Networked security system guards Texas courthouse
Collin County, Texas, has enhanced security in its court- house and other buildings by implementing sophisticated equipment and encouraging employee involvement in the security process. The new security and access control installation is a giant leap over the previous security program, according to Larry Hawkins, buildings superintendent.
Previous security measures provided ease of use rather than sophisticated access control, Hawkins says. “The system we had in place was really not for security at all; it was mainly for convenience. It was a keypad-based system, and it was put on a few exterior doors for the convenience of locking down and unlockingwithout having to send personnel around to open and close doors.”
Designed by Secure-Net, a Dallas-based security systems integrator, the new system starts with the courtrooms as a focal point and moves to the secondary departments. It includes a networked access control and security management system from Dallas-based Open Options, as well as a PALS 9000 personal alarm locating system, manufactured by Act-All, San Dimas, Calif.
The first phase of the security installation, which cost about $300,000, included the main courthouse and two other buildings. Phase II, slated to begin this month, will add two more buildings to the network. Both phases encompass buildings in the towns of McKinney and Plano. Further expansion of the security network is planned for buildings in Farmersville and Frisco this year and next, but no cost estimate has been made. As part of a “duress system,” each judge carries a beeper-like sensor device on his or her belt. The device uses a radio frequency signal for continuous contact with monitors hung in the ceilings to track the individuals’ locations.
Monitoring controls are in place so that, when an alarm sounds, the system pinpoints where the event is happening as well as the person involved. PeopleFinder LT pagers by Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola are worn by response team members and are integrated into the software. If the alarm is annunciated, the pagers are set off automatically. All buildings in the security program were fitted with access readers and interface controllers. Additionally, an extra 68 doors will have door contacts, door hardware, magnetic locks, exit buttons, crashbars and motion detectors. The system design does not currently include a CCTV component, but it can be expanded in the future to accommodate that feature.
The system permits instant changes that affect all the buildings. If an employee is terminated, for example, county officials can automatically turn off that person’s access privileges. Hawkins likens Collin County’s new security setup to a commercial HVAC system.
“We’ve got a central control room at our plant, and it provides manpower savings and the ability to monitor and control all these buildings from one point,” he says.
“The most important aspect of all is communication to the system’s end-users,” Hawkins says. “Any type of new security is an inconvenience when people aren’t used to it. So explaining and selling the system to end-users — what it can do and how it can help them — is the key.” To that end, the county has striven to train and educate employees and build their support as the system was being implemented.