Changing a Generation

Access control, video management solution helps church achieve higher security

In general, churches have an open-door policy. They welcome all people, regardless of age, religion or economic background. So when Changing a Generation, a large Baptist church in Atlanta, decided to install a security management system with access control, video and intrusion detection, maintaining an open environment for its congregation and employees was imperative.

Having a congregation of nearly 5,000 people and a 130,000-square-foot facility, Changing a Generation employs two pastors and several other full-time employees. Each employee carried a key, and at one point, more than 100 keys had been issued. Over time, Chief Administrative Officer Gwendolyn Morton became concerned about the security of the building and staff. The perimeter of the church needed to be secure at all times, and the three main areas of the church -- the administration wing, sanctuary and classroom/activity area -- also needed controlled access to remain secure. Morton, church administrator Dr. Natalie Morton and security director Shawn Blackmore, wanted to manage security efficiently and keep the church secure when they were not on the premises.

The trio contacted integrator Southeastern Security Professionals LLC. SSP’s Chao Chen recommended Symmetry, which he said would provide a user-friendly access control system that could integrate with video and intrusion to deliver a complete security solution for the church. This would allow the church staff to control access to and within the building and implement a traffic flow administrators could control.

Securing the perimeter and internal doors with HID proximity readers allowed authorized staff to enter the building while keeping the public out. An unlocked main entrance is monitored by the receptionist, who greets visitors.

Readers were placed on internal doors to control access from one section of the building to the other to aid in the control of pedestrian traffic.

Blackmore, with approval from Morton, assigns access rights to all employees based on their positions and work schedules. The administration wing is open Tuesday through Friday. Employees working in this wing have access to this area and other appropriate areas of the church during their designated working hours.

The custodian, however, may have a different access level and schedule assigned to him because of the demands of his position.

“Only employees carry access cards,” Blackmore said. “If an access card is reported missing, I deactivate the card and reissue a new one. It’s quick, easy, and the church stays secure.”

The three security components -- access control, video and intrusion detection -- are managed by software. Two 42-inch plasma screens display alarms and video. The alarm management feature allows Blackmore to view, acknowledge and respond to alarms, such as a door being forced open, a sensor being triggered or a card reader being used at an unauthorized time.

The software’s intuitive display of alarms helps the operator manage incoming information easily. All alarms are displayed on the user-friendly alarm screen, which enables any alarm, no matter how or where it has been generated, to be managed from a common user interface. Changing a Generation takes advantage of the map screen, which shows the exact locations of alarms, displaying them on video in the virtual matrix screen, and helps determine if further investigation is required.

Pelco and Panasonic video cameras monitor the perimeter of the church, main entry points and hallways. Pelco’s DX-8100 hybrid video recorder records video around the clock, and the software ties all these systems together.

“Having the ability to record activity in my absence takes the place of stationing a security guard 24 hours a day,” Blackmore said. “I come in on Tuesday morning and view video from the weekend. Even though I was physically away from the building, I don’t miss anything.”

Morton and Blackmore can watch live or recorded video using a virtual matrix screen. The customizable screen allows them to choose which cameras to view and how to view them. When an alarm sounds, a large window of the camera associated with the alarm automatically pops up, giving them a clear, easy view of the alarm.

“Symmetry has allowed us to do our ministry on a large scale,” Blackmore said. “The system has so many cameras; I can sit at the desk and see what’s going on in the whole building.”

Symmetry’s remote feature provides the security staff with the flexibility to view Symmetry from an outside location. Through the use of Symmetry’s Web interface, the staff can access the security system from any computer with an Internet connection. With Symmetry’s robust integration to top-tier third-party companies such as DMP, Blackmore can log in to the system remotely and arm or disarm the intrusion alarm system.

“I like that I can use Symmetry from home,” Blackmore said. “I’ve accessed the system many times at night from my laptop. The remote feature was a must-have for this church environment.”

Chen, who also is an AMAG integrator, recommended Symmetry to Changing a Generation because of AMAG’s integration features. Symmetry was easily integrated with the church’s DMP intrusion management system and Pelco’s DX-8100 hybrid video recorder.

“Symmetry is easy to use for the customer,” Chen said. “The deep integration delivers an exceptional solution and allows me to train them on one system rather than multiple systems.”

This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Security Today.

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