Sep 1, 2002 12:00 PM

One of the larger events held this year at the 1.3 million-square-foot Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC) was the NBA All-Star Jam Session. For three days in February, the interactive trade show covered nearly 500,000 square feet of exhibition space, and hosted close to 40,000 hoops fanatics daily.

With people gathering in small basketball courts, waiting in line to get autographs and lining up to peruse the latest products, the event was a major test of the convention center's recently upgraded safety and security systems.

In January 2000, Phase I of Pennsylvania Convention Center's security upgrade (which began in 1999) was implemented when an Andover Controls access control and alarm monitoring system became operational. In July 2000, the surveillance system was upgraded with a Philips CCTV system and a Loronix digital video recording (DVR) system.

"During the public component of the NBA show, the systems afforded us greater ability to observe the public in queuing [attendee holding areas], which was a block long as the line approached the box office," says Roo Dunn, deputy of operations for convention center. "We laid out the queuing in a way that allowed us to keep a close eye on the crowd outside."

Dunn notes that the convention center, which opened in 1993 and which will be the site of the 2002 ASIS convention, is something of an anomaly in downtown Philadelphia. "It's a 1.3 million-square-foot building in the midst of an 18th century city. The main street just past the primary entrance is two lanes wide," he says.

Protecting the perimeter has always been a priority, and the camera system was designed accordingly. "We limit crowds in front of the building more often since Sept. 11, and have placed restrictions on vehicles stopping in front of the building," Dunn says. "Our surveillance cameras allow us to enforce these rules. Exterior cameras can survey the perimeter of the building effectively, including service entrances [loading docks] and public entrances.

The camera system has also enabled us to monitor the crowd inside the exhibit hall to a far greater extent than our former system," Dunn adds.

Not only does the camera system provide protection against crimes such as theft or assault, it also helps with basic crowd safety. "With improved monitoring, we can provide better flow management, making sure there is adequate aisle space and turning room, for instance," says Dunn, who commends the resolution and video quality of the new system. "It's far better than we had hoped for. It approaches what you have in broadcasting."

The video systems are a Philips camera system and a Loronix DVR system. The Philips CCTV system consists of Philips color cameras, both fixed and pan/tilt/zoom, domes, control board, 20-inch color monitors, an Allegiant 8600 switcher and a Mux 16-channel multiplexer. The system also makes use of two, special purpose black-and-white cameras.

Chris Ames of Kroll Security Services Group designed, specified, managed and tested the security systems during both the CCTV and access control system upgrades. He continues to serve the convention center as a security consultant.

Dunn and Ames say the integration of the CCTV, DVR, access control and alarm systems provide numerous advantages. "When alarms occur in selected areas, the Andover Controls system displays the event on a computer monitor, simultaneously retaining the alarm in a history file; the camera associated with the event automatically displays the affected area; and the digital recording system automatically increases the number of images recorded per second," Ames says. "All of this is accomplished without operator intervention, allowing more focus on the event and a quicker response."

Says Dunn: "If an officer on patrol sees something suspicious, he or she can contact the Security Command Center (SCC) and the center can access the area on a monitor before deploying an additional person, making the response both safer and more effective."

An analog recording system was replaced by a Loronix Digital Recording System. Dunn says the system is a critical loss-prevention tool. "The recorded material is of great help in discovering when events did and did not occur. It has been of tremendous assistance in helping us identify areas where we've had reports of slip-and-fall accidents, for instance," he says. "It has also helped us to investigate reports of thefts made by attendees at events, registered members of associations, contractors or exhibitors. The Loronix software and recording capacity allow us to review functions at the convention center by time frame and location, without the intervention of an operator."

An Andover Access Control and Alarm Monitoring System, using a Windows NT operating platform, is installed in a computer file server linked by a local Ethernet network to multiple workstations and a series of Network Controllers (NC).

The system, called Continuum, monitors employee access into the building and interior high-security areas, plus door contacts, motion sensors and other critical alarms, says Priscilla B. Janson, marketing communications manager for Andover Controls, Andover, Mass.

