Modernization & Centralization of a Legacy Physical Security… | P2S

Case Study

Modernization and Centralization of a Legacy Physical Security System

Modern communication technology, such as fiber optic data networks, can allow cities to maintain extremely high levels of situational awareness. This awareness cannot be leveraged without IP-compatible systems and technology to transmit data over these networks. In many Southern California cities, municipal physical security typically consists of a plethora of disparate equipment installed over a period averaging 20 years, including:

  • Newer, enterprise-level IP systems with a full suite of features and benefits.
  • Equipment that is IP based but is proprietary in nature and will not integrate easily, if at all, with other IP systems. Even when successful, such integrations are typically troublesome to maintain, and patches and upgrades to the host system can disrupt integration functionality.
  • Equipment that is IP based and integrates well with other systems but has been discontinued and is no longer manufactured and for which repair services and replacement parts are no longer available.
  • Older analog systems that are not IP compatible, or only IP compatible through utilization of encoders, and even then, are very difficult to integrate with other systems.
  • Infrastructure that ranges from 60-year-old leased-line copper pairs to fiber optic cabling.

In addition, cities often fall victim to “institutional knowledge,” where knowledge of key aspects regarding the city’s systems, infrastructure, and pathways is passed down among successive generations of city employees and is often not recorded on any record drawings, or the record drawings that do exist are located at each site as hard copy that is often faded and illegible. Institutional knowledge invariably leads to a lack of understanding of the capabilities and limitations of these systems, infrastructure, and pathways.

Eliminating the shortfalls of institutional knowledge is a vital component of any effort to modernize a city-wide system. This is particularly important where physical security systems are involved, as they tend to be data-intensive, and the transport and presentation of that data can have life-safety implications.

Let’s look at how P2S, Inc. helped one Southern California municipality through this type of modernization project.

In February 2019, the City of Burbank approached P2S and requested assistance with the City-wide duress alarm system. City officials reported that the system was failing, with multiple duress stations that were suffering from performance issues, including:

  • Stations suffering from false/nuisance alarms.
  • Stations where the buttons failed to produce a response when activated.

Upon investigation and assessment of this system, P2S discovered a leased-line 6-volt polarity reversal (6V/PR) system, a technology dating from the 1970s. A 6V/PR circuit is a dedicated twisted-pair copper line extending from the duress button station through a 6-volt power supply to a twisted-pair crossover device with an associated LED. In a standard condition, the circuit polarity is reversed, and the LED is dark. Upon button activation, circuit polarity is corrected and the associated LED illuminates, indicating the station in alarm. In this particular instance, the crossover device was located within the Burbank Police Department Dispatch Communications (BPDDC) room within the Police Department Headquarters Building.

The system and its infrastructure were assessed starting from this point.

Assessing the field system infrastructure proved to be exceptionally difficult. The twisted-pair cabling, which in some cases extended as far as 25,000 – 30,000 feet from the BPDDC, was found to be distributed with standard analog phone-line circuits throughout the city telecom pathways as well as within buildings. Line tags were observed to be either missing or so old and faded as to be illegible. Inductive toning of the circuits proved to be only partially successful, as there are opens, shorts, and ground faults throughout the cabling. P2S rapidly discovered that this infrastructure was no longer serviceable and that a completely new duress system and associated cabling infrastructure were required to both restore the system as well as future-proof it.

System power supplies were observed ranging from typical purpose-built 6-Volt DC power supplies with battery backup to plug-in transformers for small appliances with the plug cut off of the power cord and the exposed copper pair punched down onto a 66 / 110 block. These were observed to have no fusing other than the secondary in the transformer, and neither the transformer nor the associated cabling were identified as the power supply for a critical safety device. Utilizing the power supply in this fashion removes the UL rating, which means that non-UL Listed devices are producing voltage and introducing it into an unknown number of telecom circuits across the city.

Further complicating efforts was the discovery that an unknown number of industrial monitoring devices, such as thermostats, pumps, and water-detection sensors, had also been deployed and connected to the 6V/PR system.

After a thorough assessment of every known location connected to the 6V/PR system, P2S was ready to move towards finding a solution. The wide-ranging knowledge bank available to P2S engineers and designers provided information that Burbank had an extensive fiber optic network deployed throughout the city. Anticipating that leveraging this existing asset would be the most cost-effective path forward, P2S proposed that Burbank deploy a series of IP-compatible intrusion detection control panels connected to the fiber optic network throughout Burbank, wherever duress buttons existed or were required. The City’s Construction Superintendent, Dean Pearson, agreed with this reasoning and provided P2S with a follow-up work order to both design this new system as well as select and oversee a city-approved security contractor to provide and install the system.

P2S selected Digital Monitoring Products (DMP) as the recommended system headend, primarily due to the reporting capabilities of their control panels. Most control panels only have the capability to establish effective communications with what is known as a Central Station Receiver (CSR). This is a complex server-type device, capable of simultaneously accommodating multiple incoming phone lines / IP data streams. Systems of this type require supporting hardware and supplemental automation software in order to present the data to an operator. They are typically intended for a central-station type application that sub-contracts alarm monitoring services for commercial burglar alarm companies. A full CSR solution would, therefore, not be a cost-effective means with which to monitor a duress alarm system, even city-wide. DMP panels, however, have a supporting software platform known as Entre. The Entre platform is primarily designed to monitor and interact with DMP XR series control panels that have access control as a component. However, it also provides complete status and activity reporting for any zone on the alarm panel(s). This would allow Burbank Police Dispatchers to receive direct notification from the Entre system of any duress button activation in a textual format, supplemented by a floor plan showing the location of the button in alarm with a flashing red icon.

Two Burbank City-approved contractors were chosen to implement this project, and all of the installation, programming, and configuration activities were overseen by P2S.

With a successful conclusion to this project, P2S was able to move the City of Burbank from a malfunctioning and unreliable duress reporting system to a modern, scalable system that -

  • Provides a better sense of safety and security for public-facing City employees.
  • Does not require the expense of an AT&T-provided dedicated copper pair leased line for each duress button as the 6V/PR system did.
  • Has fully supervised circuits for the duress buttons indicating alarm, trouble, or nominal condition of the circuit.
  • Can be integrated through Application Programming Interface / Software Development Kit (API/SDK) or existing integration with Enterprise Level security platforms such as Genetec, Milestone, Ocularis, etc.
  • Has components that are readily identifiable, are inventoried in the Entre system database, and have electronic record drawings available showing equipment location and system information for each site.

The system headend has been brought online, and the original known duress button locations have had the new DMP control panels and duress buttons installed. Initial system configuration and testing were completed in December of 2022, and the city reports that personnel in the various locations and departments as being very satisfied with the new system.

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