Customs secures detention facility with wireless, video, PIV access

As a part of the GSA-led effort to bring federal buildings in compliance with the Homeland Security Presidential Directive, Customs and Border Protection wanted to explore adding additional features to the standard FIPS-201 access control systems being upgraded at a number of facilities.

Smart Cards

The Guard Tour program would help officers document activity in detention cells. Using the agency-issued smart Personal Identity Verification (PIV) cards that every government employee uses for physical and logical access to government facilities, this system would produce notifications when a guard stop is missed, overdue or completed.

Port facilities are equipped with detention cells designed to temporarily house subjects for security purposes. The requested feature would provide an audit trail of guard visitations to each detention cell and document that detainees are being properly monitored. The importance of this feature became apparent this summer when a San Diego student was awarded a $4 million settlement for going completely unattended for four days while in temporary detention.

From an operational standpoint, the Guard Tour solution’s automation lets officers focus on other important aspects of their assignments, knowing that they and their supervisors will be notified when it is time to tour and record cell activity.

“We knew what the concern was,” said Duane Pittman, president of Vector Electric Inc., GSA’s partner in the upgrades. “We just needed to solve it electronically.”

VEI began the process by contacting a number of top access control providers, and found that Brivo Systems “was the only company willing to take the time to design the hardware and software and to make it non-proprietary,” said Pittman.

VEI began installing the Brivo Guard Tour systems under a GSA contract at three Land Port of Entry (LPOE) locations in Michigan in 2010. After observing the systems in operation for a number of months and documenting supervisor input, VEI and Brivo found additional ways to make Guard Tour even more effective and efficient.

These features included officer activated keypad commands, cell block data entry, secure wireless mobile control functionality, intuitive camera surveillance capabilities and customized reporting features.

“We were challenged to deal with meeting their needs,” Pittman said. “As it turns out, security officers needed to document the detainee’s condition after taking each tour, and this was generating a lot of paper. With software upgrades to the Brivo Aparato, we proposed to duplicate the required forms in the system, no wasted paper, everything in one place.”

Armed with this new information, VEI began looking for companies that could partner their technologies to help us provide a total, but modular, solution.

“The overall goal for the new, integrated solution was to create a seamless and integrated user experience using technologies that are easily integrated and non-proprietary — allowing for a larger range of choices to fulfill agency needs and directives,” Pittman said.

With this goal in mind, and to ensure the delivery of an advanced solution that met the government’s rigorous security directives, VEI began to work with Capital Communications, LTG Federal and Gage International to develop a total system solution.

“Another critical factor is the current government budget situation,” said Bill Knapp, director of business development at Capital Communications. “We had to be able to design a highly effective solution that is HSPD-12 and FIPS-201 compliant and could incorporate as much of CBP’s legacy equipment investment as possible.”

The technologies selected for the CBP include Brivo Systems for ACS OnSite Aparato HSPD-12 FIPS 201 compliant physical access control system, Video Insight for video surveillance and video management, IQinVision for high definition megapixel video surveillance cameras, Veracity Cold Store for network video storage, Xirrus for secure FIPS-140-2 wireless network access arrays and HID Global for FIPS-201 compliant transparent readers.

The Wireless Capability

The three original LPOE sites proved to be the test ground for Guard Tour. However, after gaining confidence with the Brivo management system, GSA and CBP wanted to incorporate many of these new features and use the Brivo Aparato for access control at the entire facility. The facility selected was the Detroit Windsor Tunnel.

The facility now uses Brivo to manage access control of all its doors and the Guard Tour system to manage detainee cells. Working with wireless provider Xirrus, the tunnel facility incorporated a secure FIPS 140-2 compliant wireless mobile control feature.

“One of the key aspects of the wireless capability was that a high level of system engineering needed to be done to ensure that signals would not bleed outside the designated buildings and that the network would run independent of the CBP network,” Knapp said. “The Xirrus FIPS-140-2 compliant technologies fit that bill,” Knapp said.

Using the Xirrus, FIPS-140-2 secure wireless technology, the integrated Guard Tour and access control functions of the facility can now be monitored and controlled by supervisors or officers who are either on the scene or remote, using the mobile tablets that were provided as a part of the system solution.

“This becomes a true force multiplier, allowing the entire organization to be more efficient and effective in the line of duty,” Knapp said.

The Video Component

The Detroit Windsor Tunnel facility also is equipped with a legacy video surveillance system. Integrating this into the total solution would allow the video cameras to respond to access control and detainee cell-related events. VEI proposed that video be integrated into the system in the future. Meanwhile, in mid-2012 VEI began installing another system at a CBP facility that did incorporate the surveillance cameras in the system. The Gibraltar Border Patrol station, which is located near Detroit and just a few miles from the Lake Erie border line with Canada, went online in 2013 incorporating this feature.

The video surveillance system at this facility uses a combination of legacy analog cameras and new IQinVision network IP cameras. Video management and storage is handled by the Video Insight system.

Vector Electric and Capital Communications have been installing and fine tuning this integrated security solution, with the prominent Guard Tour feature, for CBP facilities for more than three years and the innovation continues.

“The Gibraltar location is the highest level of integration and seamless operation of this number of systems we have achieved thus far in our installations,” Pittman said. “What’s more, this system is cloud ready, allowing the agency and end user to implement this technology solution as an end-to-end managed service. “It’s just a matter of time when the end user decides to make the transition.”


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