Keyless is the Key

New locks are central to dormitory security on the Princeton campus


When you think of Princeton University, your mind probably conjures a beautiful, old campus bustling with leaders in the world of academia and research. Certainly, you wouldn’t think of a fortress – and that’s just how Life Safety and Security Manager Paul Midura would have it.

“It’s an open campus, so we don’t have gates. People can walk on campus any time, unlike some urban campuses…at the same time, we realize that we have to put prudent security measures in place that could address an unsafe situation,” Midura says. “If you ever saw the campus, it is a beautiful place, so we have a university architect that approves all technology aesthetically. That’s important here — we put security priorities first, with an artistic touch.”

So how do you create a secure, access-controlled campus that doesn’t feel like a fortress? You place aesthetically pleasing technology in an open and inviting way…which has been the key concept for a variety of security upgrades on the Princeton campus; and, as a bonus, you make students’ lives easier by eliminating a big brass key from their keychain.

Securing the Perimeter
Midura and the Life Safety and Security team have helped create a secure campus housing environment using a strategically layered approach. It starts at the perimeter and filters down to the dorm room doors themselves. “The students are our most valuable asset, so, certainly the security of the students is the most important thing here,” Midura says. “That’s why we have robust, state-of-the-art monitored access controls on all the perimeter doors of the dormitories. The second layer is keyless locks on the dorm room doors. The broadcast towers on campus are another supporting mechanism.”

If students are the most valuable asset on campus, then their security starts where they live, in the campus dormitories. All perimeter doors are controlled by card access using HID iClass readers, which are monitored using the C-Cure security management system from Software House. All monitoring duties are performed by the university’s Department of Public Safety, which includes the campus police and is headed by executive director Paul Ominsky. In the Department’s command center, staff constantly monitors the perimeter card access systems, the intrusion systems and the fire systems across the campus.

“All perimeter doors of most buildings on campus and certainly the dorms are kept locked all the time,” Midura says. “We have about 1,000 card readers and about 2,000 monitoring points across campus.”

“We have numerous buildings that have C-Cure on the perimeter,” Midura continues. “There are some other buildings that we are still putting card access on as funding or need arises, but we have already identified all of our higher-risk buildings that we needed the ability to lock down and monitor.”

The card readers — along with a surveillance system within high-security buildings using Axis cameras and the Nextiva video management system from Verint — were installed by Corporate Security Systems (CSS), a systems integrator.

Also on the perimeter of dorm buildings and throughout campus, new emergency communications and mass notification towers from Talk-a-Phone are being installed this summer. “[The towers] allow us the ability to call any individual building or individual tower and make any announcement, such as a severe weather alert, a gunman or any emergency on campus.”

The One-Card Approach
Princeton has moved to a one-card system on campus, so students can use their “Tiger Card” – a smart card with a photo of the student — as a credential. “It’s a one-card approach for everything — that card is their entrance to the perimeter using the HID card readers, it is how they get meals on their meal plan, it gives library access, and there is also memory on the card to operate individual room locks.”

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