Faith, Hope and Surveillance
Faith, Hope and Surveillance

Jun 1, 2003 12:00 PM

Dale Walters is director of security for the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif. He oversees a 35-member security team that welcomes more than a million visitors a year, including both spiritual and architectural pilgrims who visit to honor the building, the design, and the man who started it all.

The Cathedral, one of the largest all-glass buildings in the world, is the headquarters of the ministry of Rev. Dr. Robert H. Schuller, and is also the home of the weekly "Hour of Power" televised worship service, broadcast into living rooms around the globe. The congregation includes an official count of 10,000 members in 162 countries, and many more watch the telecast.

There are no electronic gates or card entry systems at the three driveway entrances to the 40-acre campus. Instead, a growing number of Pelco pan-tilt-zoom cameras are carefully tucked into corners and mounted on light-poles. Working in combination with the Sanyo fixed cameras that monitor stairwells and elevator areas, they have a day and night view of virtually every square foot of the facility. More important to Walters is that members of the security staff are out on the grounds at all times, watching and welcoming all who stop by. "My motto is, walk and talk, meet and greet," he says.

As the views from the cameras are being watched on monitors in the lobby, all team members stay in touch with each other using Motorola and Radius radios. The radios have 15 channels with phone capabilities and were supplied by McDermott Communications, Los Angeles.

The Crystal Cathedral was dedicated on Sept. 14, 1980. Schuller worked closely with American Institute of Architects award winner Philip Johnson and his partner John Burgee to create a sanctuary that would transmit his message through architecture. Schuller was not in favor of large and highly visible surveillance devices, nor mechanical access barriers to hinder the movements of visitors. He was, however, sensitive to the need for security as long as it was balanced with aesthetic design.

The resulting building is an homage to glass and structural steel. More than 10,000 windows of tempered silver-colored glass create a reflective cover of almost 25,000 square feet. They are held in place by a honeycombed space-frame scaffolding of 16,000 white steel trusses, which are in the shape of an elongated cross. It is 415 feet in length, 207 feet wide, and 128 feet high.

Inside, the sanctuary seats 2,890 people, including 403 seats in the east and west balconies and 306 in the south balcony. The shape of the interior brings more seats closer to the stage area. More than 1,000 singers and musicians can perform in the 185-foot chancel area, constructed of marble.

Walters became director of security for the ministry three years ago, after acting as a consultant on an upgrade for the security system. His background includes 23 years of law enforcement experience, including manager of security and fire for The Walt Disney Co.

"Church security is different," Walters explains. "We are more than security: we are part of the ministry." Instead of acting as bodyguards or physical barriers, the staff is encouraged to welcome and counsel. "Some people might be having a crisis. If that is the case, the staff is trained to listen, ask questions and determine what the person's needs are. A member of the ministry, a counselor and psychological professionals are available at all times."

As head of security, Walters is also responsible for all the safety, OSHA and insurance needs of the congregation. He oversees the distribution of keys via a Schlage high-security mechanical locking system, and he manages and tracks access levels a huge feat considering frequent personnel changes and reassignment of function. Walters worked with Post Alarm Systems of Arcadia, Calif., to plan an overall reconfiguration of the entire security strategy for the operation. The system had to be welcoming, non-intrusive and visually appealing. Because of the broad viewing area of each PTZ camera, the campus is covered widely. Cameras are strategically installed to watch the 1,652-space parking area, meeting areas, entryways, elevators and stairwells. There is no direct camera view of the cemetery, just the entryway and the perimeters. "We are sensitive to the privacy needs of those who visit the memorial gardens," Walters says.

The original system includes color multiplexers, a matrix switcher, and a keyboard controller from Pelco. There are currently six Tatug color monitors and three Mitsubishi time-lapse recorders. There are also P-Pro cameras monitoring the elevators that were installed several years before Walters arrived. "They still work, they have good resolution, so they're part of the system," he explains.

As the facility prepares to open a new hospitality center, the number of cameras will change, and the monitors will soon be moved to the new facility. Currently there are eight Pelco color PTZ Spectra II dome cameras, eight Pelco color inside cameras, and 30 fixed color cameras, from Sanyo.

Within the campus, the cameras are hardwired. Remote cameras use transceivers from Network Video Technologies, Redwood City, Calif. Cameras can be connected to the monitoring location with 24-gauge telephone wire at a distance of 2,700 feet.

At the off-site video production facility, there are a multiplexer, monitor, time-lapse recorder, four fixed color cameras, and a Quicksilver four-camera interface with a modem. The images can be viewed at the main security console via dial-up modem.

The 57,000 square-foot, five-level multi-use building that will serve as the hospitality center was designed by Los Angeles architect Richard Meier & Partners, who worked with Syska Hennessy Group on the design. It will include a crystal brick wall, continuing the theme of the Cathedral. The fa?ade will be anodized aluminum panels with straight and curved glass openings.

The $40 million project includes an indoor atrium, a 300-seat theatre, a retail bookstore and gift shop, exhibit spaces, a chapel, boardroom and a library.

As the new facility is integrated into the overall daily activities of the group, digital cameras will be added and the existing analog cameras will be reprogrammed for real-time recording.

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