Vanguard Award Honorable Mention: A Security Upgrade Unlike Any Other

Nov. 10, 2020
Richmond County, Ga., migrates from analog to IP-based security systems with the help of A3 Communications

Located about two hours east of Atlanta, Richmond County, Ga., features the second largest city in the state, Augusta, and is home to more than 200,000 residents. While many people tend to associate the city with the prestigious Augusta National Golf Club, home of the annual Master’s tournament, the area has experienced somewhat of a renaissance in recent years with regards to attracting businesses and jobs to the county. In fact, the Augusta area has had a population growth of 8.5% over the past decade with people flocking to area to work in manufacturing, healthcare and technology jobs. With the growth has also come the need to update the county’s physical security infrastructure to bring their capabilities up to date with the times.

According to Capt. Jeff Barrett, Executive Officer for the Richmond County Marshal’s Office, he initially started thinking about upgrading the county’s security systems back in 2009 given some of the difficulties they had in trying to manage multiple disparate technologies, such as video surveillance and access control, installed in their various facilities.

“We set out to find a common platform enterprise solution that would work for the majority of the county,” Barrett explains. “Primarily, we were looking at county-owned facilities that protected county assets and employees and visitors. There were a lot of events around the country that sort of brought the need for these products and systems to the surface… and so we started back then to build a (business) case.”

However, when it became apparent that trying to manage portions of their security operations at the Augusta-Richmond County Judicial Center were becoming too difficult with analog-only systems, Barrett says they learned they would be allocated funds from a special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) and they got to work on preparing for the technology revamp and RFP that followed.

An Integrated Solution

A3 Communications, which is based in the metropolitan Atlanta area, was eventually awarded the project following a competitive bid
process and they started in the final quarter of 2019 outfitting the county’s judicial, municipal, fleet management, and recreation center buildings with a wide array of new security technologies, which included more than 170 Hanwha Techwin surveillance cameras, intelligent controllers for access control from Mercury Security, BCDVideo servers for video storage, and Shooter Detection Systems’ gunshot detection sensors. All the new solutions are tied together using Genetec’s unified access control and video surveillance management platform.

Tristan Soule, who was the Senior Designer on the project for A3, credited Barrett and his team with doing a lot of the legwork on project in advance with a consultant firm so they already largely knew what products and systems they wanted installed. “In the RFP, Jeff did a lot of due diligence on his side upfront and they already had quite a bit of the products already listed out,” Soule adds

Although they already knew what to expect from a technology perspective, Brett Cooke, Senior Project Manager at A3, says that migrating from these legacy technologies to new, network-based systems still posed numerous challenges, especially given the fact that these buildings were still open and employees needed access to their IT resources while the installs were taking place. 

“We knew there were going be some challenges and we knew there was going be some hiccups, but we were able to go in there and gather all the details associated with the project, so that it would not impair their daily access or daily functions,” Cooke says. “When it came to access control, there were challenges all around us with how we were going do the cutover, how we were going stage the cutover, the planning of how many floors we're going do at a time, the manpower, scheduling, etc. There was a lot of variables there, but I think we were able to accomplish that goal.”

Barrett says the primary concern was really centered on the judicial center, which houses multiple courtrooms and agencies, including the district attorney’s office, county solicitor’s office, as well as  various clerks of court and judges, where there would be no tolerance for disruptions. “This is an active courthouse and even though we have had some challenges with COVID-19, we still have active judicial processes taking place, so we had quite a bit of coordination with that,” he adds.

COVID-19 Impact

Though the project is nearly complete at this point, it too has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which Barrett says has served as “double-edged” sword.

“There were times when it worked because it gave us unoccupied spaces to work in,” he explains. “But on the opposite side, we’ve had issues dealing with the COVID environment ­– whether it be exposures that somebody on the site might have had or exposures in the building which delayed things. It also gave us a relationship building platform almost, so I think at times it was a positive, but it was definitely a challenge from a manpower standpoint and because of the ever-changing nature of it.”  

New Tech Pays Dividends

According to Barrett, the county has yet to leverage all the analytic capabilities the new video and access system offers but he says they are moving in that direction.

“We record continuously but we use motion (detection) to give us alerts… and we’re working on adding more of those options to the system,” he adds. “We’re also utilizing mapping features of the system to give us real time information. I can have a map of our entire facility where I can see motion (detection), see access control live on the map. These are features that we found very valuable.”

Future scalability was also big factor in how the county went about choosing what technologies they wanted to deploy and, according to Barrett, they are currently looking into how they can expand the system.

“We're already looking at additional locations,” he says. “We've had discussions related to the scalability of it and we're having more and more requests and needs for this service.”

Joel Griffin is Editor-in-Chief of