Safeguarding the Future
University of Kentucky rethinks security while revamping its campus
- By Bill Jacobs
- Jul 01, 2013
These days, the importance of campus security
cannot be overstated. Universities face innumerable
threats, the complexity of which increases
with each violent incident like the shootings at
Sandy Hook Elementary School or the bombings
during this year’s Boston Marathon.
These considerations led the University of Kentucky in Lexington to
spend nearly $5 million to overhaul its campus security, installing the
campus’ first-ever comprehensive and centralized security system.
Phase one of the massive project broke ground last year and will
continue through December. The remaining phases will continue for
the next several years. The new system will involve an all new access
control system, network cameras, a video management system with
analytics and an integrated mass notification system, encompassing
hundreds of buildings and the University of Kentucky Medical Center,
a $600 million medical complex. The powerful system will be managed
by campus police at their 24-hour communications center.
A Clear Need
UK is a public land-grant university that houses education, research
and creative work, service and healthcare. It is Kentucky’s flagship secondary
education institution, so naturally the university plays a critical
leadership role by promoting diversity, inclusion and economic development.
The campus encompasses 900 acres and hundreds of facilities. Nearly
27,000 students attend UK, and 13,000 faculty and staff members
work on campus. Like every other college and university in the nation,
UK has always been committed to the safety of its students, faculty and
staff. However, it had become clear in recent years that the campus’
security system was outdated, unorganized and ineffective.
Anthany Beatty, the assistant vice president for campus services at
UK, has a unique perspective on the topic, after having served as a
police officer on the campus in the early 1970s.
“I left campus for 35 years, went to local law enforcement,” Beatty
said. “Then, I came back to the university and realized that overall campus security had not progressed very much in 35 years, in terms of keeping up with technology and systems that are now fully integratable.
We weren’t taking advantage of all the things that were out there
to secure the campus.”
After surveying the campus’ security needs, Beatty was determined
to help update UK’s system, with a focus on centralizing each disparate
piece of the puzzle.
“We set out on a mission to make sure that all the key players on
campus are looking at the same information in terms of security,” he
said. “We had many independent legacy systems operating on campus,
but nothing was centralized. There was no standardized method of
storing the video images or retrieving video imagery. We conformed to
the state standards for record retention, but in some cases we probably
weren’t meeting that.”
Luckily, the administration was on board for a massive security
“Our new president is student-focused, especially on safety, and we
wanted to make sure we were creating the safest environment for the
students as possible,” said Joe Monroe, UK chief of police. “It’s more a
proactive approach—not the result of anything happening. We’re trying
to be ahead of the game.”
Finding the Right Fit
Beatty and his team started the process of finding an integrator and
vendors that could meet the university’s needs. They submitted a
request for proposal and thoroughly evaluated technology from companies
across the country.
“What we were looking for was a company that could effectively
manage all the different legacy systems under the umbrella of one.
Even if we couldn’t switch some of the legacy systems out immediately,
we wanted someone who had the capability of taking even those analog
images and making them work in the system,” Beatty said. “Someone
who could make all the different technologies communicate across
Ultimately, UK chose Next Level Security Systems (NLSS) to provide
unified networked security solutions for the project, with integrators
Dallmann Systems Integration, Advanced Digital Solutions,
Dixon Electric, and consulting firm BCCLT Consulting Engineers
working closely together. The university is deploying a number of Next
Level solutions, including its flagship product, the NLSS Gateway, a
unified security management system that combines IP video management,
access control, video analytics and intrusion into one appliance.
UK officials also can leverage NLSS Cloud Services to enable remote
access and multi-site security management from any location.
According to Brad Pyles, vice president of business development at
Advanced Digital Solutions, the Next Level Gateways will integrate
with a range of technology that includes Axis 360-degree cameras;
Sony wide dynamic range cameras; an IP mass notification system
from Code Blue and Valcomm; and Talk-a-Phone emergency call stations.
More than 2,000 video surveillance cameras will deliver comprehensive
coverage throughout the campus and more than 40,000 individuals
will be enrolled as cardholders.
“UK has always had some security system but never any integration
of these systems to allow the police and other first responders to access
the information in real time from a central location,” Pyles said. “Joe
Monroe and Mr. Beatty have really done a great job of driving this
need for access to the security system information.”
Security in Layers
As Beatty sees it, the university needed four “layers” of technology to
be truly secure: a video management system, a security management
system, a card access system and advanced notification capabilities.
The video management system required the most new technology,
including cameras, software and hardware, to manage a substantial
amount of incoming video data. Monroe said several hundred new
cameras will be added to the campus, and then the hospital’s system
will be migrated over. This will give him and his team “more eyes on
the campus,” helping them to investigate incidents, provide forensic
evidence of events, save money and time with virtual patrols and assist
students with virtual escorts.
