CCTV In Oregon Museum Hits The Mark
CCTV In Oregon Museum Hits The Mark

Jul 1, 2003 12:00 PM

Located on the east side of the Willamette River in downtown Portland is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, one of the top-ten science centers in the nation. The converted and expanded former sawdust-fired power generation plant attracts 1 million visitors per year. The 219,000-square-foot museum covers a lot of thought-provoking ground, and officials put a lot of thought into what security features would cover it.

"We needed more cameras, and we needed real-time capability on our recorders," says Rod McDowell, the museum's vice president of facilities. "The VCR tapes took too long to review. My safety manager, Ron Forbes, once spent more than 24 hours just to find one event in a five-day-old incident."

As with most non-profit organizations, budget constraints were a concern. Sonitrol Pacific had installed an integrated access control and surveillance system in the museum more than 10 years ago. McDowell asked Jim Payne, vice president of sales and marketing at Sonitrol Pacific, for a solution.

"I had incidents all over the building," McDowell says. "Some days we had 2,000 kids in from the schools. We haven't had any problems with theft, but sometimes we get a missing child. When that happens, we go code blue on our radios, and go into a mode of looking for children until we find the missing child."

Adding extra cameras would involve installing more conduit, far from simple given the building's architectural design. Building designers had had to adapt to the fact that the ground on the south end of the building had been covered for several decades with extensive amounts of sawdust the fuel source for the plant and had eventually become unstable for standard construction. The resulting design included the use of a series of pilings driven into the ground, which were then poured full of concrete. Thousands of one-inch and inch-and-a-half cables were run from piling to piling, hooked into the pilings, then stretched and laid into the concrete floor to provide a stable structure.

"You can't just drill through the post tension floor or you might hit a cable," McDowell says. "You have to X-ray the floor because if you drilled through a cable, it could come up through the floor and snap."

Fortunately, the museum designers thought to put a lot of sleeves through the concrete for future cabling requirements, but installers had to search for more openings as the existing ones became filled to capacity.

The atrium was the most difficult to cable because everything was in the open, but they solved the issue by suspending the cables, essentially hiding them from view with existing structures."

The cabling choices ran the gamut from co-axial, twisted-pair and individual twisted-pair, and shielded wire.

Visible and covert cameras by Philips (now Bosch) and Kalatel (now GE Interlogix) were installed once the cabling was completed. Sonitrol incorporated 20 Philips wall-mounted black-and-white cameras and 16 Kalatel covert cameras. They used Philips monitors and integrated the system with a LAN connection.

The next step was to upgrade the VCR equipment to digital. Sonitrol Pacific chose three Digital Sprite, 16-camera units with 160 Gb hard drives from Dedicated Micros, Chantilly, Va.

"Two of the digital video recorders are used to cover public and exhibit areas, along with some maintenance areas," says Michael Rosa, Sonitrol's installation and service manager. "The third DVR is strictly devoted to the museum's covert cameras. Password security is required to view the public DVRs, with a very limited access to viewing the private DVR."

When the museum decided to increase its pictures-per-second capture rate, the 160 Gb hard drives were updated to 320 Gbs.

The new cameras and digital video recorder multiplexers have aided McDowell and his staff in protecting both their assets and their guests.

"We had a piece of equipment taken from a closet," said McDowell, "and while we didn't see who did it, because that particular area wasn't covered by a camera at the time, we were able to narrow down the possible culprits to ten people. I told them that I'd give the person 48 hours to return the property. It scared the person so much that they brought the equipment back the next day."

The next step is to add more cameras. The museum is already working with Sonitrol to add at least 15 more cameras, and additional DVR multiplexers to the system.

"We have card swipe readers on all the staff doors, and hard keys for the museum's exterior doors," said McDowell. "We are stepping up security with what's going on in the world. We try to show our staff that we are making it safer for them, not just watching over them."

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