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Security-Communications System Protects Defense Contractor.

Security-Communications System Protects Defense Contractor

So many potential buyers of electronic security systems have told vendors that they have "unique requirements,' that the words have lost some of their impact for the security companies. However, when a prospect that does research and development on command, control and communications systems for the US Defense Department tells a vendor that it has unique requirements, and that one of its options is to build or buy a security system, the words take on real meaning.

The prospect in this case is Eaton Corporation, Information Management Systems (IMS) Division, Westlake Village, California. The company is entrusted with sensitive government information and materials, and is thus required to comply with high-level security standards established by the federal goverment.

IMS was no neophyte in security when it chose to replace its existing electronic system in 1982 with a Mosler ComSec Security Communications System; nor was the company exaggerating when it said it was unique. IMS originally had one of only two special electronic security systems that had ever been designed by a major system supplier. Unfortunately, both these systems proved to be "orphans,' and were not supported by the vendor. However, engineers at Eaton "adopted' theirs, and maintained and expanded the system for 10 years.

"If that system had been at any other location, where the owner didn't have electronics experts on staff to service it, it wouldn't have lasted half as long as it did here,' says Bill James, a senior engineer with IMS who worked on the system periodically. Eventually though, the alarm system was demanding more TLC than IMS wanted to give--about four hours a day-- and all it gave in return was false alarms. A system that falses too much is worse than no protection at all. IMS had to have a guard force of adequate size to identify and respond to an artificially high number of alarms. This was costly, and the guards did not appreciate a system that was always "crying wolf.'

A new system could be cost justified through reduced maintenance and guard force, not to mention the improvement in security; so IMS developed a specification. One of the options the division considered was building its own system. IMS could have managed a project like this, but decided to go with a specialist vendor that had a track record and would warrant and maintain the system. After evaluating five different systems against its criteria, IMS selected Mosler.

IMS's chief concerns were reliability and near-elimination of false alarms. According to James, it was determined that 90 to 95 percent uptime and about 10 falses a month (not attributable to bad alarm contacts) would be acceptable. "With the new system, we're running at over 99 percent uptime, with two or fewer false alarms a month,' reports James.

Other important criteria for the division's equipment choice were modularity and ease of tailoring, both for the overall system and the control console. The chosen system lent itself well to these aims. Its internal electronic architecture is modular, and it relies on remote terminal units (RTUs) to compartmentalize secured areas.

IMS ultimately used Mosler's computer-enhanced version of ComSec to meet its objectives. The console is fully integrated, incorporating a central monitoring unit, CCTV monitors, an intercom system, two banks of point display panels, an access/ secure panel, a keyboard for communicating with the computer, and a color CRT for computer display.

ComSec is a modular, two-way communication system that monitors inputs and controls outputs for security, fire, access control and environmental management. It meets UL standards for fire and burglary, and NFPA and Factory Mutual requirements for fire alarm systems. Inspectors from federal agencies and the California fire marshal's office have also given their approvals on the IMS system.

The central monitoring unit at the command console is the heart of the system. It is a self-sufficient, microprocessor-based alarm processor, having its own alphanumeric operator keypad, display and printer. The CMU constantly polls its remote terminal units, which are strategically placed around IMS's 320,000-square-foot, tri-level building. Each RTU can monitor 128 zones, with any number of alarm devices in each zone. The CMU, in turn, can monitor up to 512 RTUs, enabling it to detect a change of status at more than 60,000 points.

Any change triggers an audible alert at the CMU and a display of the appropriate RTU "address,' point number, point description and status. The CMU's built-in printer records this activity as well as front-panel control requests, resets, acknowledgements, and more. Both the CMU and RTUs have battery backup should normal power fail.

"The modular architecture of the system allowed us to compartmentalize several areas of our building to meet alarm requirements,' stated Joseph Gibbons, manager of security and administrative services at IMS. It also facilitated expansions. According to James, IMS left 10 to 15 points open on each RTU and has since added about 50 points to the total system for no more than the cost of alarm devices and wire back to an RTU.

