It has been a long time coming, but the Bexar County Metro 911 Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is up and running, and the security systems implemented to protect the facility are among the best of the best. The regional operations center unifies emergency operations into one cutting-edge facility.

A New Home Built in San Antonio, Texas, the EOC provides a new home for the Bexar County Sheriff’s communications operations and is an alternate site for the San Antonio police and San Antonio fire and EMS operations. The facility is a joint operations center not only for Bexar County but also for Comal (New Braunfels) and Guadalupe (Sequin) counties.

Tight security system

All three counties touch dividing lines and are considered part of the San Antonio metro area. Bexar Metro 911 Executive Director Bill Buchholtz said building the facility has stayed on budget of $40 million, “give or take a couple of million.” The electrical system meets Tier IV data center standards for maintaining operations regardless of any unplanned activity, and the mechanical system meets Tier III standards.

Because the building is under a tight security system inside and out, it was also important that redundant systems were in place, as well as uninterrupted power. Employees based at the monitors on the main floor are given breaks every so often to decompress, relax and interact.

Early stages of planning

Alterman staff was fortunate to work with the general contractor in the early stages of planning security

Alterman Technologies was hired to provide, install and direct the security solutions effort for general contractor Whiting-Turner, who directed construction on the 81,500 square foot facility located on 11 acres of land. Alterman Technologies’ staff was fortunate to work with the general contractor in the early stages of planning security for this facility.

According to James Carmen, Alterman’s Project Engineer, being able to make early and consistent contact allowed for the integrator to help specify the types of security that they felt would most satisfy the end user. It also allowed the installation crew to be able to meet their integration deadline of 8 months, long before the overall construction of the facility was complete.

Enterprise access control systems

“We were able to evaluate all components of the security solution when we saw the demonstrations of the Lenel, Axis and Salient products,” Carmen said. “We’re pleased with the decisions we made to deploy this security equipment.”

To keep the facility secure, Alterman Technologies installed 170 IP cameras inside and out to enforce perimeter security. Now that the facility has been formally dedicated and is fully in use, if a person doesn’t have a reason to be on property, they aren’t getting inside. The facility is secure. Alterman Technologies installed 120 door enterprise access control systems, including iClass biometric readers.

Video management systems

To monitor both the outside perimeter and inside the building itself, 110 5 MP Axis Communications IP cameras were paired with Salient Enterprise video management systems integrated with the Lenel access control solution. Inside the operations center, the facility is outfitted with 100 55-inch video control systems side by side, all of which are integrated with video and audio control solutions.

During Hurricane Harvey, operators inside are able to coordinate any and all emergency and rescue operations

Inside the facility, there is a first-floor, open room for 104 operator desk consoles, where operators can keep tabs on all three counties. Operators sit in a 13,878-squarefoot Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) to handle all 911 calls, formerly managed at 25 different locations. In fact, during the recent Hurricane Harvey, operators inside are able to coordinate any and all emergency and rescue operations.

Getting behind the power

“The ability to have multiple supervisor control stations is a key feature, providing access to sources and allowing supervisors to manipulate the wall and change presets as needed,” said Art Salinas, Project Manager for Alterman Technologies. “It’s a great system with no real limitations. I believe the client has been pleased with the capability to control and preview content before it goes on the wall. They currently have about 30 preset displays.”

With the number of cameras and the video streaming to the facility, Salinas had to be certain the equipment he was recommending and the software that would power the system would work without a hitch, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “Our work to determine the right kind of solution was very involved, and we evaluated all the systems,” Salinas said. “When it came right down to it, we selected Lenel’s OnGuard for access control, Axis Communications IP cameras and Salient’s VMS and its PowerUltra servers. All of this is securely stored in an enclosed network so there is no worry of outside hacking.”

Perimeter security system

With three counties and multiple agencies using this facility, the security solutions have to be dependable"

Salient Regional Sales Representative Paul Fisher said the choice of VMS was truly an important decision because it had to be strong enough to stop any breaches but also be able to provide the ability to run the perimeter security system and the internal security. “Our VMS solution is able to take the lead with all the streaming video and push it wherever it is directed,” Fisher said.

“With three counties and multiple agencies using this facility, the security solutions have to be dependable, yet easy to use. We were invited in to demonstrate the system, and we were able to show numerous details that would benefit the end user. We are able to provide reliability and scalability, and we’re a local company, so that worked to our benefit as well,” Fisher said.

Law enforcement officials

The facility is designed to provide uninterrupted 911 services during various emergencies, including terrorist attacks and natural disasters. There also is an onsite helipad for access by law enforcement officials, should area roadways be closed or congested, and for staging for media during a public emergency. The building is constructed to withstand an EF3 tornado strike and to operate without any public utilities for an extended period of time.

“The mission of the facility is to provide that emergency response when a caller is quite possibly going through the worst experience of their life,” said James Hasslocher, Bexar Metro 911 Network District Chairman.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

In case you missed it

Which Security Technologies Are Becoming Outdated Or Obsolete?
Which Security Technologies Are Becoming Outdated Or Obsolete?

When technology performs a required task effectively, there is little reason to upgrade to the ‘next big thing’. In this regard, the physical security market is notoriously slow to change. Much of yesterday’s most robust and dependable equipment is still in place at thousands of customer sites, still performing as well as the day it was installed. However, there comes a point when any technology becomes outdated. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: Which security technologies are becoming outdated or obsolete?

