Canadian Security
Canadian Security

Apr 1, 1998 12:00 PM
Carol Carey

A modern security system blends into the historic grandeur of the seat of Canadian government.A long Ottawa, Ontario's Wellington Street - the Canadian equivalent of our Pennsylvania Avenue - sits a government complex that houses Canada's elected and appointed representatives and their support staff. Here, a brand new Ministry of Justice headquarters exists side by side with historic Parliament Hill buildings such as the Center Block, which was built in 1859 and then rebuilt in 1916 after a fire burned the original structure to the ground. It is in this building's chambers that members of the Senate debate and vote upon legislation that will affect their nation.

Nearby, also on Parliament Hill, is the East Block building, where the Senators and their support staff handle the day-to-day office work.

Off of Parliament Hill and across Wellington Street is the Victoria building, which has more offices and serves as the three-building complex's main security operations center.

Here, director of protective services Serge Gourgue oversees several teams of security personnel averaging 10 constables each. The teams, which include a sergeant and a corporal, juggle the complex and sometimes conflicting security needs of a campus that must welcome visitors, yet remain cautious.

Discreet security

Beneath the manicured grounds, hidden in the tunnels that connect all Parliament Hill buildings, runs a new, multi-mode, fiber-optic cable network linking together an integrated security system that controls surveillance cameras, duress and intrusion alarms, motion detectors, Aiphone intercoms and door contacts.

Many of the cameras, like the ones in the Aboriginal Peoples Room, which serves as a committee room and museum, are positioned discreetly.

"We use small, Silent Witness recessed domes, 4 inches in diameter, for the overt cameras in this room and other areas," explains Pierre Major, staff sergeant and information security coordinator for the Senate. "This helps the cameras blend in with the historic buildings. We've taken great care so that the cameras are all recessed in this room." Approximately 40 new cameras have been installed as part of the security upgrade.

Keeping security systems unobtrusive has been an important theme of the upgrade. "We have 500 to 600 people working in the three-building complex, which is also open to the public," says Major. "Parliamentary tour guides conduct public tours at the Center and East Blocks. We therefore needed surveillance equipment that blends nicely with the heritage of the buildings, yet offers employees a sense of protection."

Mechanical and electronic security systems have been a reality for the past eight to 10 years at the Senate, but, says Major, "there is a clear indication that Canada is increasingly subjected to threat. We have felt the urgency for greater efficiency." Major feels the new system combats threat beautifully. In fact, the sleek, discreet system, with its recessed cameras and hidden fiber-optic network, belies a fast, powerful software system.

System controls

Installed in December 1997, Dynatrol software connects the primary server to the redundant server and to three remote guard posts via a fiber-optic-based Ethernet LAN network. The software, run on a powerful QNX operating system, is part of the first phase of a major security upgrade on Wellington Street. Planned in the near future is an automated access control system for the Chambers building, a nearby government office building.

Manufactured and installed by Marcomm Fiber Optics Inc., the software runs on a 266 MHz Pentium computer at the main operations center in the Victoria building. Into this station comes video and data from three guard posts located in each of the three buildings. In each guard post are 166 MHz computers in which the software is also installed. These remote security stations control cameras and other security devices in that building's vicinity. The security officers stationed at each post can control their cameras and can see all alarm icons, but cannot acknowledge (clear) or shunt (bypass) alarms - a function reserved for the operator at the main operations center.

Video and data signals are carried over separate fiber-optic networks from the three guard post stations to the main operations center. All of the security devices in each building are integrated via hard-wired RS-232 or RS-485 to the Dynatrol station in that building.

The software can control up to 255 security devices, each with multiple security points such as alarm or camera points. Public Works and Government Services Canada is undertaking a long-term construction program for Parliament Hill, and it is expected to be completed in several phases through 2013. These major projects incorporate the security upgrade at the Senate. "We required a system that was flexible and expandable," says Major, "and Dynatrol satisfies that requirement."

The software not only controls each system, but also integrates all of the connected systems with each other. Dynatrol can also communicate directly with microprocessor-based alarm gathering devices and intercom systems. The main security operations center and the redundant station use touch-screen monitors, while the three remote guard posts use a mouse. The main security operations center also has a keyboard for entry of information.

"At the Senate, the Dynatrol software communicates with, and has complete control of, all switchers, which, in turn, control all the camera inputs and monitor outputs and pan/tilt/zoom controls," explains David Trudel, vice president of Marcomm.

The camera system employs four American Dynamics switchers, models 2050 and 1650, located throughout the buildings and connected by hard wire to the Dynatrol systems within each guard post. The video signals from the cameras controlled by the switchers are transmitted by the fiber-optic network to the main security operations center.

Fiber-optic modules supplied by Fiber Options Inc. are part of the network that links all the Dynatrol stations together. Other security devices in the buildings are gathered on hard wire and interfaced to the Dynatrol stations, says Trudel.

Delta Vision, Gyyr, Dual Page and Panasonic quad multiplexers are, for example, all interfaced to the Dynatrol software at the main security operations center. Sony and Panasonic VCRs are used, the Panasonic integrated with the software system through an RS-232 protocol.

"This allows complete control of the VCR through the software system," says Trudel. "It gives the security operators more flexibility because the VCR does not have to be at arm's length. You can play, rewind and record right from the monitor.

