Davidson College in North Carolina has recently upgraded its security system from phone lines to IP.

Looking for a way to reduce recurring operating costs for the system, the IT staff at Davidson College turned to a long-time security and life safety systems integration partner. The liberal arts school located in North Carolina was faced with the challenge to engineer a way to shift the primary monitoring infrastructure to its campus fiber network, which would cover 450 acres.

Previously, two phone lines connected each panel to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) for communications, requiring 140 dedicated phone lines to communicate with a central monitoring station. By eliminating the direct connections to the PSTN for each panel, the system’s operations costs have reduced significantly.

Davidson College’s IT Department calculated that an upgraded system would result in an impressive return on investment.

The systems integrator, CRS Building Automation Systems, Inc. (CRS), recommended the installation of IP communications modules from Bosch Security Systems, Inc.

“The modules allow the college to continue to use their existing fire and intrusion control panels, while taking advantage of the cost savings and other benefits achieved with communications to the central monitoring station via an Internet connection,” said Phillip Cashion, Jr., president, CRS Building Automation Systems, Inc.

More than 70 fire alarm systems from a variety of manufacturers protect the residence hall, classroom and administrative buildings throughout campus. All of these systems now communicate to the central monitoring station using Ethernet modules, which work equally well with the college’s new and existing control panels. The modules use IP as the primary communication method to the central station. If the network fails, phone lines connecting the panels to the college’s private branch exchange (PBX) switch serve as the back up.


“We have already experienced a 50 percent cost savings now and expect that number to increase to 75 percent in the near future,” said Brent Babb, project manager, Davidson College.

On top of the cost savings, the college is also benefiting from more detailed alarm information being transmitted from its security control panels to the central station. The central station can now tell the local authorities the exact location in a building where motion was detected or an unauthorized individual forced windows or doors open. This improvement is achieved through network interface modules connected to the control panels that secure the administrative buildings on campus.


Overall, IP communications between the control panels and the receiver offer the college greater security as the control panels regularly send supervisory messages to the receiver at the central station to ensure the system is functioning properly. If the control panel does not receive an acknowledgement message, the central station operator is alerted. The central station also receives IP communications faster than those previously transmitted via a phone line, which in turn, improves response time to an alarm.

In addition, the upgrade has helped the college reduce the amount of time required to fix any issues impacting the system.

“Previously, we had to wait for service from the phone company. Now, the IT staff is automatically alerted if there is a network or phone line problem, and we can dispatch a staff member to fix the issue at any hour of the day,” explained Babb.

About the Source
Davidson College is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country.

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