A centrally controlled, electronic access system secures the University of Maryland
A centrally controlled, electronic access system secures the University of Maryland

Apr 1, 1999 12:00 PM

The problem Craig Chucker faces at the University of Maryland is this: Everybody wants their buildings secured, but they still want free access.

So Chucker, manager of building security systems for the 45,000-student university in College Park, allows free access - up to a point.

By about 10 or 12 each night, buildings are locked up. But those who are authorized - carrying programmed access control cards - can still access the building. It is all due to a new, centrally controlled OnGuard 5.5 electronic access control system from Lenel Systems International Inc., Fairport, N.Y.

And since a locked-but-still-occupied building can be compromised by an individual propping a door open, the system will alert officers. Through electronic door contacts, the system monitors all points of protection, and once an alarm occurs, it will indicate which door is open. A campus police officer will respond.

"We can determine the length of time a door may remain open, say 30 seconds, and it will transmit an alarm to the screen. An operator who is monitoring the screen will be able to see that the door is open," says Chucker. Exterior doors are equipped for egress with Von Duprin crash bar model 99s. Although the alarm system is monitored 24 hours a day, the access system currently is not. That will change once a new central monitoring station is completed.

Chucker can program cards for various levels of access. "As long as they have a valid ID card they can get into university buildings, but after a certain point in time, say 11 or 12 o'clock (in the evening), we can deny access on predetermined criteria, so only a valid card carrier at that point would be allowed to enter the building," he says.

Soon, residential facilities will also be a part of the Lenel system. "Our plan is to go to completely electronic systems so we won't have to use people to lock and unlock buildings anymore," says Chucker.

The system further saves on manpower with its "flash" memory feature. If a panel loses its memory or goes off-line, when it comes back up it will initiate a check to see whether any data has been lost. The server will download the missing information back into the panels. And if there are any upgrades to the firmware, they can be downloaded to the panels from the server. In this way, no one has to physically change chips.

Campus cards and readers use Wiegand protocol, but the school will soon convert to a magnetic stripe system. The new system will allow faculty, staff and students to use ID cards for buildings access and as debit cards in the dining halls, off campus in some local stores, and in copy and vending machines. Readers will be supplied by Mercury Security.

Key control Another benefit of the access control system is key control. "I've been here a year and a half and an issue that really concerns me is the number of keys that are issued," says Chucker. "Every time you issue one you lose control of a building because that key cannot be tracked." The key also can be easily duplicated, because there are locksmiths who will do it despite laws against it.

"The plan is that once we get a building on the electronic system we will rekey the building and either not issue any keys or issue a limited number of keys on a restricted system, so we know who has keys," Chucker says.

Networked and centralized Chucker ultimately plans to have an electronic security system to rival that of many deep-pocketed corporations. He is using alarm monitoring, intercoms and CCTV, and he plans for everything to be brought back to the soon-to-be-constructed central monitoring station on campus.

"We are looking at between 3 and 5 years to get everything up and running," he says of the upgrade project he started about a year ago. "It's been fairly easy to get support," he says. "It's not a hard sell."

Chucker uses a Digital Security Controls (DSC) alarm monitoring system programmed to arm and disarm through the Lenel system, although some alarms are stand-alone and are programmed for active and inactive periods.

Panasonic closed-circuit television cameras watch over building exteriors. About 50 cameras are located throughout the campus in high-risk areas such as parking lots and garages, and near dormitories. Chucker plans to add about 20 more cameras.

Some areas in the libraries have CCTV that is monitored only in the building, but Chucker hopes eventually to have all cameras monitored at the campus police department central station.

In his ceaseless attempt to acquire the best equipment, Chucker is trying a Sanyo VCC4324 camera that is color during the day, but can become black-and-white or infrared at night. He is testing the camera in dark exterior locations. While some cameras reveal only a shadow or silhouette in low-light conditions, Chucker hopes the Sanyo camera will allow positive identification.

DSC's Downlook alarm monitoring feature will come into play when everything is centralized. "If an alarm occurs, it will transmit a picture back to the central station and the police could verify the alarm, which helps reduce false alarm problems," says Chucker.

Up to eight cameras feed into a module that is tied into a DSC alarm panel. When an alarm is activated, it triggers the corresponding camera to begin recording. The system can also sequence through all the cameras and transmit the pictures as well as the alarm signals to a DSC receiver, which then transfers the information digitally to a PC. The computer hard drive or disk can store the images and other related data. An operator can go back and review the video by time and date.

Of course, the system also offers live, real-time viewing.

The school has an extensive network of Aiphone intercoms and about 100 Code Blue emergency phones. "At some point, in some areas, we will have CCTV and intercoms tied together," Chucker says. But the ability to listen through intercoms is more cost-effective for other areas.

Taking it further Even a college campus has areas calling for tight access restrictions. For those areas - rooms in the microbiology lab and in the police department - Chucker is experimenting with fingerprint and hand geometry readers.

A Recognition Systems hand reader is used in the microbiology lab. Chucker wants to protect potentially harmful agents such as an Anthrax derivative or salmonella from falling into the wrong hands.

A fingerprint reader from Biometric Identification Products restricts access to weapons in the police department.

Use of such cutting edge security technology - evident throughout the University of Maryland - is familiar to Chucker. He was the head of security for the Washington, D.C., Neiman Marcus from 1978-1988, and he owned an alarm company from 1979 to 1996. As manager of building security systems, Chucker is putting his experience to good use.

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