Access control solutions are a culmination of years of fine tuning and installation experience

Monitoring Detainees

Access control solutions are a culmination of years of fine tuning and installation experience

Monitoring DetaineesAs a part of the GSA-led effort to bring federal buildings in compliance with the Homeland Security Presidential Directive, (HSPD-12) Vector Electric Inc. (VEI) was asked to explore the possibility of adding additional features to the standard FIPS-201 access control systems being upgraded at a number of Customs and Border Protection, Port of Entry (LPOE) facilities.

This feature would assist the officers in the administration of an agency directive related to documenting the activity in detention cells. Using the agency-issued smart Personal Identity Verification (PIV) cards that every government employee now carries and uses for physical and logical access to government facilities and systems, this system would produce timely and actionable notifications when a guard stop is missed, overdue or completed.

Port facilities are equipped with detention cells designed to temporarily house subjects for security purposes. The requested feature would provide an audit trail of guard visitations to each detention cell and document that detainees are being properly monitored. An unfortunate worst case example of the importance of this happened this summer when a San Diego student was awarded a $4 million settlement for going completely unattended for four days while in temporary detention.

From an operational standpoint, the solution’s automation functions allow the officers the ability to focus on other important aspects of their duty assignments with the knowledge that they and their supervisors will be notified when it is time to tour and record detainee cell activity.

“We knew what the concern was,” said Duane Pittman, president of Vector Electric. “We just needed to solve it electronically.”

VEI began the process by contacting a number of top access control providers, but was surprised to find only one company willing to make the research and development commitments needed to compete for this prized business.

“That says something,” Pittman said. “Brivo Systems was the only company willing to take the time to design the hardware and software and to make it non-proprietary. I met with Brivo Systems president Steve Van Till while we were working with the ADT Government Systems Group upgrading an access control system together at a federal facility in GSA’s Midwest Region 5.”

“Shortly thereafter, he sent an engineer to our facility in Michigan and together created the functionality in response to the CBP directive 3340-030b that is now called Guard Tour,” Pittman said.

“As part of our philosophy of channeling customer feedback quickly into product development, we’re pleased to have collaborated with Vector Electric and the Department of Homeland Security to design a software solution that fits their critical operational needs,” said John Szczygiel, Brivo executive vice president. “The short turnaround on this innovation and its rapid adoption are testament to the quality of our partners and to Brivo’s ability to effectively respond to the needs of our integrators and end users.”

VEI began installing the Guard Tour systems under a GSA contract at three Land Port of Entry (LPOE) locations in Michigan in 2010. After observing the systems in operation for a number of months, documenting supervisor input obtained in follow-up training and information sessions, VEI and Brivo found additional ways to make Guard Tour even more effective and efficient in meeting the unique and pressing needs at these facilities.

These features included officer activated keypad commands, cell block data entry, secure wireless mobile control functionality, intuitive camera surveillance capabilities and customized reporting features.

“We were challenged to deal with meeting their needs,” Pittman said. “As it turns out, the security officers needed to document the detainee’s condition after taking each tour and this was generating a lot of paper. With software upgrades to the Brivo Aparato, we proposed to duplicate the required forms in the system, no wasted paper, everything in one place.”

Armed with this new information, VEI began looking for companies that could partner their technologies to help us provide a total, but modular, solution.

Choosing the Best Technologies

“The overall goal for the new, integrated solution was to create a seamless and integrated user experience using technologies that are easily integrated and non-proprietary allowing for a larger range of choices to fulfill agency needs and directives,” Pittman said. “To end users, this would mean that the systems would not only be able to accommodate the use of their PIV cards for all levels of facility access, including the Guard Tour, but also to be able to allow a high-level integration with the various legacy systems that would now be associated with it; bringing the facility to a whole new level of security, flexibility and operational awareness.”

“As DHS upgrades other detention equipped facilities around the country, we hope to be assisting by providing a model both for detention center audit trails as well as the overall access control needs of each facility.”

With this goal in mind, and to ensure the delivery of an advanced solution that met the governments rigorous HSPD-12, FIPS-201 and CBP directives, VEI began to work with Capital Communications, LTG Federal and Gage International to develop the total system solution.

