On a wing and a prayer

On A Wing And A Prayer

Security a vital component of helicopter service facilities

on a wing and a prayerNewfoundland and Labrador-based commercial service provider Cougar Helicopters doesn’t take safety and security lightly. Operating a helicopter service in the midst of some of the world’s most challenging weather has developed several strengths in Cougar Helicopters. Proactive safety, flexibility and innovation have become watchwords for Cougar’s experienced team of flight crew, aircraft maintenance engineers, rescue specialists and support staff.

These strengths have come into play in support of Canada’s first offshore oil production and in pioneering new methods and equipment for marine search and rescue (SAR). Every new contract is a challenge to do old things new ways—to continually improve every standard and every area of service—always with a safety- first approach.

Incorporated in 1984 in Nova Scotia, Cougar Helicopters began operations shuttling passengers between the airport and downtown Halifax. A lot has changed since that time. The company entered the offshore oil and gas industry in 1990 with a support contract in Gijon, Spain, and later that same year returned to Nova Scotia to begin flying for the oil industry in Atlantic Canada. With the signing of the Hibernia Management and Development Corporation (HMDC) contract in 1995, operations began off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. Shortly thereafter, construction began on Cougar’s new corporate headquarters with a 37,000-square-foot, passenger handling facility and hangar at St. John’s International Airport.

In 2010 Cougar constructed a similar 28,000-square-foot heliport in Halifax to support its offshore oil and gas customers in Nova Scotia and most recently in 2012, construction was completed on a 27,000-square-foot, built-for-purpose search and rescue (SAR) facility also located at St. John’s International Airport.

Beyond ensuring in-flight safety while successfully transporting hundreds of offshore oil and gas workers each year, all of whom must wear a special helicopter coldwater immersion suit, Cougar needed to provide security for its new facility in Halifax and its SAR facility in St. John’s while ensuring complete network capability with its headquarters. Cougar’s facilities needed to follow Transport Canada Aviation Regulations, which details security requirements for airports frequented by the general public.

A New Beginning

As Cougar began to build its new terminal in Halifax, company officials knew they had to take a top-notch approach with its security. The facility would ultimately house a helicopter hangar and a passenger screening and boarding area within a single structure. In addition, the terminal would also include a pilot lounge and an office for Cougar Helicopters’ employees, similar to that of its corporate headquarters in St. John’s.

Paramount to the newly constructed terminal in Halifax and the SAR facility in St. John’s was the requirement to network the location with the operational control center (OCC) located within the corporate headquarters. OCC dispatches and follows all of Cougar’s aircraft throughout the world and provides oversight for all of its security operations.

Cougar Helicopters relied on the expertise of systems integrator Northeastern Protection Service Inc., in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and started working with the integrator during the blueprint stage of the project. This approach enabled Northeastern Protection and Cougar Helicopters to collaborate on the design and implementation of an IP-based surveillance system and an access control system that fully integrates with the building’s intrusion system.

“Starting from scratch gave us the flexibility to efficiently implement the different security systems we needed,” said Richard Dawe, information systems manager for Cougar Helicopters. “The design of the system wasn’t inhibited by drywall being up or ceilings being intact. And, we weren’t tearing out walls and moving doors.”

Roger Miller, vice president of operations for Northeastern Protection, and Bryan Robinson, technical services manager, for Northeastern Protection, worked closely with Cougar Helicopters to design and install the security system at both its new Halifax location and the SAR building.

“Integration was critical to this project,” Miller said. “Cougar Helicopters wanted to manage their access control, surveillance and security system through a single interface.”

To accomplish a truly integrated, network-based system, Cougar Helicopters’ IT department and Northeastern Protection had to implement an independent and parallel LAN network for both Halifax and the SAR building in St. John’s to eliminate concerns of bandwidth issues and to identify IP addresses for its IP surveillance cameras. The project took planning and communication between both organizations, including the commitment of Cougar Helicopters to provide two IT people onsite during the critical installation portion of the project.

“We had to work closely with the IT department because they were responsible for obtaining the static IP address, making sure the ports were open, and limiting access of the security system from other parties on the network,” Robinson said.

Get the Ball Rolling

To take an integrated approach, Cougar Helicopters selected several solutions from Tyco Security Products, with the Kantech EntraPass Corporate Edition software as its security management platform. The network and Web-ready security management system fully integrates with the other security systems installed in the Cougar Helicopters’ terminal, including an HDVR Hybrid Video Recorder from American Dynamics and a DSC PowerSeries Alarm Panel for the intrusion system.

The capabilities of EntraPass allow Cougar Helicopters to integrate its access control data with both its video and intrusion systems. As a result, EntraPass can search events that have been generated by the DSC PowerSeries system. This functionality provides their IT department in St. John’s with the ability to gather this data from one workstation without going to multiple sources. The speed, accuracy and ease of use create a very efficient investigation process.

“The foundation provided by the Kantech EntraPass system in Halifax can carry Cougar Helicopters through any new building project they do elsewhere,” Miller said. “They don’t need to buy new software to add another facility or to expand the capabilities of the current system.”

In addition, EntraPass, coupled with KT400 door controllers, manages access for controlled entry points, such as the hangar, pilot’s lounge and general entry into the Halifax facility and new SAR building.

Cougar Helicopters recently added a new functionality to its system to provide added safety measures for employees. As an employee enters a designated area in the Halifax building or SAR facility, the system is programmed to begin a countdown process, so if an employee does not leave within a specified timeframe the system generates an alarm to create a response process ensuring employees are protected at all times.

The surveillance system took a hybrid approach, with 16 analog ports on the DVR and eight IP ports. The software is providing the interface with both the video and access control system. This approach enables the facility to add more analog or IP megapixel cameras as needed. By integrating an HDVR hybrid video recorder with EntraPass, select personnel for Cougar Helicopters can receive a video clip by email each time someone presents their proximity card to enter the facility.

For Cougar Helicopters, an integrated and networked surveillance system goes beyond security to enable it to manage day-to-day business activities.

“Management wants to see where our aircraft are all the time; with our remote monitoring video system, we can view the hangar from anywhere in the world,” Dawe said. “We can look at the activity in the building in Halifax, St. John’s and pilots can see that the passengers are ready to go and they have their suits on, and they can have an eye on the activity of the building.”

The cameras also provide operational efficiencies at the facility level. The pilot’s lounges at Cougar Helicopters’ facilities are equipped with a large video screen that enables pilots to remotely view the hangar and see their helicopters being rolled out onto the ramp and prepared for flight.

The advantages of remote access are not limited to the video portions of the system. Having the ability to control and manage doors from a central location through the system also provides Cougar with operational advantages.

“We can lock down the building, we can open up doors and manage it remotely,” Dawe said. “We always have someone who can take control because we have an IT team in St. John’s to manage our facilities.”

At the newly built SAR facility in St. John’s, Cougar incorporated the Kantech integration platform installed in Halifax. Following the standard developed for Halifax, the SAR facility became an added site on Kantech EntraPass, which allows it to be managed from the same IT infrastructure.

With its operations continuing to grow, Cougar Helicopters has the capabilities now to update its security company-wide, thanks to the work of Northeastern Protection and the Kantech EntraPass platform.

“We were excited to have been the integrator for their initial requirement in Halifax with Cougar Helicopters,” Miller said. “And, we have been equally excited about expanding our relationship with Cougar as they have continued to grow.”

This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Security Today.

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