It’s Electrifying

College fine tunes security from keys to electrified locks

Tarrant County College is the sixth largest college or university in the state of Texas offering two-year degrees that lead to careers or transfers to four-year institutions. Founded in 1965, it has expanded from a single campus to an institution that soon will encompass six facilities serving more than 50,000 students including computer laboratories and other technical facilities that contain high-value items. For example, the nursing school includes state-of-theart operating rooms and $200,000 mannequins on which students can practice.

This college has followed a path of continuous improvement to manage access control and other security issues at its five campuses located throughout the Fort Worth area. Whether upgrading its key system or implementing electrified locks, Tarrant County College is committed to providing the best solutions by testing all products before deploying them throughout the district.

Beginning with a Key System Upgrade

A few years ago, Tarrant County College knew its growth had outpaced its existing key system. The key manufacturer advised that an entirely new system was needed to handle the college’s more than 10,000 doors. This led to a broader investigation of solutions.

As a result, the college selected a key system with a large format, interchangeable core system that is patent-protected until 2024. Patent-protected keyways prevent unauthorized duplication, and key blanks can only be obtained from the manufacturer when authorized by the customer, in this case, the college. Even during renovation or new building projects, contractors are provided with construction cores. Once the project is completed, the interchangeable cores make it easy to secure the building.

Although electrified locks and card readers are used throughout Tarrant County campuses, mechanical keys still play an important role in the access control plan. Keys are used extensively on non-critical interior doors as well as over-ride for the electrified locks when necessary. To provide physical control of the keys used by maintenance staff, the college uses a cabinet that sends management an e-mail alert if a key is not returned when due.

“We have one of these on every campus,” said Bob McCleary, electronic access control systems manager. “We put the master keys at the top and sets for the maintenance staff below. It keeps track of the keys that are checked out electronically.”

McCleary said that the key system is structured so the police department needs only two keys to access any of the college’s buildings. One handles all the northern campuses while the other controls the southern campuses. Although access to most of the buildings is normally controlled by card access, the electrified locks can be opened by key override. In the event of a lockdown, for example, this would ensure that the police could always enter the building.

Upgrading Electrified Access Control

While the college has used electrified access control for several years, it is expanding and upgrading its system. McCleary uses electrified mortise locks or electrified exit devices to secure all access-controlled doors. The college has about 1,400 card readers that control the electrified locks. These are now being replaced with multi-technology card readers. All new installations are using these readers, as well.

The readers are capable of interfacing with proximity, smart and most other credentials, providing flexibility for future changes or upgrades. They use an open architecture platform designed to work with industry standards and common access control system interfaces. In addition, their single-gang styling and easy-to-connect wiring harness simplifies installation.

To monitor this system, McCleary receives online data in his office that shows the status of every card reader.

“You can see when they are online and locked or unlocked, the name of the door and whether it is open or closed,” McCleary said.

Doors automatically unlock at a specified time for classes but can be locked remotely in case of emergency.

Many of the entries controlled by card readers and electrified locks incorporate a camera that lets a staff member verify visitor’s identities before unlocking remotely. Other cameras are located throughout the various campuses. According to McCleary, one benefit is that in the event of a threat, they could tell if the perpetrator was inside or outside of a building, and decide which doors needed to be locked down.

In addition, a recent acquisition of the former Bell Helicopter building at the Fort Worth Alliance airport has created a sixth campus that will allow the college to move and expand its aircraft mechanic courses there. McCleary said that the building will incorporate 50 to 60 multitechnology card readers and wireless electronic locks when the move is completed. This is the college’s first use of wireless locks.

Electrified locking in combination with a high-security key system provides the security this college needs to protect both people and property.

“We try to make the students and faculty feel more secure and confident that we have control of the situation, whatever it is,” McCleary said. “We limit faculty cards to the areas where they need access, so only the police have access to every door.”

Other Solutions

Other hardware and security solutions include exit devices, door closers and Ives hinges. The exit devices that are used on all required access-controlled doors incorporate a new latch-bolt design, providing greater strength and durability. McCleary said that he prefers exit devices that have a four-bolt mounting because this provides a higher level of strength and security over narrow stile devices.

Many of the exit devices incorporate special features selected to meet Tarrant County College’s specifications. For instance, all new exit device installations and replacements include a quiet exit latch option. Quiet operation is especially important in areas such as auditoriums, classrooms and libraries, where the noise of a conventional latch could be disturbing. Many applications also call for a special dogging option, which allows them to be dogged by key as well as electronically in the event of power failure or other situation (because the main body contains the electronics, the lock cylinder is located in the center case.)

