The Baltimore Gas & Electric Company
The Baltimore Gas & Electric Company

Jun 1, 1997 12:00 PM
>By Staff

The Baltimore Gas and Electric security system has to cover 29 facilities and have the ability to expand during periods of growth

The task of controlling who goes where in a large organization is never easy. At Baltimore and Gas Electric the who is 10,000 badged employees and contractors and the where is 29 secure facilities spread across the majority of Maryland. A new access control system, installed by Honeywell in 1995, is not only up to the challenge, but is saving money and helping the expansion-minded public utility prepare for the future.

The new access installation, part of an integrated security and fire alarm monitoring system, replaced an overworked and outdated predecessor. The previous access control technology was 10 years old, recalls Rodney Hillman, the information technology leader for BGE who has been closely involved in the new system's deployment and operation. We were forced to deal with frequent breakdowns, and the original photo ID system was something of a bottleneck.

Now badge-holders enjoy hands-off building access through more than 80 proximity readers, designed and developed by HID to Honeywell's specifications. Each reader is centrally programmed to screen and admit only authorized personnel during specified time periods. Each ID badge doubles as a coded access credential. Reader traffic is managed by 44 distributed access control panels, then data is transmitted over leased lines to a UNIX server at BGE headquarters for oversight and archiving. Six widely dispersed workstations stay in touch with the server and each other via an existing Novell Netware wide area network (WAN).

The system includes two photo ID stations, each equipped with a motion camera that can freeze the desired photo image and store it digitally in the system's database. This same image can then be transferred and heat-fused directly onto a badge in an automated process that takes less than a minute. The photo can also be transmitted to any workstation so that if there is ever a question of employee identity, a guard can visually compare the displayed image with both the badge and the individual wearing it.

Access control priorities The management at BGE pursued definite objectives during selection of the new system. As a public utility, tight door control is needed 24 hours a day. And with a large number of doors and three work shifts in many of the buildings, the guard force needs versatile electronic support. We wanted a system that would keep our points of entry secure and free up our guard force to patrol and gather accurate information to support investigations, says Bob Beahm, director of corporate security.

The new system archives all reader data, which can be retrieved and used in creative ways to support security investigations. On request, special access reports can be generated to provide a roster of personnel passing through a given portal during a specified time period, or the system can trace the reader trail left behind by a designated individual.

System capacity and ease of expansion were other important issues at growth-oriented BGE. A proposed merger with Potomac Electric Power Co. (PEPCO) is currently under review by regulatory agencies. The new company, to be called Constellation Energy, will have a service area that will include most of Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Although nothing is definite yet, the possibility of extending BGE's integrated protection network to include PEPCO facilities is already under review. If this should occur, the system will be up to the task. It has the capacity to handle more than 1,000 access zones and 100,000 badges. The system's communications architecture, which is open to integration with non-Honeywell equipment, can incorporate additional workstations anywhere in the service area by plugging them into the WAN.

Deregulation readiness Management recognizes the need to streamline its operations and become more competitive as it faces impending industry deregulation. One such effort involves the elimination of stand-alone systems when possible, replacing them with integrated systems that have fewer operator interfaces. Security operations had previously been supported by separate systems for alarm monitoring, access control and badging. The Excel Security Manager system combines all three in a single workstation. The new technology also enabled BGE to combine two separate, 24-hour manned control centers into one. The result: BGE will achieve operational savings of more than $500,000 a year.

Hillman also believes the system has given operators a lot of flexibility they did not have before: When we have to reconfigure our security coverage to pick up new space, it's quite easy to do. And the Windows-based operator interface is much cleaner and easier to interpret. Now we receive descriptive messages as part of the alarm displays instead of simple codes.

Because the reader stations are completely self-sufficient, we've been able to release a number of guards from door duty and reassign them to more productive tasks. It makes a real difference on the night shift when the sites are closed to the public.

While most of the readers control perimeter doors and vehicular gates, some are installed in critical internal areas such as safe depositories, cashier centers and computer rooms. The Honeywell Excel Security Manager also monitors door contacts and motion detector alarms to locate and report attempted intrusions. When such an alarm is initiated, the nearest CCTV camera and recorder are activated to gather visual evidence. In addition, an off-site central station provides back-up monitoring to maximize fire protection.

Once the merger is approved, Constellation Energy will face the future with an access control system capable of managing personnel traffic at any foreseeable capacity. The system provides non-intrusive door control with full capture of all reader events for future analysis. Guard involvement in door control has been reduced, and, thanks to systems integration, operator supervisory effort has also been reduced. Despite the large number and dispersed nature of facilities, the utility has achieved a high degree of protection control together with practical manpower efficiency, equipping it well to face the competitive challenges that lie ahead.

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