Extensive access control system protects New York Medical College
Extensive access control system protects New York Medical College

Jan 1, 2000 12:00 PM

Several years ago, the New York Medical College was suffering a rash of computer thefts. At the same time, students and faculty juggled three differentcards to access restricted areas, check out library books or charge cafeteria meals. University administrators decided it was time to make some changes for safety and convenience.

The decision led to a single card for all functions and the virtual elimination of major crime on campus.

The improvements came from a $250,000 updated security system, the backbone of which is a Software House C*CURE 800 access control and security management system from Sensormatic Electronics Corp., Boca Raton, Fla. About 45 proximity card readers are installed at critical access points throughout the university. All readers are connected via underground fiber optics to the security department's control room in the Basic Science Building. There, all access requests and alarm situations are recorded by the C*CURE 800.

According to Matt Hersh, the university's director of security, the fiber optics are an improvement over the above-ground cable used for the previous access system.

"Five years ago, our system was dead or dying primarily due to frequent lightning strikes," Hersh says. "If lightning knocked out the system, our gates were locked. So, every time a storm came up, I had to open the gates to allow access by students and faculty. That left us with little security. It was ridiculous."

New York Medical College is located in Valhalla, N.Y., just 30 minutes north of New York City. There are 1,660 students enrolled in the medical college which awards advanced degrees to students in medicine, science and the health professions. The university has 1,350 full-time faculty members and 1,450 part-time and volunteer faculty.

The six buildings on the campus range in size from 15,000 to 100,000 square feet. They contain office space, laboratories, lecture halls, classrooms and dormitories. The 150-acre campus has nine entry gates, and each building and gate is protected by access control and closed circuit television systems.

A cancer research center located in nearby White Plains is on the access control system. By early 2000, the university's Metropolitan Hospital in Manhattan will also be linked to the main access system. Ground was recently broken for a new four-story medical research facility on campus. When completed in early 2001, that building will also be added to the system. The new facility will also house the new security monitoring and control office.

Multi-purpose photo IDs All students, staff and faculty members carry an access card with photo identification. Each card also includes a bar code to allow its use in the library and a mag stripe for the cafeteria. Interfacing the cards with the library's complicated bar code was a challenge, says Isac Tabib of White Plains-based Antarcom, which sold, installed and maintains the university's security system.

"Library officials feared they would have to re-enter every student name and all related information in order to be part of the one-card system," Tabib says. "However, we were able to work with software manufacturers and others to adapt the C*CURE 800 to the library's format and use student information already collected by the security department."

Using a printer from DataCard Corp., Minnetonka, Minn., the security department prints cards with an image, name, bar code and magnetic code all in one pass. Each card is coded to place time, date and location restrictions on individual cardholders. Tabib says that most companies of a similar size as the university might have 25 different clearance codes. New York Medical College, whose diverse population of faculty and students pursue different activities, has already exceeded 100 clearance codes.

Universal interface boards link field devices, such as electrified locks, and the C*CURE 800's apCs (advanced process controllers). The boards, designed by Antarcom, use color-coded wires and plugs to simplify system installation and maintenance. A total of 21 LEDs on each board indicate the status of the various connections, while 22 fuses protect the apCs from damage during electrical spikes. Each board accommodates up to eight doorports, which can be configured as fail safe, fail secure or dry contact in the e vent of a power outage. The dry contact setting can trip an event such as an elevator recall.

Access cards equal parking space The access system has also helped alleviate one of the university's biggest problems - parking. With limited available parking spaces, students and faculty often park improperly, creating a safety hazard. Before the C*CURE 800 was installed, the security department had no choice but to tow the violators, Hersh says.

"Now a security officer can call in the license plate or parking sticker number," he says. "We can run the information and almost instantly get the name of the vehicle's owner. A quick check of class schedules allows our staff to locate the person and give him or her a chance to move the car before we have to tow it."

The new access system has also saved the university time and money for the yearbook photos. Rather than pay a photographer and coordinate portrait times with students and faculty, Hersh suggested using photos from the ID badges. The images were pulled from the C*CURE 800, saved as JPEG files and sent to the yearbook printer.

Hersh says the C*CURE 800 has saved him considerable time when preparing reports. "My monthly reports of who is accessing what building and when now take me only a few seconds - before it could take a day or more to complete," Hersh says.

The university also maintains a 40-camera CCTV system. The color and black-and-white cameras are a mixture of fixed and pan/tilt/zoom models from Kalatel of Corvallis, Ore. and Park Ridge, N.J.-based Sony Security Systems. The video is sent to the security control room, where it is routed through two Robot multiplexers from Sensormatic and displayed on Sony monitors. The cameras record 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The videotapes are kept for 31 days and then recycled.

The access and CCTV systems are monitored by at least two security officers at all times. Hersh's staff currently includes 16 security officers and one supervisor. That number is to be expanded soon by four officers and an assistant director. In addition to access control and CCTV elements, all entry gates also have intercoms by Valcom Inc., Roanoke, Va. Guards can remotely allow access to campus visitors and students and faculty that may have forgotten their ID cards.

"One guard, sitting in one central position, can see, talk to and control all the security components on campus," Hersh says. "This system allows the security staff to do more. It has helped us to protect the buildings and equipment, but most importantly it has increased the safety and security of the people on campus."

  • Technology lets casinos win big at THE DIGITAL GAME
  • Digital Networks Tie Together National and Local Security
  • Keeping Customers Safe While Protecting Company Assests
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Cisco Systems
  • Deploying Network Sentries
  • Bridgeport Hospital's O'Donnell and staff provide a safe, secure environment
  • Home Security Tips
  • Tapping the Power of Multi-Location Remote Monitoring
  • Securing a Historical Treasure
  • Empire State Building
  • Security Camera News