Community College Locks Down Security Upgrade

Find out how a local integrator was able to bring together this campus’ access control, video surveillance and emergency notification solutions.

Community College Locks Down Security Upgrade

Iowa Western Community College.

Securing a college campus is no easy task. Not only do security professionals need to contend with a large footprint, but also the hordes of students traversing back and forth from various buildings.

Omaha, Neb.-based Commonwealth Communications, a division of Commonwealth Electric Company of the Midwest, tackled this challenge head-on when Iowa Western Community College came calling to institute a series of security enhancements.

Commonwealth Communications originally supported the campus’ existing video surveillance system prior to the updates. “We were able to assist with the video system budgeting prior to funding requests but were not aware of all of the other aspects of the project until the architects released the plans for the project in its entirety,” explains Clinton Stoffer, Security Manager, Commonwealth Communications.

“Once the RFP was released, we were then invited to bid on all of the other portions of the project, which also included subcontracting a general contractor for some remodeling, painting and door/frame replacements. We were awarded this project as the prime contractor and responsible for all trades associated with it.”

Founded in 1967, Iowa Western offers 84 programs in both vocational and technical areas as well as in liberal arts. With a main campus in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and four satellite locations, the college enrolls 6,000 students and offers on-campus housing for more than 1,200 of them.

The school decided it was time to enhance its security in 2016 and received a $14 million bond issue to make the improvements.

Addressing End User’s Pain Points

After Iowa Western received funding, it turned to Allegion to help conduct a security assessment. Its goal was to implement an integrated security solution that included: physical access control software, video surveillance, mass student notification, automation to their student enrollment system and active shooter and exterior opening lockdown.

There were several main pain points that had to be addressed. The college was vulnerable to people accessing buildings and rooms without permission, there was aging hardware and the condition of some exterior doors and campus lighting needed to be addressed.

“Iowa Western had been using an offline access control software system which required campus staff to visit each door to make any changes,” says Doug Talbott, electronics specialist at Allegion. “It was important to establish a security environment which could be automated and controlled from multiple locations and medias.”

Omaha, Neb.-based Commonwealth Communications, a division of Commonwealth Electric Company of the Mid-west, served as the project’s integrator. The parent firm also has locations in Iowa and Arizona.

Another concern was key management. Due to the turnover in student housing each year, students and staff sometimes neglect to turn in their keys.

“Loss of control of the key system was a struggle we weren’t going to win,” says Brian Sutter, director of facilities at Iowa Western Community College. “At one point, there were more than 100 keys that were unaccounted for.”

Iowa Western also wanted to add camera coverage and tie together existing standalone notification systems, as well as automate them for quicker response times and notification of staff and students.

Balancing Installation and Academia

One of the most difficult challenges when it comes to doing any type of work on a school campus is finding a time to actually do the work that won’t interrupt students and classes. Commonwealth Communications began cabling and infrastructure in the Spring of 2018.

“We were able to work in public spaces during the class sessions but had to coordinate getting to doors within the classrooms after hours and during breaks. We basically tried to do everything we could in class spaces, as well as get the infrastructure installed in the dorms during summer break of 2018. We ran a crew of about 12 guys during the summers but were able to cut back to four or five during the semesters,” says Scott Lamoreux, project manager, Commonwealth Communications.

Because the school wasn’t used to having construction take place in occupied areas, Commonwealth Communications brought in its corporate safety department to develop a site safety plan, as well as a site orientation for all of the subcontractors.

“Though we do work in a lot of schools, we are usually the subcontractor and it is usually during school breaks, so this was a fairly new process for us as the prime con-tractor as well,” adds Lamoreux.

Next, the integrator sent general foreman and electricians through all of the buildings to provide exploratory information. He continues, “This allowed us to account for any potential safety hazards and provide the most efficient routes for our conduit and pathways. By the time we thoroughly reviewed this information with the end user and architects, it was just about time for school to let out for the summer. We spent the final weeks of the school year staging material and scheduling areas we knew we had to have done before the fall semester.”

Though completion of the entire project is not scheduled until August 2020, Commonwealth Communications needed to have the main campus, which was 90% of the project, substantially completed by August 2019. Stoffer says they were able to do this by preprogramming everything, pretesting and then staging the installation.

“We had a very small window to install a very large quantity of wireless locksets, as the majority of them were located in student living spaces,” he says. “We basically had spring break of 2019 to install a couple of dozen to try to work out any bugs, then only an eight-week window to install roughly 1,200 more. Our concern wasn’t getting them installed, it was getting them online and tested thoroughly since we would not have access to them once the students moved back in.”

