NEW JERSEY’S MEGA-SYSTEM
In New Jersey state government, the Treasury Department’s Division of Property Management and Construction is a single end-user, with some 60 client buildings located around a state that is more than 112 miles from top to bottom and 45 miles across. They include sites large and small. The main ones are in larger cities such as Newark, Trenton, Camden, Jersey City, Bridgeton, Atlantic City, the Oranges and Hackensack; small ones may be anywhere.
The department controls access for some 40,000 people through five different systems, all supplied by Compass Technologies of Exton, Pa., a division of Wheelock Inc. of Long Branch, N.J.
The main security system includes more than 750 access levels, 700 smart card readers and 4,000 alarm points. It is probably the largest system of its kind in the United States, and growing every day.
The genesis of this mega-system began more than a decade ago. In the early 1990s, an outside security consultant evaluated various management systems and recommended a single consolidated card access system to unite state buildings.
PROBLEMS OF STAND-ALONES
Property Management agreed completely. Most large state buildings already had security systems, but most of the systems were “stand-alones,” designed and applied for the needs of the specific property. Because each one was unique, problem-solving usually required a site visit. If there was a problem in Bridgeton, in south-central Jersey, or in Newark to the north, Property Management had to dispatch someone on an hour-long trip. When the problem involved people locked out, or doors wide open, the aggravation level was high. A number of the stand-alones employed systems from Compass. The consultants noted that Compass systems could interface with multiple systems, allowing consolidation of alarms — and management issues such as card data entry — at one location. Another plus: Compass systems are installed not by the company itself, but by a number of certified system integrators, which met the state’s criteria for competitive bidding.
Y2K GIVES THE OK
The major leap forward for consolidation began in 1996 with a state plan to consolidate multiple agencies and departments within buildings. It seemed an appropriate time to also consolidate security efforts, at least for the larger buildings. The eventual aim was a single security system for all state agencies, administered from a central location in Trenton, the state capital.
The Y2K upgrade happened at the same time. As part of the Y2K task force, the Property Management division surveyed all its buildings to see where problems might occur and which systems would need to be replaced. Some 15 sites definitely needed replacement.
Concurrent with the Y2K work, the Treasurer’s Office initiated a smart-card project called Access New Jersey. This plan would allow staff and couriers moving around a number of sites to deploy a single smart card instead of the six to eight different access cards they needed previously.
In conjunction with the smart card, a total of 40 sites were brought up to speed and consolidated before 2000. That total is now up to 50. The security measures include positive access control, parking, photo badging and, in some cases, elevator access control and CCTV interface. It is all accomplished through Compass systems and uses a single smart card for access: the Mifare-standard smart cards and readers developed by Amerisys of Quebec, Canada.
Communication for the consolidation is via phone lines and local and wide area networks. They are protected with uninterruptible power supply backup and surge protection for data lines, and are administered through 14 workstations and two servers.
HEIGHTENED SECURITY POST-SEPT. 11
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, security in New Jersey and most other states was heightened further. Access control consolidation is an ongoing task. In late 2003, Property Management added another three sites, with nearly 1,000 people and 32 card readers.
Increased security at various New Jersey locations is a continuing project. In some cases, combinations of smart cards and biometric readers or smart cards and PIN numbers will be instituted. Based on current smart-card technology, a three-way combination of card access, bio and PIN number could even be required for access. Another possibility is a unified photo-badging system across the state, tied to the security management system.
Property Management works together with the State Police to increase security. Property Management is involved with planning, executing, operating and maintaining the physical upgrades, while the police make risk assessment recommendations and handle monitoring and response. The two groups interface continually to optimize operation.
MANAGING MORE WITH LESS
Consolidation allows Property Management to manage more with less. Before consolidation, separate access cards were required for each site, and multiple cards were needed for personnel that visited more than one site. Travel times between sites were a continuing headache. Each site also needed its own administrator, and when some overworked facility managers delegated the duty to others, system problems arose.
Now the whole system, spread throughout the state, is administered centrally from Trenton. When there is a problem with a building, the System Administrator can go to the terminal and review the whole situation. In most cases, the problem can be resolved immediately by working with the facility manager, or directed to the attention of the vendor’s service people.
Employee training and education is easy with the Compass system; on-site administrators can be trained in a few hours to do simple card data entry for their specific agencies.
With continued improvement in technology, Compass systems are being upgraded for expansion into the future.
The present state of consolidation, however, is a big improvement to the security of state buildings and to the operation and maintenance of the systems. Smarter control of access, achieved more economically, is an important advantage.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff Rechtsteiner joined the New Jersey Department of the Treasury as a fire/safety inspector in 1985. He is responsible for day-to-day operations of card access control security and administration at some 60 sites.