Connecting The Campus
Outdated systems could not be integrated with new technology
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Jul 01, 2016
SAINT JOSEPH’S UNIVERSITY IN PHILADELPHIA, ONE OF
28 JESUIT UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES IN THE UNITED
STATES, IS THE SEVENTH OLDEST JESUIT UNIVERSITY IN
THE COUNTRY AND CURRENTLY RANKS AS A TOP UNIVERSITY
IN THE NORTHEAST. THE CAMPUS IS SPLIT
BETWEEN THE OVERBROOK NEIGHBORHOOD OF PHILADELPHIA
AND LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP WITH A
BRIDGE CONNECTING THE TWO SIDES OF THE CAMPUS.
ITS 82 BUILDINGS ARE SPREAD ACROSS 114 ACRES.
ALONG WITH A STUDENT BODY OF APPROXIMATELY
8,700, MORE THAN 100 JESUITS LIVE ON CAMPUS WITH
18 SERVING AS FACULTY.
THE FINAL LEG
The university is heading into the final leg of its strategic plan, Plan
2020: Gateway to the Future, which focuses on increased academic
distinction, facility enhancements and endowment growth. As part of
the facility enhancements, it was deemed necessary to replace core
systems throughout the campus that related to life safety and security.
Most of these systems were outdated with technology that could not
be integrated. This created operating, managing and monitoring inefficiencies
and the potential for security risks. As an example, specific
video from an incident was not easily available for review or distribution,
making follow up investigation less timely. A comprehensive
design was needed that would create a centralized platform for control
of the various disparate systems, upgrade the existing field equipment,
such as emergency phones and fire alarm panels to offer system redundancy
and provide an upgrade path to develop a fully integrated, state
of the art solution.
The undertaking would involve more than 100 fire alarm panels, 125
intrusion alarm panels, almost 200 emergency phones and 600 video
surveillance cameras. Further, once a design had been accepted and a
vendor awarded the contract, the new system would have to be
installed quickly over a period of just two and a half months during the
IT IS ALL ABOUT TIMING
The key to the plan was project management, resources/talent, strong
manufacturer relationships, financial stability, communication skills
and dedication. Access Security Corporation of Warminster, PA consistently
exhibited these essential capabilities and was awarded the
“It wasn’t only important to get the right system, it was also important
to get the right vendor partner,” said Joe Petragnani, associate vice
president for infrastructure services, Office of Information Technology,
Saint Joseph’s University. “We all agreed that Access Security was
the right partner for us.”
The original outline, created by staff from the IT, Facilities Management
and Public Safety departments of Saint Joseph’s, was expanded
upon and enhanced by the team from Access Security with assistance
from SureView Systems, developers of the Immix CC Physical Security
Information Management (PSIM) platform. The Immix platform
replaced the antiquated central station software and integrated the fire
alarms, intrusion systems and the university’s camera system into a
single control platform providing optimum control and efficiency. The
Immix Command Center enterprise software provides a stable, timetested
solution that is simple, user friendly and easy to learn.
“This was a key reason we partnered with SureView Systems on this
project,” said Daniel Cogan, president of Access Security, “A major
component of this system was monitoring of the life safety systems for
all of the University’s buildings. We needed a solution that we knew
would work well in emergency management and response situations.”
When an alarm comes into the command center the security staff is
presented with a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) within
the Immix software. The SOPs are step-by-step instructions that take
the security monitoring officer through handling a situation; including
linking the specific video cameras that will help the officer assesses the
situation. This can be anything from an invalid card read to an emergency
All of the actions made through the Immix Command Center software
are logged and captured, including the video making it easy to
investigate incidents after the fact. The Immix software also allows for
client access from anywhere on campus using the browser interface and
access via an iPad or tablet. This allows the university’s security and facility
staff to remain mobile during emergency situations. Saint Joseph’s
plans to expand their system in the near future. The expansion will
include integrating the access control system and emergency phones
into the Immix platform furthering the university’s overall goals.
