Univ. of Kentucky to invest $5m in new security systems

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Monday, July 16, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky.—The University of Kentucky plans to spend nearly $5 million to install the campus's first-ever comprehensive security system.

The security upgrade will involve a new access control system, new network cameras, a new video management system with analytics, and an integrated mass notification system, Joe Monroe, chief of the UK Police Department, told Security Director News. It will all be managed from the campus police department's communications center, which is staffed 24 hours a day.

Until now, the security upgrades at UK have been piecemeal, undertaken by individual departments in the university system, Monroe said. "What we're trying to do is create a centralized standard with everything," he said. "This gives us some commonality across the board."

UK's Board of Trustees approved the $4.8-million price tag last month and gave Monroe a 36-month window to get the project completed. "Of course, I'd like to have it done in half that time," Monroe said. "We're running on a very aggressive schedule."

The school hasn't selected an integrator yet. It is working with the Evanston, Ill.-based consulting firm Biagi, Chance, Cummins, London, Titzer Inc. to specify the project and to write a request for proposals, which Monroe said would be issued in September. "We've looked at a bunch of different vendors already," Monroe said. "As we write the RFP, we're including what we've seen of these different vendors to steer us in direction we want to go." The university will rely heavily on an integrator to lead the project forward, Monroe said.

The new access control system will offer centralized control. Right now, Monroe said, more than 90 percent of the several hundred buildings on campus are still accessed by physical keys. Management of the new access control system will be turned over from the physical plant department to the police department and will provide the ability to lock doors and monitor entrances remotely. Priority will be given to securing the exterior perimeters of the buildings with the highest occupancy and daytime use.

The police department will create a standardized campus ID badge for students, faculty and staff. Called “the Wildcard” it will be used for physical access, as well as a debit card for campus services, Monroe said.

When it comes to mass notification, the school currently uses a system capable of sending emergency messages via only a few channels, including phone calls, text messages and RSS feeds. Monroe plans to add indoor and outdoor speakers, desktop alerts and the ability to broadcast messages through new voice-over-IP emergency phones on campus.

The campus currently has about 30 cameras spread over a large area (that number doesn't include the several hundred at the school's healthcare facility), Monroe said. The goal is to install several hundred new IP cameras across the campus, both indoor and outdoor. A new VMS will include video analytics to help Monroe's security staff respond to triggered events.

It wasn't hard to convince university leadership to sign off on the significant investment, said Monroe, who has been preparing for the upgrade for the past two years. Eli Capilouto, who took over as UK's new president last summer, came from the University of Alabama Birmingham, which had just dealt with a series of tornadoes. "He's been very supportive," Monroe said.

Even once the upgrade is done, Monroe said the focus on security will continue. All new buildings will be designed to include the new access control system, cameras and emergency loud speakers. "So as the university grows, we're not going to be left behind with this project," Monroe said. "It'll keep building even further."