Integrated access control

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.

Card access enables the college to quickly recognize new staff, add new or additional access areas, and delete access to areas that are not currently being used. The college can also remove access when a card is lost or shift access levels to a new card when a card is replaced. The college can usually complete all of these transactions within 24 hours. In comparison, making changes to an access system that only uses metal keys usually takes much longer.

"Card access provides a complete transaction record of every card presented to any of the card readers, whether the access is granted or not," Strinz says. "The history reports have also helped us to recover items removed from offices and storage areas. We have greatly reduced the number of items missing from these rooms."

Card access has helped ELAC not only improve security, but also save time and money. Strinz tracks the number of cards deleted from the system. According to his records as of April 2010, if the college still used metal keys for those rooms currently accessed with cards, ELAC would have had to replace 6,234,245 metal keys. With the money saved from the system's efficiencies, ELAC can apply limited funds elsewhere, including hiring more instructors and teaching more students.

"If a card is lost or stolen, we simply issue a replacement card and program out the missing card," Strinz says. "By comparison, the costs associated with issuing new keys and changing a lock is much higher, and the process is more cumbersome."

Future Expansion

Although ELAC currently only uses the access cards for physical access, time clocks and intrusion alarms, the college has also tested the contactless smart card for logical computer access. The system's open architecture database would allow interactivity with the Cisco network software used at ELAC.

ELAC is currently building three new facilities and rebuilding two existing buildings that will add more than 300 card readers to the access system. The new buildings, which will open this year, use Honeywell's PRO2200 and VISTA-128FBP panels.

This year, ELAC will add WIN-PAK client computer terminals to selected offices, including its IT department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's sub-station at ELAC. Through these terminals, personnel can monitor and control access activity by viewing floor plans and alarm popup boxes. The system enables personnel to remotely monitor, unlock and relock doors, and once networked video is installed, it will display video of these areas.

"The hardware and software upgrade paths have been very simple and helpful. We can also buy parts from a local distributor to do our own repairs, or contract out large jobs to local installers - another advantage of the system," Strinz says. "Given the additional service and, this system has already paid for itself many times over."