Insuring Access - In the decade that First Service Insurance (FSI) has conducted business in Roseville, Calif., it has provided contractors with specialized property and casualty insurance products focused on general liability, workers compensation, business auto and bonding/surety.

Insuring Access

Installing a product that will grow with the firm

In the decade that First Service Insurance (FSI) has conducted business in Roseville, Calif., it has provided contractors with specialized property and casualty insurance products focused on general liability, workers compensation, business auto and bonding/surety. Over the past five years, FSI has led by integrating cutting-edge digital and paperless technologies into its operation to improve productivity and service

“The company wanted to establish an effective and flexible access control system for our personnel and tenants while safeguarding our sensitive client information and ensuring that appropriate levels of physical and logical security were in place,” said Ed Barr, partner and vice president of FSI. “Included among FSI’s many considerations was how to implement a system that could provide facility, area and office security plus administrative accountability. Management recognized that their facility entry problems could be addressed by physical locks and keys but that this conventional workaround would fail to meet their monitoring, management or corporate needs.”

In addition to controlling who could get into the agency, management also wanted to control when and where employees could enter, variables not possible to control with a mechanical key. For instance, for clients, they wanted the front door open during business hours but automatically locked at all other times, including weekends. The wanted only some employees and management to be able to enter at off times. Others should be able to enter only during certain hours. Periodically, the agency hired temporary personnel and needed special rules to control their entry.

In addition, the agency didn’t want all people to have access to all doors. For instance, only management might be able to enter the room where they keep the server or client records. Yet, everyone needed access to the bathroom. Importantly, they also wanted to track who had been where and when.

“It’s not that we’re interested in tracking where employees go throughout a day,” Barr said. “We’re not. But, if there is a breach of some sort, we can go back and see who entered that specific door during the time that the incident most likely happened. That way, we can rectify the situation quickly and easily, something impossible to do with a key-based system.”

Proximity Key Ring Tags Provide Flexibility

With all these variations, they decided to explore an electronic access control alternative based on proximity of RFID technology. Once FSI was convinced on the advantages of proximity technology, they considered several manufacturers and found that most offered only limited warranties on their products. As a result, for their proximity card readers, FSI selected Farpointe Data’s Pyramid Series Proximity line because of their lifetime warranty.

They decided to use 125-kHz proximity key ring tags instead of the more common clamshell-style proximity cards, as well. Read range is up to 4.5 inches.

“We felt that the proximity key ring tag would be easier and more convenient for our employees,” Barr said. “With the tag on their key ring, which also typically holds their car key and house key, the credential needed to enter the office would be virtually impossible to leave at home as can happen periodically with cards. In addition, finding one’s key ring in a pocket or purse is much easier than digging for a card.”

FSI also chose a Wiegand-compatible Keri Systems access control panel with integrated security software. Wanting to assure that they would have room for growth, FSI selected Keri’s PXL-500 Tiger II Controller hardware platform which provides access control for up to 256 doors at a single site and thousands of doors spread over a number of remote sites. The system is managed by Keri’s proprietary Doors.NET software.

Since the PXL-500 itself contains all the input/output functionality necessary to manage a single door (lock relay, door sense, request-to-exit and two reader inputs) as well as provide an alarm output, the agency wouldn’t need a series of components, which oftentimes leads to purchases from several different manufacturers and the prospect of blaming one another when the system doesn’t work as planned. For growth potential in the future, each controller has an RS-485 port for connection to other PXL-500’s (up to 128 per network) and an RS-232 serial port for connection to a PC which communicates with the PXL-500 on the network.

This is where the PXL-500’s two reader inputs are configured to interface with the chosen proximity key tags. Since the SB-593 Satellite Expansion Board will plug into the PXL-500, FSI could build in additional functionality at a cost far less than that of adding another controller. This gives each PXL-500 an additional eight general purpose inputs and four general purpose outputs. Two of those inputs and outputs can be configured to manage a second door.

Furthermore, FSI discovered that Keri’s solutions are resold by security system installers, integrators and distributors. As a result, FSI contracted with Smith Security in West Sacramento, Calif., an experienced regional integrator of proximity access solutions, to handle installation and integration of the Farpointe and Keri hardware and software.

“We specialize in all forms of electronic security, such as access control, intrusion and video surveillance for both corporate and government clients,” said Howard Smith, the owner of Smith Security. “The solution proved easy to install and configure, owing to comprehensive step-by-step documentation.”

Following installation and testing of the access control components, entry/ exit permissions were scheduled and programmed for all business associates. The proximity key ring tags, each with its own unique ID, were assigned and distributed to employees and tenants. Lastly, the system was made operational.

Unlike the typical agency’s physical lock-and-key solution, lost or damaged proximity key ring tags can be readily immobilized by the system administrator and new tags securely authorized and reissued. FSI’s operations manager now has total control of building access from her administrator desktop. With the remote access features inherent in the system, FSI’s managing partners can monitor activity remotely without stepping foot in the building.

Working as specified, the system continues today to prove to be a reliable, high-productivity investment for FSI. Given the install in a 70’s-era building, the minimal support maintenance calls have been rectified efficiently between Farpointe, Keri and Smith Security. The goal was met, enabling service and sales staffs to optimize operations and safeguard client insurance records.

Controlling employee and tenant access to the facility on a 24/7 basis— a daunting task for a physical security system—is now straight-forward for First Service Insurance.

This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Security Today.

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