Upgrading access control in municipal buildings

Public access vs. controlled access

Michael L. Schaefer, CPP, Security Manager, Department of Public Works, City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Venu J. Gupta, P.E., Superintendent, Buildings & Fleet Services, Department of Public Works, City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Chair, APWA Facilities & Grounds Committee

  The City of Milwaukee's Municipal Building

The challenge for facility managers and security personnel in any municipal facility is to strike a balance between the potential losses from identified risks and creating an environment that does not negatively impact productivity due to the repressive nature of the applied countermeasures. In other words, aesthetics in security design count; they may not be the primary aspect of the design team, but few workers want to work in a fortress and therefore how a facility looks and operates regarding security matters greatly. To achieve this balance requires not only a complete risk assessment, but also a thorough understanding of the corporate culture in question and the support of the senior management team. Few changes will occur regardless of risks that fly in the face of an existing corporate culture and non-support of a senior management team.

In early 2001 the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works made the decision that their current access control system of over twenty years had outlived its usefulness and would need to be replaced. In an effort to review all of the available technology and make a cost-effective decision for the City, the Buildings & Fleet Services Department contracted with Sako and Associates to assist the department in conducting a risk assessment and developing a specification for the new system. As a result of this process the following improvements were recommended as part of the new system:

  • Replace existing analog access control and alarm monitoring headend to a digital proximity reader system. To facilitate a seamless transition to the new system it must be capable of using the existing analog cards while the transition takes place.

  • Upgrade the existing system by adding a photo badging system which will digitally store cardholder's photo which can be viewed from the system and placed on the access card to provide a photo ID.

  • Connect the existing security panels in all remote facilities to the host via the city's fiber optic network using the existing phone lines as redundant backup.

  • Upgrade the existing surveillance system to a local digital recording system that allows for unattended recording, while allowing authorized user access to the data via the network.

  • Expand and extend the alarm monitoring system to include monitoring the status of all perimeter doors, card access doors, and gates.

  • Integrate the access control system to the surveillance system via Digital Video Recorders that allow cameras to immediately be called up when an alarm activates on the system.

  • Replace multiple intercoms with a single system technology to allow voice communications between entry portals at remote sites and any designated group or groups of telephone exchanges on the city's system.

  • Interface Fire Life Safety and Building Security.

Additionally, the City required that the software platform used would support multiple card types and other associated technologies (biometrics, CCTV, visitor management, RFID, etc.). As a result, the City chose a system that would leverage our current robust internal network capabilities. Our choice of the Softwarehouse Ccure 800/40 system provided all the features we were looking for along with several that we may implement in future projects. Additionally, it would allow us (with the installation of a HID multi-prox controller) to use our existing analog cards as we moved through the conversion process along with adding a variety of digital cards.

Immediately after September 11, 2001 there was a need to step back and reassess the path the department was moving down regarding these technologies. That reflection confirmed our initial decision that we needed to upgrade to new technologies, and our timeline for completion would need to be enhanced due to a number of requests from agencies to provide advanced protection technologies that our existing system simply could not accommodate. By the end of 2002 we had installed biometric readers (fingerprint) in conjunction with the use of smart cards in our Center for Disease Control (CDC) certified BLS III (Bioterrorism Lab) which is located within the City Hall Complex in the Health Department.

  Milwaukee City Hall

At this point we made a decision to control access via key card only in facilities equipped with that technology. As a result the key cylinders in all of the card access doors were changed out to a highly controlled emergency cylinder and no keys were issued except to the information center to be used in an emergency. It should be noted that this a distributed system and individual panels store access information internally; therefore, by adding battery backup to each panel we provided continual coverage in the event of power loss (this has been tested over several years and dependant on use during the loss has continued to operate in excess of 23 hours). Also, early in the conversion process we had a small office building reopening after a remodeling project and installed the system at this site using only digital components; this has become our standard for new installation outside the main City Hall Complex. All access control and alarm monitor and response functions were assigned to our information service area that is staffed 24/7 and also provides customer service to citizens after normal business hours.

