During the design phase, pay special attention to planning for the future, advises Chris Marra, security manager, Hennepin County, Minn.


Security Magazine profiles government building security through the eyes and experience of Chris Marra, security manager, Hennepin County.

Security Magazine: What did you face in technology upgrades?

Marra: In today’s world, providing adequate security can be a complicated affair. Traditionally, security systems have been an afterthought. A security department might only be called in once a new building project was 90% completed. The result would be a hastily assembled system providing only a fraction of what could have been accomplished had a little more planning gone into the process. At Hennepin County, this old way of thinking had resulted in a broad variety of standalone systems that failed to adequately meet the demands of our security operations.

Security Magazine: So what happened?

Marra: Roughly five years ago, we decided that a new approach was necessary. Advances in technology had reached the point that we were able to envision a central security system that would interface with and support the 122 satellite facilities operated by Hennepin County. Today, 25 of these facilities are connected to the Security Operations Center (SOC) in the County Government Center in Minneapolis, with more being added to the system on a weekly basis. Our SOC monitors over 1,100 cameras, 500 card access points, 300 intrusion alarms and 400 duress buttons. During the design phase, special attention was paid to planning for the future. Within the County Government Center, a UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair) backbone was installed that would allow us to expand in the future. After careful consideration, we selected Integral Technologies’ DS XPress digital video recorders and Continuum SE access control systems, primarily because of their ability to easily integrate with each other and with other systems. With these systems in place, the physical system at our SOC was well-suited for expansion, but for our efforts to be successful, we still needed to achieve significant change in the mentality with which security was approached.

Security Magazine: Explain the team effort at work.

Marra: Yes. To get where we wanted to be, we needed to convince others of the additional value that is created when security personnel are involved in the early stages of remodeling and new building projects. By clearly communicating our needs and abilities, we were able to achieve buy-in from other departments internally. Most importantly, we became partners with our IT department and building managers. This achievement has afforded us great success in bringing our security system to where it is today.

When the center was first announced, county employees were hesitant to work in an area with such a negative reputation. Since its opening earlier this year, the center has yet to experience a single incident and employees report it to be one of the safest locations in the county. This level of success would have been impossible had we stuck with our ‘traditional’ way of thinking.

SIDEBAR
Successful Integration: Futures-oriented Teamwork

Thanks to the solid planning of security and teamwork among departments, employees of Hennepin County, Minn., can enter any county building with an access control system using a single card. Access control, alarms and video surveillance – much through Integral Technologies – are intricately interwoven.

Systems at 25 of the county’s satellite facilities are currently networked directly to its security headquarters in the Hennepin County Government Center, with other of the County’s facilities constantly added. In total, the system contains over 1,100 cameras, 60 net controllers, 500 card access points, 300 intrusion alarms and 400 duress buttons.

The size, scope and capabilities of Hennepin County’s security systems are a testament to the value of increasing the level of involvement of all parties working on designing and installing a system, according to Chris Marra, security manager. Last month’s Security Magazine spotlighted a feature article on details of the teamwork approach.