenient access and flexibility in master key systems. However, their power also requires responsibility. Be sure your facility has protocols in place to keep 999 keys secure.