NETWORKED AS ONE
The pressures of modern life create a heightened awareness of the need for security. The population boom puts pressure on public facilities of every kind. Escalating labor costs make electronic security measures more desirable. With all this in mind, Union County, N.J., undertook a five-year plan using electronic access control to protect more than 18 county facilities.
In Union County, high-security electronic access control is networked to supply instant information. Shared countywide, it protects property, enhances the safety of people working in and visiting the buildings, boosts worker productivity and reduces the need for routine guard service.
Located in east-central New Jersey with a population of half a million people, Union County is the first county in the state to implement an access control network. Institutional Systems Service Corp. (ISSC) of Waldwick, N.J., was the systems integrator. The system employs 5E access control and security management technology from Compass Technologies Inc., Exton, Pa., a Wheelock Company.
ISSC worked with Steve Caruso, Union County Police; Neil Palmeri, Union County Maintenance; Vince Manning, captain of the Sheriff’s Office, and a number of engineer/designers, both county employees and consultants, over several years to evolve this network.
The project began in 2000 with the installation of a Compass 4E access control system in a number of county facilities, each operating as an independent system. A later expansion of the access control success involved an upgrade of existing systems to the Compass 5E and expansion to remaining county buildings. The first to be fitted out was the Union County Administration Building in Elizabeth, N.J., the county seat.
Other buildings so equipped were the Orisello Correctional Facility, the Courthouse Annex, the Ruotolo Building (prosecutors’ office), the Board of Elections, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Public Works, the County Engineering Building, the County Police, the Division of Security (sheriff’s office), the Juvenile Bureau and the Elizabeth Parking Garage.
Access control readers were also placed in the clubhouses and field houses of Ashbrook, Galloping Hill and Oak Ridge, the three Union County golf courses; the Trailside Nature Center in Scotch Plains, N.J.; and Runnels Specialized Hospital in Berkeley Heights, N.J. The integrator is presently working on the new County Police Building in Westfield, N.J. More county buildings are being planned and will be fitted, as may Kean College, the county college in Union, N.J.
The system continues to grow. Each employee is supplied with an ID/photo/badge card, and all county police and sheriff’s officers have cards to admit them to any building for emergency response.
At the outset of the project, the software in existing facilities was upgraded to the Compass 5E and connected to all facilities via the county’s Wide Area Network, thus providing central monitoring of alarms and access transactions.
The server for the new 5E system, in the Administration Building in Elizabeth, ties together facilities in the county seat. In addition, a number of administrative workstations have been deployed around the county. The workstations and the system server operate using the county’s own SQL database. Scotch Plains, the westernmost township, and Berkeley Heights, the northernmost, are each more than 20 miles from Elizabeth and networked into the system.
The systems integrator is currently developing a proposal to add satellite technology to the 5E system. This would tie together security video cameras at selected buildings across the county, individually viewable onsite and in real-time display at police headquarters.
Union County’s basic requirement is that access be controlled from both sides of locked doors using a reader on either side.
There are currently more than 6,550 cardholders in the system — all county employees or security personnel. Changes are made centrally by intra-county memo from the specific facility. With the 5E enhancement, all information goes back to the central database.
The specific requirements for the courthouse and courthouse annex are to protect all exterior doors and provide traffic control for employees and public entry. In general, vendors and contractors are not issued cards, and any non-employee must be escorted on passing the entry. Main entrances are timed to be open during business hours, but anyone entering must pass a security checkpoint with metal detectors, staffed by two sheriff’s officers. All other doors are protected inside and out with card readers and magnets.
The six-story parking garage has access control for the office door, and gate activity is reported to the central monitoring station. The gate is always attended; the guard there also monitors all county systems during off hours and reports alarms to the Sheriff’s Office, which automatically responds to any after-hours call.
STANDARDIZATION IS BEST
In the security world, standardization is the best practice to protect property and people and route information in a timely manner.
Union County authorities applaud the systems and methods ISSC has developed. In most cases, guards formerly posted at each locked door or on tour are now replaced with electronics.
Usage of access controlled doors is monitored. The accountability of employees is increased, and time and attendance data is available. The database facilitates investigations of past and current situations by security and human resources. All records are immediately available, saved, and backed up electronically, says Bryan Lo Russo, president of ISSC.