Vicon’s Integrated VMS and Access Control Simplify Operation
Washington State’s new Spokane Valley City Hall was designed with just that challenge in mind. The building’s tightly integrated video surveillance, access control and intrusion systems, specified by Coffman Engineers and configured and installed by EVCO Sound & Electronics, make masterful use of technology to simplify security operations while delivering on security needs. EVCO’s President, Kevin Bauer, says, “We needed a solution that didn’t just secure the building for employees; we also had to allow public access with a complex schedule of hours of operation, including spur of the moment changes.”
Spokane Valley’s Information Technology Specialist, Greg Bingaman (“Bing” to those who know him), oversaw the project and played a key role in defining how the system needed to perform. “In today’s day and age, with concerns about active shooters and other scenarios, we wanted to make sure we had a good, safe environment. The ability to control access in and out of the building was our main focus, while keeping it easy for our employees.” From an administrative standpoint, the top “must-haves” were a single, unified video management and access control platform, as well as Active Directory integration. “We run a very lean IT staff here, so anything that makes things easier for us to operate is always better. Instead of having two disparate systems that don’t talk to each other, it makes more sense to have a single pane of glass,” says Bing.”We also wanted to make it easy for our HR department to assign employee badges with the right user group credentials without reinventing the wheel, and an Active Directory integration does that.”
To meet Bing’s requirements, Ben Helms, the specifying engineer on the project, recommended an integrated Valerus video management and VAX access control system, both manufactured by Vicon. “It’s a completely browser-based system,” explains Ben, “and that adds a lot of advantages over a hard system. Plus, with the built-in, free integration between Valerus and VAX, it made sense to go in that direction.”
We were able to deliver exactly what our customer wanted; an access control and video management solution in one package. It's all there , right at fingerprints.
Kevin Bauer, President , EVCO Sound & Electronics
Bing says that “We really like the fact that it’s a web-based interface that allows us to administer things remotely. For example, during construction, we had some contractors that needed to get into the building on a Saturday, and the access card we had given them wasn’t configured properly. We were able to log into the system from home, make changes to their card, and they were able to get right in. In the old days, someone would have had to actually go there.”
With the integrated interface, Bing says that mapping cameras to doors was easy enough for his own in-house team to handle. “With the correlation, we have that ‘single pane of glass’ that helps with investigations. When we look to see when a badge was used to come through a door, we can also immediately see if the person who used the badge is actually associated with it.”
Bing is particularly fond of the view from one camera in the system, a Vicon 12 MP fisheye camera mounted vertically in the three-story lobby. “I can see a sweeping view of the whole facility. My colleagues were surprised by its capabilities. We can fly down into it and zoom around. It’s my favorite camera in the whole installation.”
Most offices are enclosed within suites that require an access card to enter, making it necessary for visitors to be buzzed or escorted in. The elevators, while open to the public, limit basement access only to card holders. The elevators also require a card to access upper floors after business hours.
Bing says that much thought was put into developing an emergency response plan, including the ability to initiate a lock down from various locations in the building. In a lock down, all doors and almost all badges are immediately disabled, making it impossible for an intruder to take an employee’s badge and proceed further into the building. “Even if a dangerous person got behind one set of doors, by locking the remaining doors, we minimize the threat vector. We had to make a compromise between security and availability, keeping the building accessible for the public.” In addition, all office suites have two separate exits, giving people a secondary path to escape if one is blocked. This is important not only for security but for fire and life-safety events. Stairwells may be entered from any floor but provide the ability to exit only on the ground floor.
While not yet enabled, Bing says that it is the city’s intention to provide the local police with a log-in to the building’s surveillance cameras that they can access in cases of such an emergency. Providing them with full situational awareness – including live views of what is happening inside the building – can facilitate a more effective response and potentially save lives. “That’s another way that the web-based interface is valuable,” he says.
The VAX system has been configured so that Legal and HR staff can triple swipe their card at either door of their suite and immediately lock both doors, restricting access to all employees except members of their own department. Upon returning from lunch, another triple swipe will return the system to its default settings.
The building’s burglar alarm, a Bosch system, is integrated with the access control platform. The last employee leaving the building after hours has the ability to lock-up and arm the system using his or her access card. Similarly, the first employee arriving in the morning automatically deactivates the system. The same goes for employees authorized to access the building on weekends
We are really like the fact that it's a web-based interface that allow us to administer things remotely.
Greg Bingaman , Information technology specialist , City of spoken valley
The solution was to provide employees working the council meetings with the ability to manually unlock and lock the lobby doors using a button tied into the Crestron AV system, which provides a relay input to the VAX server. Touch screen panels located at the front reception desk and in the council chambers let those responsible for the meetings unlock the doors before they start, and lock back up when they conclude. “Automation sometimes works great, but in this case, tying into the Crestron system made more sense,” says Bing.
Installation was also simplified due to the design of VAX’s hardware. EVCO’s Kevin Bauer says, “I think what worked out very well was that in the majority of cases within the building, the access control module is actually mounted right over the door, so that really reduced our installation time and wiring time. It also makes it easier to service.” Jason adds, “I’m an IT guy and I really liked the PoE Ethernet devices. We didn’t need lock power supplies and that made things a lot simpler.”
The Spokane Valley City Hall opened its doors to the public at a Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony in October, 2017.
The Access control module is actually mounted right over the door , so that really reduced our installation time and wiring time. It also makes easier to serivice.
Kevin Bauer , President , EVCO Sound & Eletrconics
“EVCO was a great integrator on this project. They really brought a lot of knowledge and expertise and helped guide us in the decision making process,” says Bing. Kevin is equally pleased with the outcome. “We had done A/V projects for Spokane Valley in the past, but this was our first security project with them and we were able to deliver exactly what they wanted, an access control and video management solution in one single package. It’s all there, right at their fingertips.”
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