In early 2003 we caught up on our requests for additional security from other departments by completing the majority of bridge houses that control our moveable bridges across several rivers that run through the downtown area of the city. At the bridge houses we included alarm capability for both the house proper and the offside entries as well as a personal alarm device for the operator in the event of a medical or some other emergency. By mid-year we were in the process of planning the conversion of the City Hall Complex (three facilities) to the new system and had determined to start at the smallest of the three facilities and work toward the City Hall proper.

Once we had completed a general plan for completion of the first facility, we met with customers to outline that plan and their responsibilities within that plan (determination of access requirements to their space) and get feedback so as to complete the transition as smoothly as possible. As part of the plan for this facility we would begin controlling access to an entryway that had previously been unlocked during office hours and several stairwell doors that also had been previously unlocked. This required that all employees be issued an access card, which was a change in policy. It was at this time that we began discussion with the Department of Employee Relations in an effort to replace our old paper ID cards with a multipurpose card that would act as both access card and employee ID.

We started the conversion of the complex with our four-story structure adding door control (monitoring the condition of the door—forced or held open) during the fourth quarter of 2003 and completed that process at year's end. Also, as part of the conversion we added the first of our Digital Video Recorders (DVR) and tied that device to the access control system via the network; this allows the card access system to interface with our existing CCTV system. Thus, in an alarm condition within view of a camera, an event would activate and allow the operator to view that alarm condition via the camera from 30 seconds prior to 45 seconds after the event (these times can be set to meet the needs of the customer) so as to provide alarm verification and the appropriate response. The DVR that we chose (American Dynamic - Intellex) would allow us to both control pan, zoom and tilt cameras remotely via our access control software and record video to be accessed at a later time either via the access control or client software depending on the application.

As we began 2004, the decision was reached that we would issue the multipurpose card to employees for the purpose of providing a photo ID and access control. The first quarter was used to develop the procedures and begin the process of badging employees along with converting our 10-story, 316,648-square-foot facility in the complex. We used the same process to notify customers and garner their input prior to beginning the project. In this facility we again added door control for all existing doors and added access control from the stairwells and via the elevator (after hours). This basically forced visitors to access the individual floors through lobby areas and limited access after hours on floors to authorized personnel only.

As with our first conversion we added a sixteen-position DVR that could be controlled remotely via the network as needed for alarm verification and to provide visual identification to individuals requesting access to facilities. By mid-summer this conversion was complete and we began to move forward to the City Hall Building using the process we had developed through our earlier conversions. In this building we followed the standards that had been developed during previous conversions, adding a DVR along with changing out all of the panic hardware for our external fire escape and monitoring that hardware via the security system. By the third quarter of 2004 the City Hall Complex conversion was completed along with approximately 95% of the employees receiving their new photo ID's.

In the third quarter of 2004 we began a project to update the Security and Fire Life Safety System in our four fleet garages that are located throughout the City. This process included adding card access, internal intrusion detection, and CCTV for alarm verification on the security side and an addressable fire-life system. The environment within the garages required that we get creative with the system to limit false alarms that would inevitably occur with this type of facility. We use an addressable duel technology device (smoke and heat detector) that will activate a system supervisory upon receipt of smoke detection. At that point our central station operator will contact the facility to have the local operator confirm the alarm condition prior to notification of the fire department; if a fire is confirmed we will contact the fire department at that point. If no one is in the facility, the call goes to the fire department and we dispatch our contract security service as the keyholder to that site. In the event we receive a heat detector alarm or manual pull station activation, our call goes directly to the fire department.

In the immediate future we will continue to update our current transition from older eight-door panels to a new embedded Information Processing (IP) unit that provides greater memory at the panel and an additional eight doors if needed. We also intend to purchase risk assessment software which will be used to help conduct risk management surveys and determine cost-effective countermeasures. Our fundamental rationale for this change has to do with the number of facilities managed by the department—over 180 of varying sizes—along with the volume of information required to conduct regular risk assessments. This tool will allow us to plan more effectively as well as provide us with a road map for future security improvements that is based on hard data. This system allows the City to not only remain flexible in our approach to security management at our wide variety of sites as required by an advanced risk management process, but also to expand the access control system in the future without compromising security to the existing facilities.

Michael L. Schaefer can be reached at (414) 286-2145 or mischae@mpw.net; Venu J. Gupta, Chair of APWA's Facilities & Grounds Technical Committee, can be reached at (414) 286-3401 or vgupta@mpw.net.