Another solution that works well for this college is a keyed removable mullion for double doors. McCleary said that he prefers this approach over vertical rod exit devices to achieve security and feels it requires less maintenance.

“If someone needs to move a piano into a building, we just have a maintenance worker unlock and remove the mullion, then put it back in a few minutes,” McCleary said.

Comprehensive specifications ensure that the best solutions are applied consistently throughout this college system.

“We have been told by our architects that ours are one of the best specs ever written,” McCleary said. “They are so detailed that whoever bids our jobs won’t have any problems if they follow them.”

Typically, McCleary tests a new product in a high-traffic location before including it in the specifications. Although the standards are tight, there are enough qualified distributors in the area that can supply the desired products to achieve competitive bidding; however, they must ensure that they have the qualified personnel necessary to provide installation as well as service.

This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Security Today.


  • 12 Commercial Crime Sites to Do Your Research

    12 Commercial Crime Sites to Do Your Research

    Understanding crime statistics in your industry and area is crucial for making important decisions about your security budget. With so much information out there, how can you know which statistics to trust? Read Now

  • Boosting Safety and Efficiency

    Boosting Safety and Efficiency

    In alignment with the state of Mississippi’s mission of “Empowering Mississippi citizens to stay connected and engaged with their government,” Salient's CompleteView VMS is being installed throughout more than 150 state boards, commissions and agencies in order to ensure safety for thousands of constituents who access state services daily. Read Now

  • Live From GSX: Post-Show Review

    Live From GSX: Post-Show Review

    This year’s Live From GSX program was a rousing success! Again, we’d like to thank our partners, and IPVideo, for working with us and letting us broadcast their solutions to the industry. You can follow our Live From GSX 2023 page to keep up with post-show developments and announcements. And if you’re interested in working with us in 2024, please don’t hesitate to ask about our Live From programs for ISC West in March or next year’s GSX. Read Now

    • Industry Events
    • GSX
  • People Say the Funniest Things

    People Say the Funniest Things

    By all accounts, GSX version 2023 was completely successful. Apparently, there were plenty of mix-ups with the airlines and getting aircraft from the East Coast into Big D. I am all ears when I am in a gathering of people. You never know when a nugget of information might flip out. Read Now

    • Industry Events
    • GSX

Featured Cybersecurity


New Products

  • PE80 Series

    PE80 Series by SARGENT / ED4000/PED5000 Series by Corbin Russwin

    ASSA ABLOY, a global leader in access solutions, has announced the launch of two next generation exit devices from long-standing leaders in the premium exit device market: the PE80 Series by SARGENT and the PED4000/PED5000 Series by Corbin Russwin. These new exit devices boast industry-first features that are specifically designed to provide enhanced safety, security and convenience, setting new standards for exit solutions. The SARGENT PE80 and Corbin Russwin PED4000/PED5000 Series exit devices are engineered to meet the ever-evolving needs of modern buildings. Featuring the high strength, security and durability that ASSA ABLOY is known for, the new exit devices deliver several innovative, industry-first features in addition to elegant design finishes for every opening. 3

  • ResponderLink


    Shooter Detection Systems (SDS), an company and a global leader in gunshot detection solutions, has introduced ResponderLink, a groundbreaking new 911 notification service for gunshot events. ResponderLink completes the circle from detection to 911 notification to first responder awareness, giving law enforcement enhanced situational intelligence they urgently need to save lives. Integrating SDS’s proven gunshot detection system with Noonlight’s SendPolice platform, ResponderLink is the first solution to automatically deliver real-time gunshot detection data to 911 call centers and first responders. When shots are detected, the 911 dispatching center, also known as the Public Safety Answering Point or PSAP, is contacted based on the gunfire location, enabling faster initiation of life-saving emergency protocols. 3

  • Camden CM-221 Series Switches

    Camden CM-221 Series Switches

    Camden Door Controls is pleased to announce that, in response to soaring customer demand, it has expanded its range of ValueWave™ no-touch switches to include a narrow (slimline) version with manual override. This override button is designed to provide additional assurance that the request to exit switch will open a door, even if the no-touch sensor fails to operate. This new slimline switch also features a heavy gauge stainless steel faceplate, a red/green illuminated light ring, and is IP65 rated, making it ideal for indoor or outdoor use as part of an automatic door or access control system. ValueWave™ no-touch switches are designed for easy installation and trouble-free service in high traffic applications. In addition to this narrow version, the CM-221 & CM-222 Series switches are available in a range of other models with single and double gang heavy-gauge stainless steel faceplates and include illuminated light rings. 3