Fort Lewis Army base, near Seattle, has been a busy place in recent years. It is one of the last stopovers for American troops on their way to Iraq, and, often, their point of entry upon return. “A lot of young men and women rotate in and out of this facility,” says John Overton, who is in charge of access control for the base. “It is important to keep things running smoothly, so we are always looking for ways to improve operations.”
“One of our biggest jobs is managing personnel turnover in the barracks,” Overton says. “Whenever a unit ships out, we have to make sure the living quarters are ready for the next group coming in.” A big part of that job, he says, is making sure the living quarters are secure. For that, the installation needs a flexible, easy-to-manage access control system.
A key-based system is a nightmare when soldiers are leaving for Iraq, according to Overton. Turning in a key is never a high priority before deployment. “A PIN-based system that makes it quick and easy to change codes is best for this type of application,” he says. In addition to the management issues, locks must be exceptionally durable for Fort Lewis soldiers, who typically work with rugged field equipment on missions and unit exercises.
“The Fort Lewis Army base has always been open to trying new locks to solve particular situations,” says Al Erickson of Renz and Aspaas, the Kaba Access sales representative. The base already uses a variety of mechanical and electronic Kaba locks. Erickson suggested the E-Plex 5000 lock for the application. “It is a PIN-based system that can provide up to 100 codes per lock, with additional models capable of 3000 users,” he says. Using the E5031, Fort Lewis manually programs its locks at the door, knowing that software could be used in the future to manage the system if required.”
The E-Plex gives the user full audit capability. In the event of a problem, users know what access code was used and when the person entered. “It is a very durable lock,” Erickson says. “It is ANSI/BHMA Grade 1 certified, and can handle the temperature extremes of an outside application.” As a benefit for Fort Lewis, it is a fully-featured electronic lock that lets users employ knobs instead of levers without paying a premium or replacing the spindle. “Most locks today are built with levers because of ADA requirements,” Erickson says. “For the majority of the barracks at Fort Lewis, though, ADA requirements just don’t apply.”
Fort Lewis started with a test of 5 E-Plex 5000 locks. A metal wrap was used to reduce drilling to four small holes per door. The E-Plex requires no wiring, and all of the power for the lock runs through a single screw called the LectroBolt. According to Erickson, the simplified installation process also rules out the possibility of failure from pinched wires. Once the locks were installed, most of the management tasks were assigned to the units, thus relieving the burden on the maintenance staff and giving the soldiers more control over their barracks. Override capabilities are maintained at the base level, so workers can step in as needed to keep everything running effectively.
The initial test locks have been in use for nearly five months. No management, maintenance, durability or service issues have been reported. Fort Lewis installed additional locks in April, and plans to order more in the future.