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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sierra Detention Systems - A New Era in Facilities Management

Using InduSoft Software, Sierra Detention Systems Is Helping to Ensure the Security of a Community

 

The sleek InduSoft HMI screens on the touch-screen panel,  shown forward right, are light years ahead of the old-style hard panels, depicted on the left.
  • Using InduSoft, Sierra was able to offer their customer one-stop shopping—a huge competitive advantage given the disparity of the systems they were attempting to manage.

  • InduSoft Web Studio enabled the control of 2,000 devices and 35 HMI screens that replaced the old-style hard panels.

  • The solution developed by Sierra Detention Systems ensures that security officers can work more coherently as a team, by providing a true control system for the entire facility.
The sleek InduSoft HMI screens on the touch-screen panel,  shown forward right, are light years ahead of the old-style hard panels, depicted on the left.


Background

 Whether we like it or not, correctional facilities are a fact of civilized life. And as prison systems have evolved to become more sophisticated and secure, policies and procedures have evolved to ensure that security. Nobody is more aware of this evolution than Sierra Detention Systems.

For more than 30 years Russell Pilcher at Sierra has been developing, implementing, and servicing full-scale detention center solutions, including locking systems and security electronics. And that’s why the Adams County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado turned to them when they decided to upgrade their detention facility.


The Challenge

As technology progresses, people invariably find ways to use it to gain some advantage. This reality is no different for detention facilities. In an environment that is specifically dedicated to housing criminals, dozens of things can go wrong at any one time. The goal of the staff and management is to continually find ways to minimize the risk to themselves, the public, and other inmates.

In the case of detention facilities, a complicating factor is that the facilities themselves age and—if not properly maintained—they can lapse into disrepair, which compromises security. Periodic reviews therefore dictate facility maintenance plans and upgrades. When upgrades such as new cameras or access systems are mandated, facility managers have the opportunity to employ other complementary new technology to further assist the staff in carrying out their mission.

When upgrades were required at the Adams County Detention Facility, the Sheriff ’s Office faced a monumental task. The requirements included upgrades to multiple disparate systems, which meant they were initially forced to engage multiple vendors to tie in new systems with existing ones.

Previous upgrades had produced a complex matrix of closed circuit televisions, intercoms, access, locking, and alarm systems. These systems, while initially innovative and valuable, had become dated, and better technology to more effectively secure the facility is now available. Also, the individual systems were tied together using separate procedures.

If, for example, an officer needed to open an area, he would be required to first check the area visually with a closed circuit TV camera. Then the officer would check the procedures to determine which doors should be unlocked and in which order.

To make matters worse, the visual acuity for these cameras was lacking compared to those available today. Further, they recorded visual data at a speed of only three frames per second. According to Lt Clint Tweden of the Adams County Sheriff ’s Office, “The advantage of the old DVR system, as it was sold to us, was that we could store video footage and review any incident at a later time. The reality, however, is that storage is extremely limited, and the slow recording rate doesn’t always permit officers to have a detailed look at a specific incident.While the DVR system was superior to the VHS system it replaced, the technology seemed ancient compared to the digital camera and monitors available today.”

In short, the Adams County Sheriff ’s Office understood that they needed to implement a new, seamlessly integrated, macro security system that also employed the latest technology.

They selected Sierra as a one-stop-shop to develop the system. Sierra partnered with InduSoft and Omron to make it happen.

Sierra was able to develop a visual representation of the entire facility, enabling officers to quickly assess the status of any sector in the detention center.

Sierra was able to develop a visual representation of the entire facility, enabling officers to quickly assess the status of any sector in the detention center.

The Solution

InduSoft offered Sierra Detention Systems a way to develop an entirely new security system that integrated all the upgraded subsystems officers had been using and managing separately. They began by developing a visual representation of the entire facility. Then they programmatically tied in all the subsystems such as cameras and intercoms along with their associated locations within the facility.

The Adams County Detention system also leveraged the strategic alliance between InduSoft and Omron Electronics, the designated, approved controls vendor for the project.

