The Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga is one of the first major public aquariums to place large-scale focus on the ecology and biodiversity of its own region. One of the facility’s two imposing main buildings offers an overview of the Tennessee River from its origins in the Appalachian Mountains to its outlet in the Mississippi River Delta. This regional focus was rare and exciting in 1992 when the aquarium first opened; now it’s comfortable and well-loved, and the facility has expanded to add various world views and fascinating fish and animals. The aquarium is a major attraction on Chattanooga’s handsome downtown waterfront.
The River Journey building is one of the largest freshwater aquariums in the world. Among its fascinating activities is a backstage pass offering VIP access to actually touch and feed aquarium animals.
Clearly, topnotch modern access control is a vital safety feature of a facility like this, and the Tennessee Aquarium employed modern access control from the start. Beginning with an IBA key-fob control based on a European model, the Aquarium eventually switched to a current, second-generation state-of-the-art electronic access control system supplied by Salto Systems Inc, an international company with U.S. HQ at 3080 McCall Drive, Suite 3, Atlanta, GA (www.salto.us).
The aquarium continued to employ the IBA controls while phasing in the Salto system. For several years both systems were in use, an excellent chance for operators to learn while integrating the new system.
All-Salto locks by ‘12
The first Salto locks were installed in 2009. They are now used in many, but not all, aquarium buildings. The ticketing building is still on the older style, and the Imax theatre is about 50 percent Salto, but should be 100 percent by the end of the year.
The River Journey building, which is the main aquarium building, is partly fitted with Salto and should go all-Salto sometime next year, as will the executive offices and the Ocean Journey building. The current plan is to have all buildings converted to Salto by the end of 2012.
In exhibit locations and entrance areas most doors are controlled automatically with the Salto system. But some doors that are simply opened and shut, are not on the system: they are just manually unlocked and locked each day. Workers without access control cards check in at the security desk, which is monitored 24/7.
Accountability is the key
In such a modern facility it’s no surprise that electronic access control was on the cards from the beginning. Many doors in the public areas lead to backup spaces which might access rare and expensive animals. Designers and administrators were agreed in wanting full accountability with the option to monitor and check back.
Whenever new employees are brought in the communications services manager programs their hours and the areas they have access to. There isn’t a large employee turnover at the aquarium, but some departments have more turnover than others, so it’s best to be able to shut a key off or turn it over to another employee. It’s also easier to spot employee carelessness - fortunately not common - and make sure people do not go into areas where they’re not certified to gain access. This makes the administrators confident and comfortable with the status of the facility and safety of its animals, its workers, and the admiring public.
A good level of assurance