Keep Out Unwanted Guests

USC secures campus parking structure

On game day, when the highly-ranked University of Southern California men’s and women’s basketball teams battle it out at the Galen Center on the campus’ west end, upwards of 10,000 fans pack into the arena to cheer them on. In between games at this recently-opened, multi-use facility, volleyball games, concerts and many other major events take place at an often packed house.

The USC campus owns and operates a six-story, 1,200-car-capacity, parking structure within walking distance of the arena. During these special events, the garage doors leading in and out of the parking structure—what USC calls PS-1—are kept open before, during and after the event, while ticket takers stationed at the doorways admit cars into the facility.

This parking structure also services events for the renowned Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on the other side of the building.

Built for USC students, staff and faculty to access buildings on the University Park campus and the USC Credit Union, there are no staffed booths at doorways of the parking structure. Instead, four, automatically-operated, Rytec spiral security doors rapidly open and close at 60 inches per second as vehicles pass through, while tightly sealing up the doorway between accesses.

The same types of doors are also used on the PS-2 structure, which serves the Galen Center along with the nearby Raddison Hotel and other USC business establishments.

Focusing on Campus Security

Along with the university’s education and research mission, security and safety are important factors. The university’s Department of Public Safety is one of the largest university law enforcement agencies in the United States. A full-time staff of 281, along with contract security staffing and 30 students, protects the two campuses in south and east LA.

However, in the absence of manned booths at the entrance to the parking structure, a brace of cameras monitor PS-1 doorways.

“All unmanned, parking structure doorways still have to deal with the problem of ‘piggybacking,’” said Carey Drayton, USC chief of campus security. “This happens when intruders time the interval between when the vehicle passes through the doorway and the door closes, and then they slip into the building. The speed of the roll-up doors makes criminals think twice about piggybacking and discourages them from using our parking structures as possible crime sites.”

Lifting the Barrier

USC provides RFID chips to everyone who rents a parking space at PS-1. In addition, faculty, staff and students are given a key card to get back into the building through card-reader-accessible, pedestrian doors.

As vehicles approach the doorway, the door’s control system, an RFID reader mounted directly above the door, detects RFID chips in adhesive strips attached to the rearview mirrors of the vehicles from as far as 10 feet away.

If the vehicle is authorized, the door opens at a sufficient speed to allow each vehicle to glide in and out of the parking structure, without stopping to wait for the door to open.

When traffic patterns near the doorway are tight, the high speed minimizes potential damage to the door by rolling up the panel faster than conventional doors, getting it out of the way of the vehicle. The door speed also means that an unauthorized vehicle cannot enter the building right after one that is authorized.

Pablo Sahugun, the USC parking facilities manager, learned how the speed of the door could benefit their ability to move traffic through the parking garage doorways at an industry trade show. Sahugan said that this kind of door has had very few maintenance issues, even with the high volume of traffic, and open and close cycles.

How the Door Operates

On this door, there is a compact, variable-speed, 2HP AC drive with a three-phase motor that offers smooth starts and stops, and a longer drive life. A weatherresistant, NEMA-4X enclosure protects the UL/ULclisted controls. Preprogrammed menu options allow the USC’s maintenance crew to easily adjust door operations to match the specific needs of each location, while self-diagnostic capabilities help keep maintenance time to a minimum.

The tight coil of the roll-up door design enables parking garage applications like PS-1, where headroom is sparse, to fit in only 11 inches of clearance. Space along the side is spared, as well, and the door guides mount to the inside wall, providing full access to the doorway.

When closed, the doors reinforce security for both vehicles and drivers because of the rigid aluminum slat construction and integrated locking system. The panel has no metal-to-metal contact, is quiet when operational and requires little maintenance.

A durable, rubber membrane connects the slats, which runs along galvanized steel side frames with full-height weatherproofing. This creates a complete seal against debris blowing into the parking structure to reduce cleanup. Despite the bright, California sun pounding down on the doors, the anodized aluminum coating has kept the doors in good shape.

If a vehicle or pedestrian happens to be in the doorway, standard, dual photo eyes prevent the door from closing. This safety system is backed up by a reliable, pressure-sensitive edge that causes the door to reverse instantly upon contact.

“Fortunately, the bad guys don’t know this and are not, in their minds, going to risk getting crushed by a speeding heavy-duty door panel.” Drayton said.

In the case of a power outage, a mechanical brake release lever on the side column allows the door to be opened manually.

Rather than the standard parking structure look, PS-1 emulates the style of the Galen Center, and the roll-up doors maintain the appearance of the building design; however, it’s in the functionality of these high-speed doors at the USC’s parking structure that don’t get in the way of traffic, only intruders, that gives these doors style.

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


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