The Basics And Beyond
The Basics And Beyond

Aug 1, 2003 12:00 PM

In almost every building, in almost every industry, in almost every country, security professionals lay the foundation of their asset protection plans with the implementation of fire alarm and intrusion protection systems. These technologies provide a first line of defense in protecting the all-important "three P's": premises, property and personnel.

But let's imagine for a moment if these fire and burglar alarms were integrated into access control and video surveillance systems. What was once perceived to be a first line of defense would become an integrated, unified defense ! offering organizations higher levels of protection at lower costs.
Back to the Basics

Implementing security technology in buildings or facilities usually begins with the basics: fire and burglar alarm systems and some form of HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) system.

In the old days, not much thought was given to how these systems, beyond their traditional use, could enhance an overall security strategy. For some time now, fire alarm systems have been mechanically integrated with ventilation systems ! through the use of duct detectors and relay controls to shut down the air handlers ! but few would argue it is a model of integration.

So how can fire and burglar alarm systems be used more efficiently today? Adding graphical annunciation has always been expensive and custom fabrication and silk screening have always taken too long. But what if access control technology were leveraged to help make these systems smarter and more effective? With maps and floor plans already associated with most access control systems, additional icons could easily be added to the access control annunciation, thus achieving a number of things to be achieved.

First, by tying the annunciation point of the fire or burglar alarm into the access control system, alarm response information boxes could be created to ensure that when an alarm sounds, the correct policies and procedures are followed. This also enables the logging of pertinent information about who responded to the event and what the outcome was, as well as creating an audit trail.

Video verification can also be added. Bringing up the video associated with any fire or burglar alarm would allow effective validation of the alarm to provide the highest level of response. Integrating voice evacuation into the solution would allow communication with the occupants in the facility so if, for example, a fire alarm sounds, detailed instructions are provided on how best to escape.

Integration really pushes technology one step further. As an example, let's look at a typical small city, with no real budget for public safety, and examine how it operates and aims to protect its citizens through the use of integrated technology.
Creating an Efficient City: A Case Study

After acquiring operating policies and procedures, maps and blueprints of city facilities and a detailed report from a risk and vulnerability study, the city determines that public safety needs drastic improvement. The bad news is that there are no real budget dollars allocated for this project. The good news is that the city is already equipped with a key technology.

Because the city has a fiber-optic network that connects the public works, water-pumping stations, water plant and wastewater facilities, a number of strategic locations (i.e., city hall, police department, fire stations and parks and recreation areas) can be tied together with networked video surveillance. In an effort to keep children safe, the video surveillance system is connected into the fiber backbone of the public school system and local university.

Access control will serve as the point of integration for all systems. This means the creation of several user interfaces (GUIs) ! one for the dispatch application, one for public works, one for police cars and fire trucks, etc. ! is necessary to incorporate various functionalities. In the dispatch area of public safety, the command center is reconfigured to incorporate dual projectors with 7-foot screens to display control and annunciation, and with 18 23-inch LCD displays for video surveillance.

A map of the city and surrounding areas is displayed on the screens with drill-down capabilities to allow viewing of more detailed information. On the map, icons (a floor plan is associated with each icon) of all public buildings and facilities, camera and emergency call stations, the public schools and local university and other areas of concerns are created, as well as icons for all security and control systems inside the buildings.

Clicking on a particular surveillance camera achieves a number of functions. One click recalls video and control for that camera, activates the intercoms, releases the doors, turns on the lights, arms and disarms the security systems, adjusts the temperature, or even locks down the elevator. And it can all be done from a central location.

Automatic viewing of essential information (by way of a pop-up on screen) tied to alarm or emergency events, is another key feature. For example, a fire alarm would automatically call up the floor plan of the building, determine the location of the alarm and view the video cameras associated with the event. Providing accurate and timely information to the dispatcher allows him to then, in turn, transfer the information to police and fire responders (the police and fire responders also have access to the detailed floor plans and to live video of the scene).

GPS technology (used to locate assets) and IP (Internet protocol) video on all city vehicles can take the system a step further. Icons for each vehicle are created and displayed in real-time on a master map. Simply clicking on one of the icons ! which could represent, for example, a police car or fire truck ! immediately pulls up video associated with that vehicle. A radio network for two-way communication enables efficient dispatch of personnel.

Implementing integrated security solutions into a number of departments within the city successfully achieves many things. It eliminates the need for overtime due to efficient scheduling and monitoring of personnel. It optimizes productivity was optimized by controlling public safety from a central location, and it reduces operating expenditures by cutting back on supervisory personnel and enlisting the help of integrated technology. What's more, public awareness of the project can help to reduce crime.

Burglar and fire alarms, once thought of us as basic, are now an essential backbone of effective security management. In the example city, integrating fire and burglar alarms into access control and video surveillance systems has produced measurable results in afairly short period of time.

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