“Video management is very critical for our campus, not only for
being able to prevent crime, but also for evidentiary matters,” Beatty
said. “It gives us the ability to have images that we probably could not
have provided in the past. We’re very excited about the NLSS Gateway’s
ability to use analytics instead of having to have someone actually
monitoring the video—it gives us flexibility, is less intensive in terms
of staffing and will be very functional for us. And the analytics will
allow us not to use up so much storage space for the images because we
will only save the important data long-term.”
The new security management system gives police the ability to control
the main core of the campus during an emergency—the type of
functionality that can potentially save lives during shooting incidents,
severe weather, fires and other dangerous events.
“With the help of the card access capabilities, we can actually physically
lock down buildings should there be an event and prevent anyone
from entering,” Beatty said. “We’ll be able to lock down most of the
campus with just a couple keystrokes. Given all the tragedies that are
happening on our campuses, the ability to secure a building and prevent
anyone else from entering was critical. When first responders get
there, we know we can isolate the situation, move in and take appropriate
action and not have anyone else come in and be in harm’s way.”
Coupled with the security management system is the card access
system. NLSS Access Control will use HID cards and readers with
Mercury Security controllers, integrated into the university’s SQL
database. Previously, students, faculty and staff carried a different card
for each function, and until this project began, nearly all campus
buildings were still accessed by keys. Now, they will have the “Wildcard”
for access control, payments from student accounts and more.
Each card features up to six pieces of embedded technology, including
bar codes, proximity card technology and a QR reader.
“Some people were carrying three or four different cards because all
the technology we needed was not embedded into one card,” Beatty
said. “So, now it will be truly one card that we can put into and out of
the system with just a few keystrokes. It accesses buildings and facilities,
their student accounts for purchasing food, merchandise and
other things, on and off campus. It even has technology in it to be able
to access the legacy systems as we transition to the new system.”
Finally, the campus’ new enhanced notification system ties it all
together, using IP mass notification and emergency call stations. UK’s
rapid warning system is able to push emergency updates out to cell
phones, tablets, desktops, VoIP office phones and loudspeakers within
the campus’ core buildings. In addition, each emergency call station
includes a phone, a built-in camera, an emergency response button
and a PA system that allows police officers to make area-wide
“We’re in a part of the country that gets its share of weather incidents,
so we wanted a basic system that would let us push out messages
by text if there’s a crime in progress, for example, but also to be
able to send an email or a voice message with public address information
in case of severe weather,” he said.
The four layers of security will work in concert to create a comprehensive,
highly-effective network to protect UK’s students, faculty and staff better than ever before.
With such an expansive campus environment as UK, the ability to correlate
video surveillance, analytic alerts and access control data into a
single user interface is enabling the university to take a proactive
stance with its security program. Now, they can automate alerts and
responses to allow personnel to focus on more critical risks.
“Like any university, UK needed to take a proactive approach to
security; to that end, the new system, with the integrated appliance
approach delivered by the NLSS Gateway, enables officials to rapidly
pinpoint potential issues and respond faster than ever,” said Peter
Jankowski, chairman and CEO at Next Level Security Systems. “UK
also benefited from the cost savings of the NLSS Gateway, which integrates
video, access control and other systems into one appliance.
These are the kinds of considerations that modern universities simply
A Campus Makeover
This massive security overhaul comes at an ideal time, as UK undergoes
a campus “reinvention,” with multiple buildings being torn down
and rebuilt. This allowed the security team to integrate the new system
into the design phase for the core of the campus.
“We were fortunate that we had a new president come in about the
time we got started with this,” Beatty said. “He’s been very ambitious;
one of his goals is to reinvent the campus. All the old housing has been
torn down and rebuilt in a new style that students prefer, with the
intent of bringing about 6,000 more beds to campus in the next five
years. With that came several new buildings. It was timely, because it
allowed us to integrate our security system and get the infrastructure
worked out ahead of time.”
The first phase of construction and security upgrades includes about
20 buildings that make up the core of the campus’ educational and
residential areas. Beatty expects that by the end of the year, this phase
will be complete and they will be able to migrate the sophisticated
system at the University of Kentucky Medical Center over. Then, in the
coming years, all independent legacy systems on campus will be
migrated over as well.
An Ongoing Priority
UK’s focus on security will continue, even after the initial upgrade is
complete. All new buildings will be designed to include the new access
control system, cameras and emergency loudspeakers.
“That’s the beauty of what we’re able to do. For a new building, we
can do an audit, determine what’s needed and then apply the same
pricing structure from our purchasing department,” Beatty said. “And
then each department will then be responsible for bringing their building
into the system.”
As progress continues at UK, there is a sense of excitement over
what’s ahead. A new security system is just one aspect of the campus
makeover, but it’s one that will have an impact for years to come.
“The interesting thing is to see the campus come together on a unified
front toward this end because everyone understands and sees the
importance of making the campus safe,” Beatty said. “And with that
comes a high level of excitement for what we’re doing on the campus
to make it more secure, as well as all the building
that’s going on. I think that’s what’s unique about it.
It’s an old campus that’s totally being revamped.
It’ll have a different look and certainly a more
secure atmosphere to it.”
This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of Security Today.