“Another critical factor is the current government budget situation,” said Bill Knapp, director of business development at Capital Communications. “We had to be able to design a highly effective solution that is HSPD-12 and FIPS-201 compliant and could incorporate as much of CBP’s legacy equipment investment as possible. The situation required a cohesive team of highly knowledgeable integrator resources.”

Working together, these four firms represent a consortium each with proven track records with Customs and Border protection on the U.S. northern border.

“Bringing these subject matter experts, all accomplished in their field, and combining them with our chosen best of breed world class technologies for a single holistic solution we felt would provide an unbeatable value for Customs and Border Protection,” Pittman said.

The technologies selected for the CBP include Brivo Systems for ACS OnSite Aparato HSPD-12 FIPS 201 compliant physical access control system, Video Insight for video surveillance and video management, IQinVision for high definition megapixel video surveillance cameras, Veracity Cold Store for network video storage, Xirrus for secure FIPS-140-2 wireless network access arrays and HID Global for FIPS-201 compliant transparent readers.

The Wireless Capability

The three original LPOE sites proved to be the test ground for the Guard Tour System as conceived. However, after gaining exposure and confidence with the Brivo management system, the GSA and CBP issued a contract to expand the system incorporating many of these new features and employing the Brivo Aparato for access control at the entire facility. The facility selected was the Detroit Windsor Tunnel.

The facility now uses Brivo to manage the access control of all its doors and the Guard Tour system to manage the detainee cells. Working with wireless provider Xirrus, the tunnel facility incorporated a secure FIPS 140-2 compliant wireless mobile control feature.

“One of the key aspects of the wireless capability was that a high level of system engineering and tuning needed to be accomplished to ensure that signals would not bleed outside the designated buildings and that the network would run independent of the CBP network,” Knapp said. “Capital Communications and VEI worked together with Xirrus to engineer the architecture and identify the technology that would meet the stringent requirements for a secure wireless solution for CBP. The Xirrus FIPS-140-2 compliant technologies fit that bill.”

Using the Xirrus, FIPS-140-2 secure wireless technology, the integrated Guard Tour and access control functions of the facility can now be monitored and controlled by any supervisor or officer who is on the scene and mobile, using the mobile tablets that were provided as a part of the system solution.

“This becomes a true force multiplier allowing the entire organization to be more efficient and effective in the line of duty,” Knapp said.

The Video Component

The Detroit Windsor Tunnel facility also is equipped with a legacy video surveillance system. Integrating this into the total solution would allow the video cameras to respond to access control and detainee cell-related events. VEI has proposed that the video be integrated into the system in the future. However, in mid-2012 VEI began installing another system at a CBP facility that did incorporate the surveillance cameras in the system. The Gibraltar Border Patrol station, which is located near Detroit and just a few miles from the Lake Erie border line with Canada, went online in 2013 incorporating this feature.

The video surveillance system at this facility would utilize a combination of legacy analog cameras and new IQinVision network IP cameras. Video management and storage was handled by the Video Insight system.

“We chose the IQinVision and Video Insight technologies because both bring high-performance and an excellent return on investment,” Knapp said. “The Video Insight equipment allowed us to retain all the legacy cameras, while installing the new IQinVison IQeye megapixel network cameras at strategic locations. This strategy allows us to replace analog cameras as they wear out with the new IP-based IQeye cameras as needed.”

Vector Electric and Capital Communications have been installing and fine tuning this integrated security solution, with the prominent Guard Tour feature, for CBP facilities for more than three years and the innovation continues.

“We recently presented the entire solution at the U.S/Canada Border Conference in Detroit to CBP and Canada Border Services Agency administrators where we found it very well received on both sides of the border,” Knapp said.

“The Gibraltar location is the highest level of integration and seamless operation of this number of systems we have achieved thus far in our installations,” Pittman said. “We believe this scalable, highly flexible system model is perfect for rollout to any CBP facility or any facility looking for a cost effective and highly functional way to achieve an HSPD-12 and FIPS-201 compliant way to manage temporary detainees and access control using their standard PIV cards.” What’s more, this system is cloud ready, allowing the agency and end user to implement this technology solution as an end-to-end managed service. “It’s just a matter of time when the end user decides to make the transition.”

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

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