The Strategic Alliance between the two companies provides added capabilities and saves hours of engineering and development time. That’s because when InduSoft Web Studio is coupled with Omron controls, they form an ideal control system. For example, the software includes a tag database import utility for Omron’s controller programming software, CXProgrammer, and a direct driver that uses Omron’s FINS Gateway protocol. Together, these two features seamlessly integrate InduSoft Web Studio and all the Omron controls.

“As the controls vendor of choice on this project we understand the critical nature of securing detention centers and we’ve worked closely with both InduSoft and Sierra to ensure we had an iron clad system.” said Rich Gamboa, Omron Project Sales Group Manager. “All locks, lights, closed circuit TV systems, and intercoms are controlled using the Omron CS1 Series PLCs.”

The result was a completely integrated security system. Chris White, Electronics Controls Engineer for Sierra remarked, “The HMI package we delivered is a true control package. The software will eventually tie together nearly 300 cameras, 600 intercoms, 700 controlled doors, 70 different lighting and power circuits, and 100 fire zones—all in a single HMI.” The benefits to the Sheriff ’s Office have been immense.

Now, for example, when an officer activates an intercom, a camera is also automatically activated so that other officers manning the Command Center can immediately assess the officer’s situation. Also, procedures can be programmatically enforced. “Officers no longer have the opportunity to open two doors at the same time if procedures don’t permit such an action.” said Lt. Tweden.

Another significant benefit is the events record. White went on to mention “Every event throughout the facility can not only be monitored, but it is recorded in real time. Now if there is an inadvertent policy violation, it can be reviewed and analyzed to prevent future violations. Policies and procedures can also be updated as needed based on periodic reviews of recorded events.”

And although other vendors could have provided such a system, InduSoft did it faster and cheaper. “We estimate that the system was approximately 1/3 the cost of a comparable system from any other vendor.” White said. And while it’s nice to do something faster than the competition, the real benefit was the ability to easily integrate so many disparate systems.

Using InduSoft Web Studio, Sierra was able to integrate approximately 2,000 individual devices from four different vendors in a matter of months.

 

Thanks to the articulate interface, made possible by InduSoftWeb Studio, the facility can be easily monitored around the clock.
 Thanks to the articulate interface, made possible by InduSoftWeb Studio, the facility can be easily monitored around the clock.

The Results

The Adams County Sheriff’s Office reports tremendous benefits from the InduSoft solution designed and implemented by Sierra. A typical example is something as simple as managing laundry room access. Lt. Tweden reports that “We have a stringent policy regarding the use of the laundry room. Procedures require that it can be in use only during certain hours and that while it is in use that occupants must be monitored at all times. Together, InduSoft and Omron enabled us to ensure that a) the policy is enforced and b) that any potential violations are recorded, which assists in changes to the policy when necessary.”

Such a simple policy enforcement capability might not seem significant to those not in the business of security, but given the fact that the facility is designed for criminals, details count.

The new system also provides a true Master Control. Previously, the facility contained several control stations that monitored a portion of the facility, controlling several assigned cameras for that area. A centralized control station existed, but it could only be used to monitor a portion of the facility. Now the Master Control can monitor not only areas using its primary cameras as before – but any other area as well. The system also added a Command Center for Command officers to have the ability to monitor every camera and every door in the facility in the event of a major incident.

InduSoft Web Studio enabled Sierra to represent the entire facility and all 2,000 devices on a collection of 35 HMI screens throughout the facility eliminating the hard control panels. Now the entire facility can be controlled with a mouse or a touch screen.

When asked if the system also made the facility more efficient and enabled them to do more with less, Tweden replied “Something we value greater than efficiency is effectiveness. We still require the same number of officers to do the job, but the entire staff is more effective and can more easily work together as a coherent unit. The tax payers of Adams county Colorado can sleep at night knowing that we can do our job better and that the facility is more secure.”


 









For more information contact your local distributor or InduSoft directly at

info@indusoft.com or 877-INDUSOFT (877-463-8763) or 512-349-0334.


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