Access Management / Identity Management / Construction, Real Estate, Property Management

Facilities Open Doors to Custom Access

June 1, 2010
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At the Met at Warner Center, a large condominium community, standardized access control is managed to 100 main entry doors, 16 telephone entry systems, a visitor management system at the gatehouse and cameras at entry/exit points.


John Tello, assistant director, Safety & Security for the Prudential Center, Boston Region, says that an ancillary benefit of the facility’s security program has been the positive interaction between security and its office tenant population. “Our security officers have more contact with our constituents than any other entity in our organization,” he says.

From New York to Boston to suburban Chicago, Tennessee and southern California, the events of September 11, which hit New York City’s largest office buildings, created a post 9/11 world where security directors closely looked at who goes where, when, how and why. 

Alan Snow, director, Safety and Security of the Boston Region for Prudential Center, says that that since implementing his security program after September 11, 2001, “we have had no occurrences of casual buildings thieves plying our buildings during business hours for the purpose of stealing laptops or other tenant owned property. That type of crime has dropped off the cliff since we developed this philosophy in the wake of 9/11,” he says. “An ancillary benefit of the program has been the positive interaction we have seen between security and our office tenant population. Our security officers have more contact with our constituents than any other entity in our organization. We have also successfully demonstrated how security can be an amenity to a building and how it can be used to attract and retain corporate tenants whose employees insist on a safe and secure environment in which to work.”

Still, he says the challenge with access control is to achieve a balance between the security of his buildings and occupants and the needs of business and commerce. “Our tenants want their employees to feel safe and secure in their offices but not at the cost of impeding or hindering their business,” he says. “Our security program is designed with these objectives in mind.”

Accordingly, he says he has developed an access control program that uses a combination of technology and security officers to ensure that only authorized persons are admitted into its high-rise towers. Any time a tenant employee enters the building, he or she must electronically authenticate their badge at a security checkpoint to ensure it is valid and then present the badge’s photo to the officer on duty. The officer will verify that the badge is indeed valid and that the photo matches the person holding the badge. Both conditions must be satisfied for a person to be admitted into the building.

“We also have a robust, Web-based visitor pre-clearance system with which our tenants can register their visitors prior to their arrival,” he comments. “When visitors arrive, our security officers will verify the identification of the visitor and cross check their name against the tenant’s visitor database for that time period. The process is quick, easy and professional. Our tenants appreciate this philosophy of access control and it allows security to have continuous and positive interaction with our constituents.”

Snow adds that he would like to have a biometric solution that could perform both functions of authenticating the employment of a tenant employee and verifying his or her identity in one quick step. “The solution would need to be easy to use for our occupants and fast enough to keep up with the volume and throughput requirements that we see in our buildings,” he says. “It would also need to be virtually maintenance free in an environment of continuous and constant usage.”

Across the country in Rolling Meadows, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, Bob Wilson, director of security for Prime Group Realty Trust Continental Towers, echoes the same concerns. Wilson is responsible for 1 million square feet of class A office space and an attached commercial building that is open to the public. In the office space are multiple tenants spread out in three, 12-story towers.

Wilson tells Security that with so many individual tenants, it’s difficult to ensure that each tenant stays current with employee roster changes. “Many fail to notify me if they feel the person was not a security risk,” he says. “They often times put a collected card in a drawer and re-issue to a new employee without ever notifying security.

“I also have a problem with what I refer to as the ‘courtesy factor,’ meaning if you aren’t wearing a ‘mask’ then you must be okay. Many tenants open doors for people who might not be authorized to be in the buildings. I have a video clip of laptop thefts that show a door being opened and held for a suspect rolling a case of laptops through security doors after he ‘faked’ looking for his key card.”

With the larger tenants, Wilson issues access reports the first of the month requesting that changes be made to any inconsistencies. For smaller tenants, he conducts a full audit annually as their rosters tend to change less.

“For the courtesy factor, I rely heavily on every medium I have to get the message out, including monthly newsletters, quarterly ‘fire warden’ meetings and informational bulletins. I try to reinforce the concept that a secure building means following procedures,” he says. “Checking out people trying to ‘slip by’ access control doesn’t get me a lot of compliments, but it does provide a safer environment. A strict verification procedure is also in place when people try to access the building surreptitiously.”

And the benefit of that, he says, is mitigating risk, including one day when a bank robbery suspect escaped during prisoner transport. “He overpowered the deputies and the event turned into televised manhunt. Both deputies (one who was now wearing the prisoner’s orange jump suit) ran into one of my towers for assistance. By enabling the access control system during the day, we were able to secure the buildings, control access to the entire complex and assist responding law enforcement agencies. The ability to go into a lockdown and quickly review video was the fastest and safest way to keep business going as usual.”


Bob Wilson, director of security for Prime Group Realty Trust Continental Towers, is responsible for 1 million square feet of class A office space and an attached commercial building that is open to the public. Wilson tells Security that with so many individual tenants, it’s difficult to ensure that each tenant stays current with employee roster changes.

Standardizing Access Control

Often with access control, installations can bring a large number of doors literally together. For the Village of Hoffman Estates, Ill., that entails 180 access points spread out over a large area. 