Using the Immix platform also allowed Saint Joseph’s to deploy the
software within their VMware environment. Rob Hile, former director
of Enterprise Command Centers at SureView Systems said, “We are
proud to say we were the first PISM platform that functions flawlessly
in a virtual environment.”
Deploying the Command Center software in a virtual environment
was essential to accomplishing the university’s redundancy goal. Saint
Joseph’s already had numerous systems on its VMware servers and
incorporating the command center software into the VM environment
was a natural fit. The university also has a unique configuration for
their redundant data centers.
Because the university’s campus spans between Philadelphia and
Lower Merion counties, their data centers are on two separate utility
power feeds giving even more protection in the event an emergency
response is needed.
Before any of the new management software could be implemented
though, Access Security had to upgrade the old central station receivers.
The original system had one receiver being used for fire alarm panels
and the other for the intrusion alarm panels. As part of the overall concept
to provide redundancy, Access Security proposed installing two new IP receivers that were installed in a primary/backup configuration.
These were even installed in separate buildings to ensure alarms signals
were received at the command center.
“We understood the importance of the command center receiving
every alarm signal and we took every step available to design a system
with that goal in mind,” Cogan said.
Changing to this configuration meant reprogramming all of the
existing fire alarm and intrusion detection panels. To improve the
reporting functionality, Access Security also re-programmed all of
the panels to report specific point ID alarms to the central command
center, as opposed to simply reporting general alarm conditions.
This allows the security staff, at the new command center, to know
the precise location of the alarm condition before first responders are
on the scene. The server and software for the emergency phone system
was also upgraded at the command center with plans to eventually
transition this system to an IP solution and then integrate it with
the Immix platform.
“This is not a one and done,” Petragnani said. “It’s designed to be
continually enhanced and upgraded.”
While the 600 analog cameras could not be replaced due to timing
and budget restrictions, Access Security was able to upgrade the video
surveillance system using IP video encoders. The video from the nearly
600 analog cameras was encoded using Exacq’s 4 Camera IP Video
Encoders which replaced the individual DVR units that were in various
buildings around campus. The future plan includes converting the
analog surveillance cameras to IP megapixel technology. The encoders
stream video over the VLAN to three Exacq VMS servers. Each server
provides RAID6 storage with approximately 40 terabytes of usable
storage. The University has plans to expand to five servers as the cameras
are converted over to megapixel.
The system, recommended by Access Security, proved to be exactly
what was needed. It allows users to easily identify needed video by
scrolling back and forth, capturing the needed snippets and then posting
them to executable files that can be easily shared to appropriate
staff and security personnel.
“The system is incredible. It’s very easy to use,” Petragnani said. “It
is safe and provides us with an enormous amount of redundancy. It
gives us the capacity to handle what we have now and for a long time.”
The system is monitored on a 24/7 basis at the newly designed control
center on campus. The new command center consists of a Middle
Atlantic ViewPoint series workstation and a VisionFrame floor standing
video wall. The workstation is part of Middle Atlantic’s Sit/Stand
series and allows the security staff to alter between a sitting and standing
position while attending their station, providing a more ergonomic
The workstation has four 24-inch LCD monitors for viewing the
various software components. The video wall consists of four 42-inch
LCD monitors powered by a custom workstation, which displays
alarm events and various camera views.
“We designed a workstation that was going to be efficient and comfortable
while providing a professional appearance the University wanted
as part of their overall concept,” Cogan said. Saint Joseph’s has also
taken the innovative step of retaining Access Security as an on-site presence
to manage and maintain the system to ensure optimal performance.
“We are very happy with the end results,” said Brian Shepherd,
senior director of telecommunications and network services at Saint
Joseph’s University. “We are confident that it provides an excellent platform
necessary to achieve our long term goals. With the core components
of the system now housed within the University’s
infrastructure, future upgrades and
additions will be easier and, more importantly;
security and life safety throughout the campus is
This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of Security Today.