"We can do this with the redundant system, too," he continues. "Although that system is in a separate building from the main operations center, the VCR can still be viewed and controlled from the redundant system."

System priorities

In fact, installation of a redundant system was one of the priorities set by the Senate when the new security system was designed. If the main computer goes down, full control automatically goes to the "hot" redundant system. "It can either be switched to the redundant station or it will automatically happen," explains Trudel. "In addition, if the hot redundant station fails as well, each of the three guard posts will assume complete control of their building, rather than the limited control they ordinarily have over alarms."

Speed and efficiency were two other requirements of the new security system. The QNX operating system, a high-level, multi-task system manufactured by QNX Software Systems, Kanata, Ontario, meets those requirements.

Major proudly describes how the system comes together in the Aboriginal Peoples Room, providing protection without being overbearing. In addition to the small, discreet dome cameras, wireless alarm equipment is also used. "This has provided us with mobility as well as good aesthetics," says Major. "If we want to move some of the artifacts, we can move the alarm protection along with them. We also use motion detectors in this room. And we're going to be installing a Bogen sound-masking system at all the portals to the room so that conversations within the room cannot be heard outside of the room."

The Bogen system will be integrated with the Dynatrol software and controlled on-site and from the main operations center. Moreover, if the wireless alarms fail in the Aboriginal Peoples Room, the Dynatrol system, to which alarms are connected throughout the three-building complex, will produce an alarm, alerting personnel.

Several applications under one roof

The main security operations center actually contains several separate security applications. One is the Dynatrol system, with a 17-inch Mitsubishi monitor, which controls all electronic security systems in all three buildings and, through its integration with video switchers, quads and VCRs, displays all three sites in the main security operations center. The CCTV system includes 10 monitors, from 9 to 20 inches, from manufacturers such as Panasonic, Pelco and Burle, which display images from the approximately 140 cameras in the complex, all of them color, including those manufactured by Panasonic, Elmo, Sony, Silent Witness and Javelin.

"Through Dynatrol, each security device communicates with another system. For instance, the duress or intrusion alarms will communicate with the nearest surveillance camera if one of the alarm points is breached, activating that camera. We have integrated several existing intercom stations located throughout the Victoria building to Dynatrol. Activation of the remote call button will cause a local camera to display the intercom view for the guard for verification," says Trudel of the Victoria building, the location of the main security operation center, where there is one intercom on each of the nine floors.

Secure Site, a tracking and reporting software system developed by the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corp., is also housed at the main security operations center. The system provides the main database for recording personnel information, and is installed in a Pentium 133 MHz computer with one 17-inch monitor. The software data can be transmitted by a fiber-optic cable to the guard posts in the individual buildings so that security officers can obtain critical information relating to employee and visitor access.

In lieu of an electronic access control system, which is on the agenda for future phases of the security upgrade, this tracking system affords an automatic database system that controls access and key management.

The personnel management system component serves as the main database for recording personal information on individuals who deal with the Senate, says Major, including employees, contractors and visitors. "The tracking system serves as a daily log, recording occurrences, patrols, and access required for rooms," says Major.

Information in the system is crucial to the Senate's access control procedures, and includes detailed entries on access limitations, keys to be returned at time of termination or departure, active and inactive status of employees, authorizations for temporary passes or keys, and access to specific rooms or high-security areas. The system is used to send updated information via the network to the control room and the various security access control points.

The database information also includes vital statistics, identification numbers, department or division, license plate numbers and security screening status, says Major.

The key-management system is linked to the personnel system and controls key transactions such as transfers, returns, issuance and losses. Special features include complete historical reports, multiple search capabilities, automatic flags if requester is not in the database or has already had a key issued and automatic key assignment numbers. Keys cannot be issued to individuals unless they have been registered in the personnel management system database, says Major.

A third component of the database system is an audio recording system, which combines computer technology with optical disk mass storage capabilities to provide automated playback options and efficient archiving of media. Manufactured by Converse Information Systems and distributed and supported in Canada by Telexis Corp. of Ottawa, the system comprises multi-channel computers running a real-time operating system. It uses hard-disk technology to supply uninterrupted recording during playback and while exchanging archived media. The system's data-management software logs all conversations or data by date, time and duration of call without any user intervention.

"This is an invaluable tool for investigations, liability and criminal cases," says Major. "It provides detailed information for analysis of all aspects of activities and can generate reports for any given period by type of activity, person, site, level or even by room number."

The trouble-call component allows for electronic transmission of various types of trouble calls via the network, and includes automatic recording of the person entering the call, date and time of call, and speed keys and pick lists for the main groups of trouble calls, such as HVAC, fire systems, security systems, locksmithing or grounds.

Nevertheless, visitor access is controlled with the use of two metal detectors and an x-ray machine. An Amscan Organic metal detector and the x-ray machine scan objects, while an Archway metal detector scans people.

"Plans are under way to renovate the Center Block building and put in new infrastructure, at which time we will introduce the use of proximity card readers, which may integrate the access control system with Dynatrol," says Major. "At present, we use electronic locks and ID cards to control access, with security officers stationed at entrance points to check the cards. We don't necessarily anticipate a closed building, even when electronic access control is installed, except perhaps for after hours and weekend access," says Major. Security at the Senate must walk the fine line between protection and the sense that the Senate, like other governmental buildings, belongs to the people.

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