Not only was it necessary to work around the students, but the integrator also had to form a relationship with the school faculty and staff.

“We spent a substantial amount of time building a master schedule with the facilities coordinators based on class schedules and other projects the school had scheduled, then met weekly with the general contractor to ensure all subcontractors had the material and manpower ready,” says Lamoreux. “We also had follow-up meetings with the end user to ensure the areas were ready for us to occupy prior to mobilizing in each area.”

Lamoreux adds they had to work with campus security to secure worksites and IT to make sure integrations ran smoothly. “We had to coordinate areas of work with facilities and campus security every week, as well as work with campus security to ensure every area was locked up at the end of every day. We worked with IT for all of the programmable devices, the setup of the VM instances, the integration into their notification systems and coordination with their network refresh.”

As a primary equipment supplier for the project, Allegion provided Iowa Western with an array of wireless locks to try before implementing, including Schlage NDE (left) and Schlage LE (right) models.

Securing the Campus

Sutter wanted to ensure the campus would be able to be locked down by the push of a single button. Commonwealth Communications helped accomplish this with a number of unique integrations.

“We integrated the typical access, video and intercom, but were also able to integrate their Polycom, Four Winds, WENS and Alertus systems for campus lockdown and evacuation operations. There was also quite a diverse combination of locking hardware, as there seemed to be a little bit of everything from panic hardware, to strikes, mag locks and a substantial number of wireless locksets,” says Stoffer.

Allegion provided Iowa Western with samples of Schlage’s wireless electronic locks to use in the football and wrestling complex. As part of Allegion’s Try-Me program, the college was able to interact with the Schlage AD-400, NDE cylindrical and LE mortise wireless locks before implementing the solution across campus.

Iowa Western regained control over its key systems after Allegion set up three new master key systems using Schlage’s Everest 29 restricted keying solutions. This unified the main campus with the satellite locations, which were on separate key systems.

In addition, the school moved to electronic credentials to reduce the risk and nuances associated with lost and stolen keys. “The college wanted to upgrade control and security in the residence halls on the Council Bluffs campus,” says John Torchia, end user consultant at Allegion. “Instead of mechanical keys, students are using credentials. As of the last month or so, every single suite and interior room doors have NDE or LE wireless electronic locks.”

Additional access control solutions included Von Duprin 99 Series exit devices, LCN 4040 XP Series closers, Ives hinges, Von Duprin concealed vertical cables, Glynn-Johnson accessories, hardwired readers and a combination of Schlage AD-400, NDE and LE wireless locks.

Upgrading Surveillance Capabilities

Because Commonwealth Communications supported the campus’ surveillance system prior to this project it was familiar with the devices onboard. Already accustomed to multimegapixel technology, Iowa Westen was introduced to multisensor technology by the integrator, and ended up adding over 300 additional cameras in addition to license plate recognition.

These additions have helped the college enable greater operational efficiencies. “The usual, scheduling, video verification and intercom functionalities have helped their security force to focus more on the safety and security aspect of their jobs instead of running around campus unlocking doors. The video has assisted with parking enforcement and keeping the campus tobacco free as well. I am sure they will continue to find efficiency as they are just beginning to really utilize the systems,” says Stoffer.

Commonwealth Communications unified the campus’ access, video, intercom and digital signage solutions for lockdown and evacuation operations.

It can be difficult for a project to go smoothly without product vendors’ support. Fortunately, Stoffer says that its manufacturers were very supportive and available as needed.

“Allegion attended and contributed to many planning and scheduling meetings and provided most of the keying information since the campus did their own core pinning. LenelS2 wrote a custom hotfix for an issue we encountered due to the end users’ environment — it was written in less than 72 hours.”

Though the project still has a handful of months to go until it is 100% complete, it is well on its way to fulfilling Iowa Western’s needs.

“Our main focus through this whole process has been life safety. Life safety of any Iowa Western stakeholder. Student life is obviously a large part of that and creating a system where we’re able to give students a more secure environment was at the top of our list,” says Sutter. “The physical security will be improved greatly, but the bigger part is we’re going to have peace of mind knowing we will be able to handle a bad situation in an organized manner.”

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About the Author


Steven A. Karantzoulidis is the Web Editor for Security Sales & Integration. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in Communication and has a background in Film, A/V and Social Media.

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