Listening is first step in security system design
Listening is first step in security system design

Nov 1, 1998 12:00 PM
AC&SSI Staff

California manufacturer sought the opinions of staff members on the way to a system that monitors closely the company's scenic campus. Altera Corp.'s security system has been attracting attention lately. Dozens of companies have sent security managers to visit the manufacturer of programmable logic devices (PLDs) in its new, four-building, 500, 000-square-foot corporate headquarters on 25 acres in San Jose, Calif., according to George Booth, project manager for American Protective Services (APS), Altera's contract security provider. Altera uses products similar to other security systems, but its system was designed with the cooperation of lower level security staff, the people actually using the equipment. When Jay Wagner, Altera's safety and security manager, handed APS the task of designing a security system in October 1995, Wagner already knew what he wanted for the scenic campus that beneath the surface is tightly controlled and heavily monitored. He had already consulted with his staff, Booth says. "A lot of companies want to visit us to find out why their security systems don't work," Booth says. "The reason typically is that the decisions are made at the VIP level, with little input from the people who actually do the work. The product is different when you get the end-user involved in the process." For instance, Wagner had cameras installed both inside and outside all doors because staff members occasionally had problems identifying visitors facing away from the camera. Employees also said intruders could slip past the camera if the receptionist were busy. As a result, cameras have been placed past lobby entrances inside the buildings. If receptionists miss a visitor, they get a second chance to observe the person. Features in the control room were designed to meet individual needs of employees. The convertible phone can be used with a headset, hands free, or in the conventional mode. Multiple sets of dimmers were incorporated to allow employees to see better. "People perform better when they have choices," Booth says. "Here, you have an example where the same job is being done by four different people." Visitors are impressed with the system. Craig T. Moro, senior security representative for Varian Associates Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif., says about his visit: "I was impressed with the way Altera had taken the unconventional step of building their control station to fit the physical needs of their station operators rather than taking the standard approach of having the operators conform themselves to an ergonomically incorrect environment. Likewise, their life safety and security systems blended well with the aesthetic layout of their buildings and campus." Another innovation at Altera is the use of multiple cameras. Exterior pan/tilt/zoom cameras provide overlapping coverage for occasions when equipment fails or one camera must be angled on one problem area, a common dilemma for security departments of large corporate campuses, Booth says. Fixed exterior cameras, except immediate door cameras, provide wide general views for quick looks, while supporting pan/tilt/zoom cameras can zoom in on specific areas for closeups. As a result, only a few areas on the campus are not covered, and they remain a secret. Another visitor, Bill McLean, coordinator of security/facilities for Mitsubishi Electronics in Mountain View, Calif., says: "I was amazed at how much coverage the security deptartment had over such a large campus. Altera's design shows what can happen when you design and plan a building with security in mind at the start, not trying to retrofit with security at a later time." The underpinnings of the system are the Casi-Rusco Picture and Portrait Perfect system, maintained by Apex Communications of Mountain View, Calif. The system includes 91 proximity readers, a Simplex Fire System interface, a Kalatel video interface, a visitor badging center and video badging via Casi-Rusco's Portrait Perfect system. This system allows simplified management of Altera's approximately 1200 badge holders. Wagner says: "Altera's management demands a great deal, so you have no choice but to select a system that gives you open-ended flexibility and adaptability. Based on flash memory controllers, our 21/2-year-old system is as up-to-date as any new system being installed today." The Casi-Rusco access control system is fully integrated with the Kalatel "Paragon" PC-based video management system. The integration allows every perimeter door alarm to have an associated video "call up." Duress alarms and selected motion alarms also have associated video call-ups. Call-ups are easily captured at the touch of a button and printed on a Sony UP 1200 color video printer. Captured images are saved on a PC, so JPEG formatted images can be e-mailed or exported easily to incident reports. The campus has 78 color cameras, 18 of which are Kalatel CyberDomes in both 6-inch and 8-inch domes. The fixed cameras are Sanyo 1/3-inch CCD Image Sensor color cameras. The interior cameras use tinted domes, and the exterior cameras use clear domes for enhanced night viewing. For areas where appearances are important, Altera chose the Silent Witness V27 ArmorPlate heavy-duty surveillance cameras. Although designed for use in prisons, they are small, inexpensive and easy to install. They also blend in well. In the security control room, signals from the V27's are indistinguishable from the Sanyo fixed cameras. Video signals from each building are connected to Altera's security control room with fiber-optic lines. Altera's control room is based on a broadcast control room plan. Before committing to a final plan, sample control room plans were constructed to test sight lines and equipment placement. "All control room design decisions had to pass one test," says Booth. "Is it good for the control room operator?" Placement of every item, as small as push-to-talk buttons for the radio, were subjected to operator scrutiny, he says. The console was custom built by Skaggs Telecommunications of Murray, Utah. The broadcast design makes it easier for the operator to perform multiple tasks. For instance, the operator can simultaneously converse on the phone and watch the monitors. When working on the computer, the operator has to look up only slightly to view the monitors. The operator also has clear views of multiplexers and VCRs, and can replay tapes on a designated monitor without leaving his chair. In addition, visitors or management can easily observe control room activities without disrupting work in progress. All head-end equipment is in one wall for easy servicing access, away from the control operation but close enough for efficiency. The eight-channel radio base station has push-to-talk buttons on the boom microphones, spaced along the writing surface and on the floor in the form of foot switches. "Operators responding to or managing an emergency situation are not limited by design flaws that are cheap and easy to overcome, yet present in most control rooms," Wagner says. The control equipment features Robot Research model MV99e multiplexers, Sony 20-inch Trinitron color monitors, Gyyr Model TLC 2100 HSD VCRs, a Sony UP-1200 video printer, an Epson Stylus 800 color printer and an HP 660C color printer. Security procedures and operations for the uniformed officers have been streamlined to allow for maximum initiative and flexibility on the part of patrol officers. Altera has no key or guard tour system. Says Wagner, "Officers walking around mindlessly hitting keys is a waste of time. Key systems are based on the assumption that your guards are not going to do their work, and I do not believe that assumption is correct. If you proceed on the assumption that your people are poor performers, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You get what you expect. Our extremely low theft rate is testimony to the effectiveness of our system." Officers at Altera do not write activity reports. Individual officers simply report their activities to the security control room, where activities are documented on a central computerized log, a shared document that can be viewed easily at any time. Officers wear traditional uniforms, despite the trend toward casual clothing. Booth says: "I think many companies went to casual attire because they basically wanted to hide their officers. They were ashamed of the officers' appearance, which is silly for two reasons: One, all a security staff can really do is provide a deterrent. If you can't see them, then of what value are they? Secondly, people today are so used to seeing security officers, I think it's a mistake to assume everyone feels threatened by traditionally uniformed officers. To make it work, you have to stress quality appearance. A professional-appearing officer feels better about himself, and this reflects well on the client." Altera invested time and effort in the beginning to avoid the headaches of last-minute-change orders that can blow a budget out of the water, Booth says. With this type of planning, Altera was able to get top-quality equipment that works at good prices. The reaction from worldwide security personnel who have toured the site attests to Altera's forethought and design concepts, Booth says. "Altera obviously understands the importance of integrating all facets of a security system," comments visitor Frank Parish, security coordinator for Incyte Pharmaceuticals, also of Palo Alto. "Altera has integrated intrusion detection, CCTV, access control, visitor reception, people skills, and more to create a system which is non-invasive yet highly functional. They also understand that a security system needs constant maintenance and fine-tuning to stay highly functional."

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