Listen up!
Listen up!

Feb 1, 1997 12:00 PM

Intercoms can add sound dimension to security systems Sophisticated security efforts use a range of equipment, but two-way voice communication should not be overlooked as various technologies are integrated into today's systems.

A well-designed integrated security system should include hands-free intercoms at video camera locations, access points, areas with card readers, entry doors and parking gates. Intercom systems can improve CCTV effectiveness, detect intruders, control access, assist in the movement of people, deter illegal activities, improve guard patrol efficiency, and ensure better overall security.

Including audio communications as part of a sophisticated security system opens up a new realm of security control and cost savings. By integrating intercoms with the overall security system, one or two guards can monitor areas that previously required multiple guards at different locations, thus reducing costs.

Sound detection Intercoms allow security personnel to unobtrusively monitor areas for unexpected sounds. Video monitoring can be passive, while random audio monitoring and automatic sound detection can significantly raise a facility's security level. By integrating intercom systems with CCTV, an unusual sound can automatically bring up the appropriate CCTV camera on the main video monitor, as well as open a voice channel.

Imagine a parking garage below a large office building. During normal operating hours, the garage is busy with people and vehicle traffic. But if someone works after hours, the trip to the parking garage at the end of the workday may be worrisome. An intercom system included with the parking garage's security can provide peace of mind to the office worker and an added level of detection for security officers. One shout or unexpected sound automatically alerts the security control room. If the intercom system is also interfaced with CCTV, a corresponding camera can be activated to show the security personnel the parking garage and allow them to walk personnel and visitors electronically to their cars.

Yale University Hospital in Mahwah, N.J., recently installed a parking garage intercom and CCTV system. When staff getting off the late shifts walk to their cars, they are escorted electronically. Security guards follow personnel via CCTV cameras and speak with them via intercom until they reach their cars - an important advantage for hospitals and other employers with regularly scheduled late shifts.

Intercoms and CCTV will be integrated in the still-under-construction parking facility for the expansion of Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla. The parking facility will be one of the largest in the world and is part of the $6.2 billion expansion Universal Studios expects to complete by summer of 1999.

The parking communications system required special planning because of the size and complexity of the project: The parking facility is designed to hold 10,000 vehicles and 6.4 million visitors a year. A team of parking security communications experts, planners and engineers worked on the system. The facility will use a Stentofon TouchLine 480 central exchange and 185 tamper-resistant and weatherproof intercom substations throughout.

The communication system will be interfaced with a CCTV system, and each intercom substation will be marked by a blue strobe light. When the intercom button is pressed, the strobe light will flash and call up the associated camera in a master control room, indicating the location needing assistance.

Another security feature is contact closures on fire extinguishers throughout the parking facility. When a fire extinguisher is removed from its enclosure, a call will automatically be placed over the intercom, activating the strobe light and associated camera at the location. The feature will allow security personnel to determine whether they are dealing with an actual emergency or vandalism, a concern for any remote location. As every security officer knows, fire extinguishers are a favorite toy for vandals. Security personnel can reduce false fire alarms by immediately viewing an area where a fire extinguisher has been removed.

Entryway security Access control that uses electronic locking systems, card readers or other identification devices, including visual video monitoring, is recommended for many industrial, commercial and government buildings. Integrating intercoms into the security system adds two-way communication between the security personnel and those seeking entrance to the facility.

Intercoms are usually incorporated at entry, egress and gate areas. Intercom systems, properly data-integrated with video switchers, intrusion alarms and access control equipment, allow security officers to assess situations, evaluate problems and react to alarms visually and audibly.

The integrated systems react automatically, and - by looking, listening and talking - security personnel can assess the situation and take action without dispatching a guard.

Voice adds another means of verification. Two-way communication can assist an employee who has forgotten an access card. It gives security personnel another way to combat unauthorized entry.

Commercial and residential use Voice communication systems can be used to monitor and control access in commercial and residential facilities.

Industrial plants often have intercom systems at remote gates, controlled access areas and emergency call boxes in hazardous process areas.

Parking garages, as mentioned before, are another place intercom systems can provide added security, whether in high-rise buildings, retail malls, office complexes, medical centers or apartments. An example is the Crown Center in downtown Kansas City, Mo., a large multi-building complex. People in parking areas, ramps, tunnels, stairwells and elevators have access to conveniently located, hands-free emergency call-in stations. The communications system also assists visitors with information, direction and assistance.

As elevator signaling and voice intercom systems have become mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act, elevator stations featuring microphones and speakers for clear hands-free conversation, group calling and automatic sound detection have become necessary in high-rise buildings.

Residential buildings such as apartments and condominiums also use intercoms to protect tenants and visitors. Main entrance and service doors can be monitored by one security room when the intercoms are integrated with a CCTV system. One guard can watch and control access to the front door where residents and visitors enter as well as to the back doors where delivery and other vendors seek entry. Security costs for the building owners are reduced.

Keeping college Campuses secure Intercoms interfaced with CCTV are now being integrated on college campuses throughout the world. As security becomes more of an issue for students, faculty and visitors, college campuses are starting to install remote security substations. Communications such as a telephone or intercom system can be linked to a camera at each location.

When a student or visitor activates the intercom or telephone system, a strobe light and associated camera can be activated. These substations can relay information from the site to the master control room.

Brandeis University in Massachusetts uses weather-resistant security stations throughout the campus on walkways and in parking lots. Each station is equipped with sound detection and blue strobe lights. A station can be activated by pressing the large red mushroom button, by a scream or by an unusually loud sound. The call is then received at a security control room where campus police can be dispatched to the location. Though this system does not integrate cameras, the sound activation and strobe lights provide a high level of security for visitors and students.

The goal of any effective security system is to reduce theft, save lives and save money. Integrating two-way voice communications into a security system provides an added level of protection and detection. Without two-way intercoms, the most sophisticated central security equipment is just a passive one-way monitoring system. Voice communication is interactive and responsive. Intercoms turn the security system into a two-way communications street.

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