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Upgrades to City of Columbus Create Municipal Security Role Model

Date: 2011-11-23
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Centralized command center, fiber optic IP-based network and access control system offer security capabilities few cities have.   

Above: City of Columbus (OH) Facility security manager Mike Plumb (standing), and Jim Arthur, security specialist, in the Central Command Center

The city of Columbus, Ohio is quickly becoming a role model of municipality security with its ongoing unification of access control for city buildings into one centralized location and its use of a fiber-optic network that saves money and helps increase public safety.

Columbus is the nation's 16th largest city. Regardless of size, however, it is also one of the most progressive metropolises in security and access control. Most large American cities might have basic access control systems in city hall or police facilities. Columbus' ongoing efforts include the unification of dozens of city facilities under one IP-based network to help make possible ongoing high technology upgrades, such as city-wide access control and video surveillance. Overseeing the ambitious technology venture are city officials; Miki Calero, chief security officer; Michael Plumb, security manager for facilities; Dave Bush, deputy director; and Johnny Scales, facilities administrator.

While the city has made significant cost outlays, unifying access control under one server-based system featuring Frontier® software by Matrix Systems, Miamisburg, Ohio, will save Columbus hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and labor in the long-term as more buildings are added to the city-wide security infrastructure. Beyond its Frontier software, Matrix Systems is lending engineering, installation, integration, system testing, upgrade implementation, software training and 24/7 customer support to the city's security efforts.

Before today's technology became available, Columbus had separate systems with their own servers and building controllers at City Hall, Municipal Court, the Police Department, Public Utilities and other major facilities. The $500,000 command center was the foundation of centralizing security in the City Hall-based Department of Technology. However the subsequent success of bringing the Municipal Court's access control online convinced city officials nearly anything was possible with the combination of skillful integration and today's technological advancements.  Integration included a quick and inexpensive conversion of thousands of Municipal Court database entries, from seemingly incompatible systems, into the city's fledging centralized security. Now with Municipal Court online, the Public Utilities facility's connectivity is the next goal.

Video Surveillance and Management

The centralization has enabled a variety of programs to terminate at the command center, such as the city's new $166,000 video surveillance system, which was funded by a 2009 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  The cutting-edge video surveillance program includes more than 200 cameras by Bosch Security Systems, one HD camera by Axis Communications, and video management software, which is fully integrated into the Frontier access control system. Nearly 100 cameras are spread throughout the facilities, with 112 outdoor cameras used in the neighborhood safety project. Video recording capabilities include 12 terabytes of video storage by Pivot3, Austin, Texas.

Above: Jim Arthur, security specialist, monitors surveilance systems in the Columbus Command Center

As part of the centralization, the command center has its own 24/7 video surveillance police personnel and monitoring equipment. When triggered by an alarm situation however, Frontier automatically displays the incident on the security officer's workstation monitor for review. In addition to security, city-wide video and recording capabilities also have the residual police benefit of helping solve and prosecute crimes, according to Plumb. "Some cities have public safety departments monitoring neighborhood cameras, but few have it all culminate in a centralized command center like Columbus," said Plumb, who worked with Calero to develop Columbus' strategy during a review of Chicago's neighborhood watch program--one of the nation's premier neighborhood safety endeavors.

Affordably Unifying Security

The city-wide fiber-optic IP system and the Matrix Systems Gateway (MSG) component made the unification connectivity cost-efficient and practical. Instead of expensively outfitting every newly added building with a server and access control panel, locations with 16 or fewer card readers use an MSG to communicate with the City Hall base server.  The 1,200-square-foot Pride Community Center, which has only two doors and several employees, for example, tapped into the city's security infrastructure and saved thousands of dollars in equipment and labor costs, and provided unprecedented security benefits at the site.

Columbus' security plans are rich in technology. The city is integrating a secure visitor management system from EasyLobby into the access control system and making it available to all city buildings with connectivity to the central command center. Additionally, wireless biometrics, video analytics and mobile apps are all possible future technology upgrades with Frontier's open architecture design.

Columbus is a city that's second to none in security. "The possibility of connecting any building to our command center via the existing infrastructure and monitoring it for security are capabilities few cities the size of Columbus have at their fingertips," said Calero.  

For information see: www.matrixsys.com.

- Corporate News/9-1-1magazine.com (via Matrix Systems, 11/14/11)

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