School Access Control and Video Surveillance Case Study: Monterey County Office of Education

Just The Facts:

Customer: Monterey County Office of Education

Challenge: Securing the Monterey Office of Education and nearby Monterey County Home Charter School.

Solution: Developing an access control and surveillance system that keeps staff and students safe and secure. Integrating 65 existing Schlage door locks and managing more than 815 access control users on a centralized system.

Results: State-of-the-art access control systems that let authorized people in and keep unauthorized people out. Ensuring that staff can easily and reliably manage their enterprise level access control system and surveillance system on one pane of glass.

Monterey County Office of Education security system case study

Customer Challenge

The Monterey County Office of Education in Salinas, California, supervises the education of 78,000 students and manages a staff of 11,000 across 24 school districts in the agriculturally abundant Salinas Valley.

One challenge of this role is making sure everyone under its oversight stays safe. The Monterey County Office of Education had already taken steps in this direction but needed more help to continue its security journey. 

In search of a solution, they contacted Safe and Sound Security to secure doors and access points. The district had already installed Schlage D-400 locks, equipped with advanced wireless capabilities. However, with over 663 doors spread across the site, the task of individually programming and maintaining each lock had become a daunting challenge, both in terms of time and resources.

But removing locks and installing new ones was not an option. Just five years earlier, the district invested around $250,000 on the Schlage locks. 

With these parameters in mind, Safe and Sound Security identified an opportunity to revolutionize their security framework using existing infrastructure. The cost-effective solution harnessed the power of wireless technology and integrated it seamlessly into the existing access control system, according to Zachary Palmquist, Safe and Sound Security project manager.

The team strategically placed Panel Interface Modules (PIMs) throughout the facility to establish a seamless network infrastructure that communicated with the Schlage locks. The PIMs acted as wireless transmitters, enabling instant communication between locks and the Verkada central access control panel.

The resulting installation uses:

  • 65 existing Schlage-400 locks
  • Verkada AC42 Door Controller, i.e., Panel Interface Modules (PIM)

The new access control system offers unprecedented visibility and control over access points. Within the Verkada platform, administrators can monitor lock status, track battery levels, and receive alerts for security breaches or malfunctions in real time. 

Unique Considerations

Integrating the system required the Safe and Sound Security team to install PIMs across the facility to transmit signals from the locks to a single management platform, according to Palmquist.

The problem was: the Schlage lock signals couldn’t reach a distance of 500 feet. The team had to divide the facility into 14 grid spaces and install an AC42 Door Controller, or PIM, in each area. This would let them transmit wireless signals from the locks to the Verkada Command cloud-managed access control panel.

Sounds simple enough, but each AC42 Door Controller could only manage four doors, Palmquist explains.

Converting the panel into “Schlage mode” allowed engineers to wire each PIM into a reader node, effectively addressing the issue. “That allowed us to control 16 locks on a single PIM, converting each four-door panel into a 16-door panel,” he says.

It took a month to complete the planning and design phase. During that time, Safe and Sound Security had to partner with Schlage to learn what was necessary for the challenging integration. The team also had to collaborate with Verkada engineers to ensure all components could function harmoniously. 

“It took about three weeks to get comfortable enough with the technology to do this,” he says. “I had to break the design into small sections to ensure we had enough wireless strength to get information from the locks. I had to figure out where to put the PIMs, and then how to get cables from the PIMs to the control panel.” 

The work also couldn’t have taken place without a strong partnership with Monterey County’s IT team, he adds.

“Everything is cloud based, so it had to connect with the Internet,” he explains. “We had to do a lot of discovery work with the customer to locate their network closets and determine how they wanted us to connect to their Internet.” 

The installation also had to comply with the Office of Education’s network rules. Palmquist had to present Verkada’s network security report to showcase the equipment’s security certifications and authentication protocols from the network to the cloud.

The installation itself took 12 days. The team spent much of this time trying to figure out how to access the port on the bottom of the Schlage D-400 locks to program them. Palmquist explains they needed to plug into this port with a special cable.

“Those locks had been in place for almost five years and tracking down that special cable was difficult,” he says. “We finally found the cable, then went through an Android app to factory reset the locks, then uploaded new firmware. Then we had to sync the locks with the correct PIM.”

Once they had mastered the process, the remaining locks were completed swiftly, he says.

Improved Surveillance Views

The Monterey County Office of Education didn’t install a ton of cameras. Neither did the charter school. However, they wanted surveillance cameras to keep watch on sensitive areas of the building, according to Palmquist. 

Engineers added security cameras in the lobby, so that the reception desk could view anyone entering the front door. Pan-tilt-zoom cameras were also added to the shipping and receiving warehouse area. The team also installed cameras in the studio hallway because the area housed expensive, high dollar servers they wanted to protect, he adds.

The district has funds for a full camera system, which Safe and Sound Security will install in the second half of 2024. “Eventually there will be cameras throughout the interior and exterior of the Office of Education,” he says. 

Operational Insights Via the Cloud

The wireless setup saved the district tons of money, according to Palmquist. 

“If we had done things traditionally and not used their wireless locks, you’re talking $5,000 a door,” he says. “We saved so much money by utilizing what was in place and converting it from wireless to hardwired via a transmitter and a receiver. We also gave them the ability to manage all their locks from one interface and quickly manage all 815 access control users in a centralized location.” 

By integrating insights coming from the locks into the Verkada platform, users can log in to a dashboard and see the entire system in a single place. “They can see the battery levels of the locks, if the doors are opened or closed, if doors are disconnected, and more,” Palmquist says. 

Safe and Sound Security also loaded all authorized users, their access control privileges, and their contact information into the system. Once this was done, administrators could log in to add and delete authorized users. They can even temporarily delete access for someone on leave and reactivate their privileges upon their return, he says.

Quality Testing & Service Needs

Safe and Sound Security conducts a 30-day burn-in period for every security system installation to test and fine-tune the system.

Following these tests, Safe and Sound Security closely monitors the operational system, promptly addressing any issues or alerts to maintain optimal performance. This is achieved through a comprehensive service level agreement (SLA) that covers maintenance, according to Palmquist.

The cloud-based system allows backend access to all devices for remote repairs, Palmquist adds

If there is no remote solution, the company dispatches technicians to fix the problem. “The technician will arrive with replacement parts,” Palmquist says. “If the device cannot be fixed, we will provide a replacement. We also dispatch technicians to clean and test systems annually.” 

“Now that this project is complete, the Monterey County Office of Education has asked us to consider all of their sites going forward,” Palmquist adds. 

Technical aspects aside, he says the true measure of success is whether the project delivered a sense of security to all occupants. The answer here is a resounding “Yes,” Palmquist concludes.

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