Wireless Access Links Diverse Buildings
Technology provides longer-lasting protection
- By April Dalton-Noblitt
- Apr 01, 2013
With 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
“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
“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
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
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.