Centralizing security operations on campus

Looking to update its security technology backbone along with its aging campus infrastructure, the University of Kentucky recently undertook a massive overhaul of its video surveillance, emergency communication and access control systems.  Located in the City of Lexington, the university sits on about 1,000 acres and is home to nearly 29,000 students and more than 13,000 employees.  

“The campus itself, being a land-grant institution, most the buildings were built around the early 1900s and so we are in the middle of creating and renovating all of our facilities – our residential buildings, student centers – and so there is a lot change here on campus,” says Anthany Beatty, assistant vice president for campus services at UK, who is overseeing the project. “We are fortunate in that we were already ahead of the game in terms of upgrading security systems for the campus.”

Beatty started his career as a campus police officer at UK in the 1970s and then left to join the Lexington Police Department where he would spend the next 34 years of his career, eventually serving as chief. When he returned to work at the university in his current position, Beatty says he was surprised to find that much of the campus’ security technology had not been updated with the times.  

“When I came back to the campus, I was quite surprised to find out that the campus itself, in terms of physical security systems and devices hadn’t really progressed much in the 34 years I had been away,” explained Beatty.  “We embarked on figuring how we could look at centralizing all of the legacy systems that had been setup on campus. We figured we had somewhere around 70 installed, independently operating legacy systems with no centralized monitoring of video capability, no centralized monitoring of security systems and no centralized capability in terms of getting messages out. We had actually setup a system for getting alerts out post-Virginia Tech, but in terms of public address and other types of notification, we had not done that.”

To address these challenges, Beatty says they pulled a meeting together with senior leadership at UK and they all agreed that these upgrades needed to be made. Beatty worked with integrated security management platform provider Next Level Security Systems (NLSS) to implement one, comprehensive security system that would “bring the campus into the 21st century.”

According to Beatty, there were four core components of the university’s security system upgrade including:

  • Enhancing the campus’ video surveillance cameras and monitoring capabilities. Beatty says there will be around 2,000 cameras in place when the project is completed.  They are also bolstering their video storage and analytic capabilities.
  • Having a centralized security management system. Beatty says they will be evolving to a card access system across most of the campus and that the security management system will enable them to monitor who comes and goes from the various facilities, as well as lockdown the main portions of the campus during an emergency from police headquarters.
  • Improving campus-wide notification. Beatty says the university is adding 20 or so new emergency phone towers across campus and replacing many of the older ones. They will also have campus-wide public address capabilities from each of these individual phone towers, as well as from police headquarters.
  • True one-card access. Due to the number of legacy systems that were in place on the campus, Beatty says students and staff members had to have various access cards for facilities depending on the platform that was being used. “Healthcare had something, athletics had something, residents had something else, so with the one card we’re going to, we will have truly one-card access that allows us to control the campus with that card,” he explained.

According to Beatty, one of the biggest challenges he faced in upgrading the university to this new streamlined security program was getting buy-in from everyone on campus and determining who would be in control. “Obviously, everyone wants to control their own access, their own data and their own video imaging, but we did get agreement that the University of Kentucky Police Department would be the sole purveyor of the data - managing the issuance of cards, housing the video imaging and data, and all of the security pieces of the project,” says Beatty. “We’ve got a lot of excitement now that we’ve got this rolling.”   

Beatty says another major piece of the project was integrating the healthcare facility on campus into the university’s security system. “They just completed a $560 million structure there and already imported their security systems into that,” explained Beatty. “Integrating them over to our platform was big for the success of this and they have agreed to come over to our platform, so the funding that was appropriated from the president’s office allows us to go ahead and incorporate the healthcare side of the campus in the initial phase.”

Beatty says installation is currently underway for infrastructure that will eventually support some the university’s new cameras and he expects the majority of the project to be completed by the end of the year. “We’re going to be issuing 40,000 new ID cards over the next few months, particularly when the students get back in the fall,” says Beatty  “And we expect the majority of the project to be completed by the end of the year with a significant portion of it done in time for the students’ return in August.”

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