Portal to Portland
Portal to Portland

Jan 1, 2004 12:00 PM
By Kate Henry

Convention business depends heavily on the confidence of travelers, and savvy destinations have redoubled their investments in security as a means to attract new business. Portland, Oregon's thriving Oregon Convention Center is no exception: In conjunction with a recent expansion that doubled the center's size to approximately one million square feet, the convention center has completely overhauled its physical security program. The 24-month project has resulted in a sweeping integrated systems solution designed with an eye toward the future and toward setting visiting businesspeople's minds at ease.
Proactive Protection

A business visit to Portland is arguably a cut above many other staid destinations. The area's natural beauty is a lure, and Portland's vibrant downtown district is bustling. The newly expanded Oregon Convention Center was designed to give visitors a taste of all the best the region has to offer, considering both the aesthetic with its spectacular vistas of the forested mountains for which Oregon is renowned and a sizable public art collection, and the functional, including state-of-the-art technology and the latest in space planning in its exhibit halls, ballrooms, lobby spaces and meetings rooms.

Protecting that investment is critical, and the convention center relies on Siemens Building Technologies to provide the security systems solutions it takes to secure the new facility. Working with Bill VanVlack of Seattle-based Sparling Co., and with Karl Schultz who represented the convention center, Siemens project engineer Kurt Pries was integral to the project, and cites its unique nature: "Portland is a growing place, and the convention center is perpetually busy; working around an occupied convention center, without disrupting the business of the patrons, was a challenge."

Pries describes the overhaul as comprehensive. Prior to beginning work, the convention center had only a minimal keycard system; the current system incorporates an InfoGraphics proximity access control system with HID readers and cards that also serve as identification badges, GE Interlogix surveillance and digital recording systems and Edwards Systems Technology fire/life safety systems, all of which secure both interior and exterior spaces throughout the one-million-square-foot facility and are monitored on-site from a new security command center.

The sheer square footage of the facility with its numerous ingress and egress points with different user access level privileges, presented logistical challenges as well, Pries notes, including the easy tracking of alarm events.

He says one of the greatest successes of the project was Siemens' merging of the access control and surveillance functions with a user-friendly graphical interface that enables convention center staff to simply point-and-click to visualize each camera location.

"It was exciting to be able to incorporate the security management system head-end with the CCTV switcher and the cameras," Pries explains. "I envisioned being able to control both systems via point-and-click using the InfoGraphics color graphics maps, so we directed the efforts of InfoGraphics and Kalatel to develop and implement this feature for the convention center. The first time I approached InfoGraphics to look into this concept they were very busy with other projects, but after the acquisition by GE Interlogix it all fell into place. We went from envisioning layout and design to implementation of this feature with no impact to the project timelines. It's a truly value-added feature that should now be available to any end-users with Diamond II access control software and Kalatel video switchers," he points out.

The cameras themselves all told, some 70 Cyberdome color pan/tilt/zoom models performed double-duty during the project, monitoring the progress of facility construction from the security monitoring center which was relocated during construction, necessitating the relocation of all existing cameras, according to Pries. "The security office was relocated to the new expansion side of the project which made it interesting to keep the existing system alive while bringing the new system online," he explains. "All of the existing coax cameras were converted to NVT twisted pair cabling and re-routed to the newly constructed security command center."

Complete integration of security systems throughout the center and having the newest technology possible in place were primary security goals, said Nick Brown, department of special services manager who heads up security for the convention center. Brown noted that the digital recording feature has already delivered benefits. The system has captured both intrusion and theft incidents, providing clear and easily accessible documentation that, in the case of the intruder, precluded a court case and associated demands on time and resources.

The need for integration was a key factor in Siemens being tapped for the project, adds Siemens sales executive Matt Doumitts, who was also integral to the convention center project. He points out that by effectively standardizing on a GE Interlogix solution, further technical integration offerings will continue to be available to the convention center to meet evolving needs.

"It is a great system with great potential," said Brown. He added that the new technologies have delivered further cost benefits by reducing key management and simplifying incident identification. The convention center, which maintains a full-time contract security officer force, has also reduced patrol costs, thanks to the new technology.

The convention center expansion also included construction of a new underground, two-level parking facility, which like any such structure presented its own risks to property and life safety. Pries explains that Code Blue emergency response systems are strategically located throughout the facility, along with cameras and access control monitoring the elevator lobbies. Parking gates are also access controlled, and all functions are monitored from the newly relocated security command center from which quick response can be deployed.
Further Expansion

Another value-added feature of the systems is their expandability, says Pries. The project was considered complete and up-and-running as of spring 2003, but Siemens remains on-site, adding to the systems as the convention center deems necessary.

The around-the-clock team of security officers handles alarm and camera monitoring and card administration, and changes to the system can be implemented with ease, notes Pries.

Nick Brown said that security plans going forward include enhancing surveillance at the associated Portland Expo and Portland Performing Arts Theatres, which could then be networked and monitored remotely from Brown's or other administrator's desktops at the Oregon Convention Center.

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