June 6, 2011
For the past decade or so, college campuses across the nation have been adopting more and more security and public safety technologies, such as card access control, mass notification, fire alarms and video surveillance. Although these and other solutions do a great deal to protect campus students, faculty and staff, as well as institution assets, there is one common problem. Often, a variety of systems are installed in a piece-meal fashion over several years. When this occurs, normally the systems don’t work together or are only moderately interoperable.
Such was the challenge with Cleveland State University (CSU) in 2009 when administrators made the decision to migrate from its various legacy systems to one integrated solution. The upgrades were part of the school’s $200 million campus master plan, titled “Building Blocks for the Future.” The plan called for CSU to adopt a system that could monitor everything from AEDs to security technology to critical infrastructure to emergency generators and transfer switches.
Multiple Dispatch Interfaces Caused Confusion
CSU’s police department dispatch system was one example of how a lack of interoperability posed problems for the campus prior to the upgrade. Previously, the dispatch systems incorporated different computer screens and graphical user interfaces (GUIs).
“They were all good, but to respond to one alarm would be different than to answer an alarm of another,” says CSU Commander of Police David Buckingham.
Another challenge was analyzing data for investigations.
“You were looking at a bunch of different systems that required logging in different ways,” adds Buckingham. “You’d get the information in different formats. It wasn’t like comparing apples and oranges. You were comparing oranges and tangerines at times.”
And with new construction or renovation projects underway involving housing, administration, the recreation center and other facilities, it only made sense for the new systems in newly constructed buildings and legacy systems in the older facilities, including the police department, to be integrated.
“When you start putting in 3,000-4,000 surveillance points, the older systems just can’t handle it,” says CSU Vice President of Business Affairs and Finance Jack Boyle. “We had to upgrade anyway because of the number of cameras, alarms and emergency notification systems we have installed in the new buildings.”
Thus, after an extensive review of providers and products, CSU officials chose the Andover Continuum system so the school’s legacy security, life safety and infrastructure systems would integrate into one network. It has also permitted CSU to incorporate the fully networked Continuum system into the plans for three new facilities currently under construction.
Individuals Assigned Access Management Duties
Given the concerns of security in residential buildings, access control is a vital portion of the systems design. In the Euclid Commons residence halls, for example, all residents are required to use the university-designated credential to gain access. Visitors must sign in at a manned desk. A visitor includes anyone from a local friend to the pizza delivery person. Individuals who try to sneak by are blocked by an all-but-invisible optical turnstile that not only signals the desk attendant but also provides notification to campus police.
Access control of a facility or area is managed by one person in each campus building. This individual is known as the Single Access Control Alarm Coordinator (SACC). They have direct responsibility for coordinating building access, alarm protocols, CCTV access, and alarm and access control schedules. Each SACC is given a WebClient account so that he or she can review access and building schedules, and grant or deny access via the WebClient. Controls within the Continuum system restrict the SACC’s view, which allows them to see only the doors and schedules or access accounts for their assigned building.
“This places the responsibility at the most granular level,” says Ken Murphy, CSU’s director of access control and security systems. “We have an 85-acre campus. I don’t know if a student should be allowed in room 102 or not, but the building SACC does.”
In planning the design of the system, Murphy wanted to make sure that all of the special concerns of students living on campus were addressed. Working with the Simplex-Grinnell staff, he was able to provide camera coverage and remote access using only a standard PC linked to the Continuum’s WebClient application.
The system was designed out using the CSU credential (CSU’s Viking Card) as its source with scripted responses. These dictate an action upon the receipt of a signal from the central station operator (see example below).
With the campus’ video surveillance, by integrating CCTV with critical monitoring points, any alarm signal associated with a camera triggers the camera to the monitoring screen. As with most current systems, it then brings up the live video, but then automatically pulls the stored video so officers can view what actually triggered the event.
Dispatchers Trained on System Use
Once the system was installed, campus personnel, and particularly its police department needed to be trained how to use the new technology. Buckingham insisted that all dispatchers be trained and tested on the system prior to it going online.
“All of our operators are certified central station operators,” he says. “We know what NFPA 72 requires, but we also want [our dispatchers] tested on this particular system. SimplexGrinnell developed a training program that included a written test to ensure the operators were ready before the system went live.”
Investigations, Operations Run Smoothly
Now that the system is up and running, CSU has experienced some successes, particularly with regard to investigations.
“Having CCTV, access history and security alarms emanate from a single database makes my investigations easier,” says CSU Detective Scott Secor. “When we would investigate an incident from the old systems, I had to pull historic CCTV from one system and the alarm from another. With it all on one system, these initial investigations go much faster.”
Other operations go much more smoothly too.
“We can say we want the signal to go here,” says Buckingham. “Once we have that signal, we can get consistent labeling, which we didn’t have before. We’d have alarms coming in with a number of different tags on them. A holdup alarm is different than a personal panic alarm, and we respond differently. Now when our dispatchers receive a signal, they have a better idea of what to do, and we have been working on scripted responses so we can decide what we are going to do when we receive this kind of signal.”