The system also manages incidents and generates reports for tracking. "A very helpful feature is that the policy and procedures manual can be accessed through the system by an operator at a workstation, as well as updated instantly," Ames says.

Multiple card readers control doors throughout the convention center. HID card readers are wired directly to the Network Controllers, and HID proximity cards are used for the readers. An alarm is generated at the security command center immediately upon unauthorized breach of an alarm point.

Integration is achieved through both hardware and software, Ames says. Wires are routed from alarm points to various security closets throughout the convention center, and through the LAN to the main closet in which the Continuum, Philips head-end systems (matrix switcher) and Loronix systems are housed.

At the same time, video signals are sent from cameras throughout the convention center by copper wire to International Fiber Systems transmitters and from there are carried across multiple strands of Fibertron fiber optic cable to IFS receivers, which convert the signals to copper wire. (The center has more than 16,000 feet of above and underground fiber optic cable, according to Ames.) The signals are then input to the Philips matrix switcher, and from there, outputted through copper wired patch cords to the Loronix DVR system and tape library.

The Loronix servers store the video and send it to a tape jukebox for archiving.

Advanced Electronic Solutions (AES) (since then purchased by Siemens) installed the systems.

One of the most useful security tools to Pennsylvania Convention Center operations and security personnel is the EpiSuite photo ID system from ImageWare Systems, San Diego, which is installed in the Continuum system and has allowed the convention center to store its entire cardholder database into one cohesive system, Janson says.

Before the upgrade, two systems were used to store data one for convention center employees and those with access to the convention center, and another for temporary workers, such as carpenters, laborers, and other union members, who were issued photo ID cards, but not access cards.

"You might have 200 carpenters, 100 laborers and a group of teamsters helping to put together the exhibits for a show," Dunn says. "These individuals were granted photo ID cards, which did not automatically give them access to the convention center when the public doors were closed, as the proximity cards did. The challenge during the upgrade was to combine two badging systems into one."

To do this, the convention center had to put the data from the two systems into a similar format. When it was completed, all of the data was put into the Continuum system where it could be accessed by EpiSuite and the appropriate card either photo ID or access card could be issued.

Fred Selvaggi, dock services manager for the Pennsylvania Convention Center, is in charge of the badging system, which uses a Datacard printer. Selvaggi and his staff also operate a remote monitoring station for CCTV and access control. According to Dunn, the dock area is critical for security.

"We have several blocks of loading docks. At a recent show for the Society for Human Resource Management, we had two million pounds of freight brought in, including booths, exhibits, books and papers. There were hundreds of tractor-trailer loads. Being able to apply some checkpoint procedures to verify where people are going and that they are expecting something is crucial here," he says.

"We work in conjunction with the contractor to monitor for security, safety and loss," Dunn continues. "We want to know what vehicles are expected, and we monitor to make sure that they have unloaded in the expected time frames. The CCTV systems helps us here, because we can review material that has been stored by the DVR."

It is here, perhaps more than anywhere else at the busy Pennsylvania Convention Center, that the foundation is laid for the safety and security of visitors. Badges are issued to workers who create the booths that will house everything from virtual sports at shows like the NBA All-Star Jam Session, to the hundreds of booths at the ASIS show. Deliveries of materials used to build the exhibits and booths are monitored and access points are kept secure.

Once a show begins, traffic is regulated to keep it from getting too heavy at the primary entrance to the convention center, while at the same time, allowing access to shuttle buses bringing visitors to an event.

"You have to allow attendees to access the building. For instance, shows must be allowed to have shuttle buses," Dunn says.

The job of maintaining this delicate balance between security and public access has been boosted by the upgraded security systems. From the "broadcast-grade" resolution of the CCTV and DVR systems to the integration of alarm, CCTV and access control monitoring, the PCC has been able to produce blockbuster events with safety and security.

Carol Carey is a Monroe, N.Y.-based writer and regular contributor to Access Control & Security Systems.

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