The computer-enhancement package adds versatility and automation to the basic capabilities of the CMU, as well as providing redundancy for it. For example, the sequence of guard-tour checkpoints can be reprogrammed with a few key strokes, something that IMS does periodically. The status of access/secure points at IMS is programmed, through the computer, to change at appropriate times of day, also. The computer keeps on hard disk a 32-day log of all system activity, allowing the user to extract specific data for reports. The computer package includes its own printer, which records all alarms system activity--along with the CMU's printer--and all activity involving the computer.

The primary advantage that the computer provides for the guard force is the dramatic reduction in time needed to identify and respond to an alarm. When an alarm comes in, the computer displays a plain English report on its own CRT, along with three "immediate action' instructions. Three prioritized alarms and their response instructions can be displayed at one time, with four one-line notes at the bottom of the screen on alarms in waiting.

"The ability to color code the alarm displays and prioritize them helped cut our response times and enabled us to meet diverse requirements of the federal government and California fire marshal,' says Gibbons.

James coordinated the installation for IMS, and reports that it went much more smoothly than expected. The vendor used all the existing alarm wiring and devices from the old system with James' help. To meet government security requirements, the IMS alarm system does not communicate over ordinary phone wires, but uses a separate wiring system in sealed conduit. James and the installers worked out a method for listing wires that enabled him, six months later, to trace a short circuit in one of the 64 guard-tour checkpoints in 30 minutes. With the old system, he points out, this would have required hours. He emphasizes, too, that the short circuit affected only the guard-tour portion of the security system, not the entire system.

IMS configured its system for fire, flooding, intrusion, and protection of vital equipment. The system monitors 200 zones throughout the 320,000-square-foot complex, and covers several areas visually through a CCTV system.

Meets Both California and Federal Requirements

"We have established 360-degree security for our facility through an effective mix of electronic security, physical barriers and guards,' says Gibbons. "The electronics have really come of age in terms of reliability. Our system can detect tampering and attempted unauthorized access for programming, and has diagnostic trouble loops to check alarm devices--all of which help prevent a false sense of security from developing. We rely on the system to clearly identify problems for our guards and give them fast instructions for response, making our staff much more effective than they were previously.'

Virtually every potential trouble point in the complex is covered by the alarm system, according to Gibbons. This includes smoke alarms, fire pull boxes, sprinkler system valves, the jockey pump for the fire system, emergency exits, temperature alarms in the computer rooms, intrusion-detection devices, robbery alarms in the credit union, and the diesel emergency backup pump. Non-fire and non-security points that are monitored include ventilation equipment, the water level in a fume scrubber, the water level in a 230,000-gallon test tank, and even the pH of the water in that tank.

Gibbons says there have been no attempts to breach security, nor have there been any fires; but the system has detected a number of small problems, such as loading dock doors left open.

In one instance, the system detected a failure to close on one of the post indicator valves for the fire system. These valves are cycled once a month for routine maintenance. The loss of system pressure due to the leaking valve caused the fire system jockey pump to cycle on and off to keep pressure up, all of which was noted by the alarm system. "We were able to isolate the problem valve and correct it quickly,' notes James. "With the old system, this could have taken days.'

Senses Heat Given Off by a Jammed Pump

On another occasion, a stone jammed an impeller in the sump pump in the basement of the building. An infrared detector in that area picked up the heat given off by the jammed pump motor, triggering an alarm. After some searching for a heat source where there appeared to be none, the motor was discovered and shut off. Maintenance people cleared the problem, and the pump was saved from permanent damage.

Security is a vital factor in IMS's qualifications to do government research, but its cost has been much lower since the installation of the new system. According to Gibbons' projections, the system will pay for itself in a little over 14 months through guard staff reduction (via attrition) and other benefits. He says, though, that it's important to point out that the initial cost of the system was kept low through cost-saving techniques worked out with the vendor and by using the existing wiring and alarm contacts.

Photo: The console includes the CMU, computer keyboard and CRT, CCTV monitors, audio communication and point display panels.

Photo: The ComSec computer prioritizes alarms and displays plain-English reports as well as "immediate action' instructions.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Communications News
Date:Jan 1, 1985
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