Integrated access control

East Los Angeles College's access measures have evolved to become the campus security backbone


Nestled in Monterey Park, 10 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, East Los Angeles College (ELAC) is a two-year community college that serves more than 30,000 students. Established in 1945, the 88-acre campus has since grown to encompass 58 buildings including a library, multi-media instructional centers, a bookstore and a 20,000-seat sports stadium.

Although not as visible, another key feature of ELAC's growth is the college's integrated access control system. Throughout its history, the safety and security of its students, faculty and staff has remained a top priority for ELAC. As such, the college's security and safety measures have evolved. The result today is an integrated access control system from Honeywell that serves as an example of how to meet a campus's unique security needs and protect existing investments while allowing for seamless future technology upgrades.

Evolving and Integrated Access Control

Ted Strinz has experienced ELAC's growth firsthand. In 1980, ELAC hired Strinz as its first full-time locksmith. Since that time, Strinz - now the college's Certified Master Locksmith - has been instrumental in helping lead the campus's access control evolution from the replacement of the campus's 1960s Barium Ferrite card access system in 1980, to the contactless smart cards in place today.

The design of the college's access control is the result of its open education environment. ELAC offers classes of various durations year-round and at various times, including during the day, in the evening and on weekends. Security staff members are thus challenged to secure campus buildings while still allowing, for example, a professor to unlock a classroom for an evening class without triggering an alarm, and to then to relock the room at end of class without leaving it unprotected.

In 2004, ELAC began converting existing classrooms to "smart classrooms" with technology upgrades. The classrooms had previously been left unlocked, but with the addition of electronics in the classroom, management decided to expand the existing networked Honeywell card access into the newly renovated rooms.

"The decision to move from metal keys to card access was easy to make because we needed a flexible system that not only would secure buildings and individual classrooms, but also provide a detailed audit trail to show who accessed what and when," Strinz says. "And, the system should ultimately provide better security, at less cost, than a metal key system."

Currently ELAC is using Honeywell's WIN-PAK PE with VISTA Integration - software that enables ELAC to replace existing obsolete intrusion alarm control panels with the VISTA alarm panel.

"We can now arm and disarm the system using our existing contactless smart cards, and we can also monitor the alarm panels with our Honeywell card access software," Strinz says. "We're saving valuable time and effort by using cards and readers to activate some of our intrusion alarms, and we no longer have to use low-security PIN codes."

Access in Action

Beyond the integrated framework, ELAC's access control system includes approximately 1,800 access cards in circulation, which are used for 302 card readers and electric door strikes - a slightly different setup than most traditional systems, according to Strinz. "This hardware configuration fits our academic environment well," he says. "It's also less than half the price of a classic card access system, where the lock is electrified."

ELAC's card access system varies from traditional card access in that it encompasses card readers and electronic door strikes. Instead of carrying a large ring of door keys, staff members simply use one access card and one low-security staff restroom key. When staff members first arrive at their offices or classrooms, they use their access card to unlock the strike, allowing the door to be pulled open. They then use the staff restroom key on the inside lock cylinder to unlock the door lock's outside handle. When rooms need to be locked again, staff members use the same metal key.

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