Milwaukee School Gets Affordable Access Control Upgrade

St. Eugene School installed a Web-based Access Control system to meet its security needs while heeding strict budget limits.

A security system’s affordability is becoming as important as its effectiveness when school administrators evaluate technology, and hosted and cloud-based systems are emerging as viable and affordable solutions. These technologies enhance building security while limiting the amount of physical equipment to install and configure onsite. The result is lower costs for educational facilities without sacrificing security or quality.

“For cost-conscious organizations like schools, there’s not a lot of wiggle room to allow for complicated installation procedures or cumbersome management needs,” says Robert Munger, who is founder and CEO of Milwaukee-based Munger Technical Services.

Munger’s company provides telecommunications, networking and structured cabling design and installation services to Milwaukee-area businesses and education facilities. One of its recent projects at St. Eugene School, a Catholic school located in Fox Point, Wis., epitomizes the needs of working with a client on a strict budget.

Issuing Keys Gives Way to Web-Based Access Control

St. Eugene School serves 200 students, from preschool through eighth grade. Yet, it encompasses a Catholic parish and a funeral home, which complicated the task of securing not only the school’s external doors but also the shared spaces with these other areas.

St. Eugene administrators determined the school’s antiquated key system was no longer delivering the level of security they felt was needed. It also lacked the granular level of control and management they desired, given the building layout. The spaces the school shares with the funeral home and church created multiple challenges. The building is sectioned off, so the school, parish and funeral home each have private facilities. However, the three groups each share interconnected doorways and other external entryways, and the key access system didn’t extend to these spaces.
“In order to have after-hours access they had to issue keys. Over a course of years they had no concept of how many keys were out there,” Munger explains. “Which keys were lost, which ones were in the hands of people that shouldn’t have them. They really had no clue as to how to control access to their building.”

During hours of operation, anyone within the church or funeral home could, theoretically, gain entry to the school. Adding to this risk was the school’s methods of maintaining general knowledge of who was in the building. This entailed parents manually signing in and out when entering and leaving the school to pick up their children from afterschool care – a practice the school very much sought to update.

St. Eugene needed an effective and easy-to-manage access control system that would allow school administrators to set different access zones, as well as issue and cancel access fobs as needed. Affordability was paramount. School officials also wanted a way to easily monitor the overall system and receive notification of security breaches. For the solution, Munger recommended St. Eugene serve as a beta test site for Honeywell’s Web-based access control system, NetAXS-123.

“It was a perfect fit. We look at technology that is modular and easy to manage,” Munger says. “Being able to remote into a product means the cost of installation and support is going to be lower.”
Each NetAXS-123 panel can be configured for one, two or three doors. To allow for scalability while maintaining simplicity with a single interface, Honeywell engineers devised Ethernet virtual loop (EVL) technology for the panel. Using a facility’s local area network (LAN), NetAXS-123 eliminates the need for dealers to run a dedicated wire loop to connect each access control panel. This simplifies installation and helps cut associated costs.

“Our model is we have purchased the single door controller and standard Ethernet to the network. It also has enough power that comes across standard PoE that it can power that local door strike.” Munger says.

Munger Technical Services will quote a single door panel for a particular entry point and if the customer wants to add a second door, they would add another door panel for it as well. The EVL link then allows one panel to be the gateway panel that clients use for login in order to add/delete access credentials and other tasks. Then the downstream panels connect through Honeywell’s protocol over a standard network.

“We mount the panel and connect it to their PoE switch. The panel powers up, we log right into the configuration. The second panel in this case was installed in the church. It connects through their Ethernet virtual link back to the panel in the school. So through a single interface, you can control access to both doors,” Munger says.

Currently three doors are being protected by the new system. There are two doors in close proximity to each other in the church, which are protected with a two-door controller. The school, which is situated at a different location in the building, houses the main gateway single-door panel. Ethernet cabling runs to the controller, and then from the controller to the door strike is a standard two-conductor cable.

“This has to integrate with their existing door hardware. We are not locksmiths so we depend on the customer to utilize their locksmith,” Munger says. “On older buildings it can be a challenge to keep the hardware operational. St. Eugene’s facilities person does a lot of the maintenance on the hardware.”

The system automatically issues updates to the protected doors, so when the school adds new credentials, for example, it automatically updates itself to accommodate this new information. The integrator also installed access control readers on the school’s gymnasium door, the church door that leads to the school, and a door connecting a shared parish hallway, as well as an external perimeter door that serves as the school’s main entry point.

“The initial challenge, of course, is control of access credentials. This made it simple. We issued fobs to the people who would need them. And that it would be scalable. For instance, we started with two doors. We knew we needed one for the church and we needed one for the school, but they would be administered through the parish,” Munger explains.

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