After post-9/11, the Village began to explore ways to protect its water supply and other infrastructure, in addition to the staff who serve the Village’s 51,000+ residents. The Department of Public Works had to upgrade its access control over a large area without installing and maintaining a lot more phone lines, says Paul Petrenko, the Village facilities manager, who oversees the security system on a day-to-day basis. He is also involved in security system design and implementation.

“After 9/11, I was authorized by the Village Board to install security systems for our water and sewer systems,” he says. “Yet, the Village is literally spread out over 21 square miles, and to connect everything together was daunting. I wanted to integrate Ethernet and cellular capabilities and eventually add on to the system.” Budget considerations also dictated that the system would have to be implemented over a number of years as well as be capable of integrating with other systems and video surveillance.

Over the past seven years, Petrenko has used a phased implementation and upgraded software along the way. Petrenko and his team are using an access control system from Brivo that includes ACS panels and readers installed at the Village police station and wireless panels to control access to 13 sites, including the Village’s water towers, pumping stations and the chlorine rooms. As the project progressed, the Village has also installed the system in the Village Hall, Public Works Center, vehicle maintenance building, and four fire stations, and is planning to expand with the construction of a new Police Department building. Upon completion of the Police Department building, the system will manage more than 180 access points. Currently, the system manages access for more than 700 users divided into 80 unique groups, all with different access location, day and time privileges.

At the Village Public Works Center building, for example, the system amplifies approaching vehicle signals to an access point, then authenticates the vehicle and the driver and opens the door or gate.
Petrenko says he is currently adding a reader at the Department of Public Works to capture when employees arrive and depart each day. In addition to the system controlling access for security, it will now also provide time clock information without the Village adding other technology. If that deployment is successful, Petrenko says he plans to expand it to other buildings.

Similarly, at the Met at Warner Center, a large condominium community in the San Fernando Valley (CA), standardized access control is managed to all main entry doors, elevators and the road entrances to the property. The Met has 17 buildings, 16 of which are residential, ranging from 65 to 125 units per building. The complex also has a community room, six tennis courts, four pools, a fitness center, spa, and a 24-hour guard presence. Residents have access to the complex and the common areas and amenities, but only to their own residential building.

Using the access control system, administrators have also created separate access control groups for staff, the multiple service providers, security guards and to control access to the different amenities – each group has different members, area access privileges, and times of access. The access control and visitor management systems oversee approximately 2,300 user records with plans to eventually grow beyond 5,000 users. All systems and data are managed through a single interface.

“Previously, each building was keyed individually,” says James Elliott, west coast director of Condominium Operations. “We had hundreds of keys. Now, it is so much easier to manage access for who and where, and we never have to re-key.” He also notes that “In the future we want to provide LAPD with access to the system as well.”

In addition, as California law allows property managers to deny access to property amenities to those delinquent on monthly assessment payments, with the system, Elliott can turn off access to amenities for such residents, yet still give them access to the property and their home. After implementing this policy, Elliott collected more than $20,000 in overdue assessments in just the first few days.


120 Doors…All Secure!

Being responsible for the security of others is never an easy task, with threats emerging from any number of sources, security personnel are consistently being challenged in new ways, and conversely, looking for solutions to a growing number of dangers.

For Williamson Medical Center in Franklin, Tenn., providing a safe, worry-free environment for both its patients and 1,500 employees is a top priority. Since 2005, the facility’s security plan has included an access control system that has played a major role in ensuring the safety of all of its stakeholders.

Al Segal, director of security for Williamson Medical Center, says that the previous access control system, which consisted of physical keys, was “terrible. And it took long to lock down if we needed to, where as today, we can lock down doors and areas within seconds.”

Due to the high level of security required in various parts of the hospital the access control system, which is installed on 120 doors and is from Keyscan, is being used in several ways. This is particularly true of the labor and delivery ward. “We have our infants and their mothers on a floor equipped with instantaneous lockdown if a baby is taken toward any exit or elevator,” says Segal. “If an infant alarm sounds, the entire floor goes into an automatic system initiated lockdown, and only emergency responders can access the readers for in/out access to carry out their crisis protocol.”

The pharmacy is another area of the hospital that required an additional level of security. While drug-dispensing machines are already equipped with biometric security features, all of the machines are behind Keyscan secured doors. Only the pharmacy director and one security officer has access to make changes to that site. By separating the pharmacy from the rest of the hospital, security is able to monitor it individually as much as they wish. The pharmacy staff is still able to move around the hospital using one card and there is no risk of someone changing access levels in the software.

Segal says that he particularly likes the audit trail that the system offers. “Employees are going to do things we might not want them to do, like take extended breaks or go someone where they shouldn’t go. We are a smoke free hospital, so employees now have to clock out and go outside to smoke, and the system helps us determine what time they left and when they came back, even if they used the proper door. We audit certain areas every day. I’m even able to log in from home and see who uses what door and when they’ve used it. We have more than 120 readers, so it’s a constant part of our security system that we’re looking at. We eventually hope to give our security officers control to the system with mobile laptops from their patrol vehicles.”

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