Locks Control Dynamic Environment

Access control features ease of use and other cost-saving advantages at community college

Mountain View College is one of several large schools in the Dallas County Community College District in Dallas, Texas. In two years or less, Mountain View students can earn an associate degree or technical diploma in areas ranging from education, accounting and business to aircraft dispatch, criminal justice and welding technology.

Online classes are available, but for young people opting for the incollege experience, the college’s giant building complex with three floors and many wings offers an attractive and safe home base. Last fall, Mountain View had the highest enrollment in its history: nearly 9,400 students, most of them from Dallas County.

Looking for a Secure Lock

Mountain View was looking for a lock that would meet its special needs as a community college. With students and faculty members continually on the move, no campus residence availability and only a quarter of the students in full-time attendance, the college presented a very dynamic environment from a control standpoint.

The facility has undergone expansions since it was built 41 years ago.

Administrators knew it would be difficult to run wire in such a building and that conventional hardwired access controls are usually cost-prohibitive, so they were seeking a locking system that would be straightforward and not difficult to manage, ideally wireless and computer-controlled, with most doors card-accessed from outside and inside.

Wanting to provide protective lockdown capabilities in the most cost-effective way, administrators evaluated several competitive systems and selected the state-of-the-art electronic access control system supplied by Salto Systems Inc.

Hot Spot Accessibility

Installed last year, Salto’s system works well for the college’s needs. Administrators especially like that the system updates lock information from the main control system and “hot spots” of the complex.

“There are several ‘hot spot’ points on the campus, and cardholders can stop and activate or pick up new access credentials if they are approved,” said Allan Knott, who has been employed at Mountain View for nearly 30 years and is the director of facility services. “Cards that are not used for an indefinite period of time will go inactive, but once they need to be activated again, it’s easily accomplished at a ‘hot spot.’”

Intuitive and Easy

Salto’s is one of several systems in the large complex. Various forms of access control had been partially installed over the years, including hardwired doors, but they were found to be cost-prohibitive and harder to manage.

To date, about 580 locks have been installed by Mountain View’s Irving,Texas-based security supplier Fairway Supply under the guidance of Felix Mira. Since it began conducting business 30 years ago, Fairway has been working with various schools in the Dallas Community College District.

Fairway not only supplied the Mountain View locks but also installed more than half of them, with the college staff completing the work.

A few high-value rooms such as the science and computer labs are hardwired, but 580 doors—or about 90 percent of the complex, including all rooms requiring hardwiring—have been retrofitted. Most classrooms and offices have Salto-protected doors as well as all new construction.

The college staff reports that only basic carpentry skills are needed to install the locks.

“It was an easy retrofit from start to finish,” Knott said. “Because we were working with existing buildings, we didn’t want to get into the ceilings. This smartcard access control system gives us all the functionality we need. To get the lock working, we take our handheld access control device and connect it to a port on the lock. Within 30 minutes the lock is installed and active.”

Readily Accepted

Administrators said that cards were easy for students, but some faculty members had problems, primarily from not updating their cards.

For security reasons, the school has a lockdown drill every semester. An overall “lockdown button” is used to initiate the drill and also can be used in actual response to a threat if necessary.

But no threat has occurred in the school’s 41-year history.

This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of Security Today.

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