Mt. Rushmore
Mt. Rushmore

Oct 1, 1999 12:00 PM
Emily Harwood

Security professionals are continuously confronted with unusual applications but protection of the country's national monuments is among the most challenging applications of all. The security systems at Mt. Rushmore exemplify the complexities of securing monuments.

Mt. Rushmore National Park, which includes the famous monument depicting four U.S. Presidents, draws an estimated 40 million visitors each year. The National Park Service provides monument preservation and visitor safety at the popular park.

Current global and political climates have increased the need for public facilities to place more emphasis on public safety and asset protection. As part of the trend, the National Park Service determined that an evaluation of Mt. Rushmore's security systems was necessary. The evaluation concluded that the original system was inadequate and should be modernized.

Chief Ranger Mike Pflaum manages the security of resources and visitors and oversees law enforcement, emergency services and visitor services at Mt. Rushmore. Chief Pflaum is a 21-year veteran of the park services and has spent the last 10 years at Mt. Rushmore. His responsibilities include the coordination and operation of the park's security systems.

After receiving the security evaluation, Pflaum and Park Service Management turned to the Black and Veatch consulting firm to design and specify the new security system.

Black and Veatch is one of the largest private consulting engineering and design/build firms in the United States. It is a leader in the design of a range of projects from government and military facilities, to power plants, airports and large manufacturing facilities.

Black and Veatch decided to place emphasis on visitor safety and protection of the memorial as a whole. "While no public site can be made perfectly safe, measures can be taken to maximize public safety without taking away from the total experience of the memorial," says David A. Dobbins, senior electrical/security engineer for Black and Veatch.

After a comprehensive bid process, Simplex was chosen to provide products and install the system. Black and Veatch engineers had already seen hands-on demonstrations of Simplex NT 3400 equipment. The required prior-approval bid package consisted of a company profile, resumes of all personnel that would be involved with the project, past comparable projects with contacts, and product information.

Twenty-three-year Simplex veteran Keith Mastrud, Fargo, N.D., branch manager, served as project manager for the Mt. Rushmore job.

A basic monitoring system with limited CCTV coverage was already in place and was incorporated into the new system, Mastrud recalls. The new system provides a variety of security monitoring, using numerous types of technology, card access and CCTV. All components are integrated to make one seamless system. The foundation of the system is an NT server that communicates to remote control panels, workstations and CCTV via fiber-optic technology.

A Simplex NT 3400 Security Management Information System ties into security devices and Philips CCTV equipment to create a facility-wide system. The NT 3400 system includes 14 Simplex Intelligent System Controllers.

The NT 3400 system runs multiple applications simultaneously and provides a range of security functions. Every facet of building security - including access control, intrusion detection, video badging and closed-circuit television - is linked to a common database and controlled from a single operating platform. The security management system can support up to 100,000 cardholders and as many as 1,176 badge readers.

The Intelligent System Controller, a modular-designed access control panel, enhances the operation and functionality of the security system. The controller allows access management solutions to be tailored to any facility, regardless of size. The panels perform access control functions by communicating with a host computer and dedicated peripheral devices. They monitor various input devices - such as readers, keypads, door contacts, and request-to-exit switches - and control door locks, alarms and other output devices.

The Mt. Rushmore system also includes 18 readers, located in seven of the buildings on the site. Dual technology proximity/keypad readers are used to control access to the buildings and to bypass and arm security devices. Additionally, window treatment was provided by Western Glass Restraint Systems (GlassLock) which installed an anti-shatter glass film for the public areas. Vehicle closure gates are by Fortress.

Benefits of the new system include the ability to communicate to all buildings and sites via fiber-optic cable for both monitoring and CCTV. Fiber-optic lines were required due to the high incidence of lightning strikes in the area. The fiber-optic lines, by nature, provide electrical isolation between system components around the site.

The CCTV system is integrated with the intrusion detection and duress alarms to provide instantaneous camera call-ups upon alarm. The system allows National Park Service staff the ability to visually monitor areas more efficiently. Additional duress and intrusion detection alarms allow instantaneous notification of the Resource Management and Visitor Protection staff in case of trouble. Vehicular traffic is limited by the new system; only authorized vehicles can reach sensitive areas of the memorial. Access to non-public facilities is controlled by proximity cards and PIN numbers, thereby excluding the general public.

"The new security system's benefits are threefold: protection of a valuable national asset, added protection and safety for park personnel and better protection for the visiting public," notes Pflaum. "The system was designed to allow expansion at will. Additional cameras have already been discussed as funding is made available. Also, it is anticipated that facilities to be constructed on the site will be equipped with compatible components."

Dobbins of Black and Veatch sums up the project: "The vast majority of those who visit the site are courteous and respectful of the sculpture, facilities and other guests. By maintaining an atmosphere that promotes safety, Mt. Rushmore will continue to be one of the most frequently visited and beloved sites in the National Park Service."

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