Wireless access links diverse buildings

Wireless Access Links Diverse Buildings

Technology provides longer-lasting protection

wireless access links diverse buildingsWith scattered buildings and each with different access control needs, the town of Estes Park, Colo., faced a complicated security situation. Initially, the town upgraded its security by converting mechanical locks to several types of compatible electronic locks that improved control over authorized users, yet provided flexibility in meeting access control needs.

“We installed the electronic locks because we needed entry and exit audit information from our light, power and water facilities for Homeland Security,” said Bruce Walters, Estes Park’s IT/LAN support specialist.

Over the years, many of the town’s buildings have been converted from their original use for different purposes, with consequent changes in security requirements. Because many of the buildings were constructed when security simply consisted of a mechanical lock and key, changing security needs brought the need for greater key control and improved security measures.

“When we changed the high school into the town hall, we went from giving free access between classrooms to trying to limit access and protect our employees,” Walters said. ”At the same time, certain areas needed to be accessible after hours for public meetings and use by community groups.”

The town faced the challenge of linking all facilities through a networked electronic access control system that integrates online and offline functions seamlessly, making it possible to meet the needs of each facility and achieve security with flexibility.

Electronic Access Control Answers the Need

The first installations used Schlage offline computer-managed locks, in which data that controls access is downloaded to each lock individually, using a PDA. Audit trails and other information also can be uploaded to the PDA and transferred to a computer. The database itself is managed on the computer, which provides quick response to staff changes, lost credentials and changing access requirements. The self-contained locks are easy to install and do not require separate wiring.

Moving to broaden electronic access control throughout its facilities, the town officials began using Schlage wireless online locks. With such a variety of existing buildings, this eliminated the need to pull wires to each opening while still providing online access control. This approach also makes instant access data changes available at every lock. Both types of lock, wireless and standalone, are integrated with a Schlage Security Management System (SMS), which manages all locks from a single database.

Estes Park uses proximity credentials, including some cards but primarily key fobs. Walters said the cards are not used for identification and are restricted to specific facilities and time, so they cannot be identified and used if they are lost. One special feature on the back door of the police department is a high-range reader that allows an officer escorting a prisoner to open the door without swiping a key fob for greater safety.

“We don’t have to change locks if someone loses a key,” he said. “If we don’t get a key or credential back when someone leaves, we can disable their access instantly.”

The town hall application demonstrates how the system operates. During regular office hours, the building’s entrance is open to the public, although interior doors to certain offices, such as the police department, finance and IT, remain controlled. After hours, the building is zoned to allow access for community groups while the offices remain secured. The exterior door and elevator lobby can be unlocked and locked automatically by the SMS system when a meeting is scheduled.

“One group has a person who comes in early, so we give her a card that lets her in an hour early,” Walters said. “With the system, we can control access down to a single person, a single door and a specific time.”

In addition to safety improvements, productivity has increased in some departments as well.

“In our finance area, we’ve restricted access so other people aren’t allowed in until 8 a.m. and not after 5 p.m.,” Walters said. “That gives employees time to get ready for their day and finish things up without interruption.”

The system gives town officials the ability to secure the facilities automatically when they are closed for holidays or weekends. If a snow day makes it necessary to close the offices, it can be done immediately, even from a remote location.

This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Security Today.

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