Keep Out Unwanted Guests
USC secures campus parking structure
- By Kurt Angermeier
- Nov 01, 2013
On game day, when the highly-ranked
University of Southern California
men’s and women’s basketball teams
battle it out at the Galen Center on
the campus’ west end, upwards of
10,000 fans pack into the arena to cheer them on. In
between games at this recently-opened, multi-use facility,
volleyball games, concerts and many other major
events take place at an often packed house.
The USC campus owns and operates a six-story,
1,200-car-capacity, parking structure within walking
distance of the arena. During these special events,
the garage doors leading in and out of the parking
structure—what USC calls PS-1—are kept open before,
during and after the event, while ticket takers
stationed at the doorways admit cars into the facility.
This parking structure also services events for the
renowned Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on the
other side of the building.
Built for USC students, staff and faculty to access
buildings on the University Park campus and
the USC Credit Union, there are no staffed booths
at doorways of the parking structure. Instead, four,
automatically-operated, Rytec spiral security doors
rapidly open and close at 60 inches per second as vehicles
pass through, while tightly sealing up the doorway
The same types of doors are also used on the PS-2
structure, which serves the Galen Center along with
the nearby Raddison Hotel and other USC business
Focusing on Campus Security
Along with the university’s education and research
mission, security and safety are important factors.
The university’s Department of Public Safety is one
of the largest university law enforcement agencies in
the United States. A full-time staff of 281, along with
contract security staffing and 30 students, protects the
two campuses in south and east LA.
However, in the absence of manned booths at the
entrance to the parking structure, a brace of cameras
monitor PS-1 doorways.
“All unmanned, parking structure doorways still
have to deal with the problem of ‘piggybacking,’” said
Carey Drayton, USC chief of campus security. “This
happens when intruders time the interval between
when the vehicle passes through the doorway and
the door closes, and then they slip into the building.
The speed of the roll-up doors makes criminals think
twice about piggybacking and discourages them from
using our parking structures as possible crime sites.”
Lifting the Barrier
USC provides RFID chips to everyone who rents a
parking space at PS-1. In addition, faculty, staff and
students are given a key card to get back into the building
through card-reader-accessible, pedestrian doors.
As vehicles approach the doorway, the door’s control
system, an RFID reader mounted directly above
the door, detects RFID chips in adhesive strips attached
to the rearview mirrors of the vehicles from as
far as 10 feet away.
If the vehicle is authorized, the door opens at a
sufficient speed to allow each vehicle to glide in and
out of the parking structure, without stopping to wait
for the door to open.
When traffic patterns near the doorway are tight,
the high speed minimizes potential damage to the door
by rolling up the panel faster than conventional doors,
getting it out of the way of the vehicle. The door speed
also means that an unauthorized vehicle cannot enter
the building right after one that is authorized.
Pablo Sahugun, the USC parking facilities manager, learned how the speed of the door could benefit
their ability to move traffic through the parking
garage doorways at an industry trade show. Sahugan
said that this kind of door has had very few maintenance
issues, even with the high volume of traffic, and
open and close cycles.
How the Door Operates
On this door, there is a compact, variable-speed, 2HP
AC drive with a three-phase motor that offers smooth
starts and stops, and a longer drive life. A weatherresistant,
NEMA-4X enclosure protects the UL/ULclisted
controls. Preprogrammed menu options allow
the USC’s maintenance crew to easily adjust door
operations to match the specific needs of each location,
while self-diagnostic capabilities help keep maintenance
time to a minimum.
The tight coil of the roll-up door design enables
parking garage applications like PS-1, where headroom
is sparse, to fit in only 11 inches of clearance.
Space along the side is spared, as well, and the door
guides mount to the inside wall, providing full access
to the doorway.
When closed, the doors reinforce security for both
vehicles and drivers because of the rigid aluminum
slat construction and integrated locking system. The
panel has no metal-to-metal contact, is quiet when
operational and requires little maintenance.
A durable, rubber membrane connects the slats,
which runs along galvanized steel side frames with
full-height weatherproofing. This creates a complete
seal against debris blowing into the parking structure
to reduce cleanup. Despite the bright, California sun
pounding down on the doors, the anodized aluminum
coating has kept the doors in good shape.
If a vehicle or pedestrian happens to be in the
doorway, standard, dual photo eyes prevent the door
from closing. This safety system is backed up by a reliable,
pressure-sensitive edge that causes the door to
reverse instantly upon contact.
“Fortunately, the bad guys don’t know this and are
not, in their minds, going to risk getting crushed by a
speeding heavy-duty door panel.” Drayton said.
In the case of a power outage, a mechanical brake
release lever on the side column allows the door to be
Rather than the standard parking structure look,
PS-1 emulates the style of the Galen Center, and the
roll-up doors maintain the appearance of the building
design; however, it’s in the functionality of these
high-speed doors at the USC’s parking structure
that don’t get in the way of traffic,
only intruders, that gives these
This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Security Today.