Physical Security And The Cloud: Why One Can’t Work Without The Other
Physical Security And The Cloud: Why One Can’t Work Without The Other

Human beings have a long-standing relationship with privacy and security. For centuries, we’ve locked our doors, held close our most precious possessions, and been wary of the threats posed by thieves. As time has gone on, our relationship with security has become more complicated as we’ve now got much more to be protective of. As technological advancements in security have got smarter and stronger, so have those looking to compromise it. Cybersecurity Cybersecurity, however, is still incredibly new to humans when we look at the long relationship that we have with security in general. As much as we understand the basics, such as keeping our passwords secure and storing data in safe places, our understanding of cybersecurity as a whole is complicated and so is our understanding of the threats that it protects against. However, the relationship between physical security and cybersecurity is often interlinked. Business leaders may find themselves weighing up the different risks to the physical security of their business. As a result, they implement CCTV into the office space, and alarms are placed on doors to help repel intruders. Importance of cybersecurity But what happens when the data that is collected from such security devices is also at risk of being stolen, and you don’t have to break through the front door of an office to get it? The answer is that your physical security can lose its power to keep your business safe if your cybersecurity is weak. As a result, cybersecurity is incredibly important to empower your physical security. We’ve seen the risks posed by cybersecurity hacks in recent news. Video security company Verkada recently suffered a security breach as malicious attackers obtained access to the contents of many of its live camera feeds, and a recent report by the UK government says two in five UK firms experienced cyberattacks in 2020. Cloud computing – The solution Cloud stores information in data centres located anywhere in the world, and is maintained by a third party Cloud computing offers a solution. The cloud stores your information in data centres located anywhere in the world and is maintained by a third party, such as Claranet. As the data sits on hosted servers, it’s easily accessible while not being at risk of being stolen through your physical device. Here’s why cloud computing can help to ensure that your physical security and the data it holds aren’t compromised. Cloud anxiety It’s completely normal to speculate whether your data is safe when it’s stored within a cloud infrastructure. As we are effectively outsourcing our security by storing our important files on servers we have no control over - and, in some cases, limited understanding of - it’s natural to worry about how vulnerable this is to cyber-attacks. The reality is, the data that you save on the cloud is likely to be a lot safer than that which you store on your device. Cyber hackers can try and trick you into clicking on links that deploy malware or pose as a help desk trying to fix your machine. As a result, they can access your device and if this is where you’re storing important security data, then it is vulnerable. Cloud service providers Cloud service providers offer security that is a lot stronger than the software in the personal computer Cloud service providers offer security that is a lot stronger than the software that is likely in place on your personal computer. Hyperscalers such as Microsoft and Amazon Web Service (AWS) are able to hire countless more security experts than any individual company - save the corporate behemoth - could afford. These major platform owners have culpability for thousands of customers on their cloud and are constantly working to enhance the security of their platforms. The security provided by cloud service providers such as Claranet is an extension of these capabilities. Cloud resistance Cloud servers are located in remote locations that workers don’t have access to. They are also encrypted, which is the process of converting information or data into code to prevent unauthorized access. Additionally, cloud infrastructure providers like ourselves look to regularly update your security to protect against viruses and malware, leaving you free to get on with your work without any niggling worries about your data being at risk from hackers. Data centres Cloud providers provide sophisticated security measures and solutions in the form of firewalls and AI Additionally, cloud providers are also able to provide sophisticated security measures and solutions in the form of firewalls and artificial intelligence, as well as data redundancy, where the same piece of data is held within several separate data centres. This is effectively super-strong backup and recovery, meaning that if a server goes down, you can access your files from a backup server. Empowering physical security with cybersecurity By storing the data gathered by your physical security in the cloud, you're not just significantly reducing the risk of cyber-attacks, but also protecting it from physical threats such as damage in the event of a fire or flood. Rather than viewing your physical and cybersecurity as two different entities, treat them as part of one system: if one is compromised, the other is also at risk. They should work in tandem to keep your whole organization secure.

Hybrid Working And The Threat Of Desk Data
Hybrid Working And The Threat Of Desk Data

The transition to remote working has been a revelation for many traditional office staff, yet concerns over data security risks are rising. Mark Harper of HSM explains why businesses and their remote workers must remain vigilant when it comes to physical document security in homes. Pre-pandemic, home offices were often that neglected room in people’s homes. But now things are different. After the initial lockdown in 2020, 46.6% of UK workers did some work at home with 86% of those doing so because of the pandemic. Semi-Permanent workspaces Since then, many have found that over time, those semi-permanent workspaces have become slightly more permanent – with official hybrid working coming into effect for an assortment of businesses and their teams. The adoption of hybrid working can in fact be seen as one of the few positives to come from the pandemic, with less travel, more freedom and higher productivity top of the benefits list for businesses and their employees. The handling of sensitive documents, is a growing concern for office managers But those welcomed benefits don’t tell the whole story. The transition to remote working has undoubtedly impacted workplace security, with various touch points at risk. The handling of sensitive documents for example, is a growing concern for office managers. In simpler times, sensitive data was more or less contained in an office space, but with millions of home setups to now think about, how can businesses and their office managers control the issue of desk data? Physical document security As of January 2021, it’s said that one in three UK workers are based exclusively at home. That’s millions of individuals from a variety of sectors, all of which must continue in their efforts to remain data secure. With that, reports of cyber security fears are consistently making the news but that shouldn’t be the sole focus. There is also the underlying, but growing, issue of physical document security. The move to remote working hasn’t removed these physical forms of data – think hard drives, USBs and paper based documentation. A recent surge in demand for home printers for example, only exemplifies the use of physical documents and the potential security issues home offices are facing. Adding to that, research conducted in 2020 found that two out of three employees who printed documents at home admitted to binning those documents both in and outside of their house without shredding them. Data security concern Without the right equipment, policies and guidance, businesses are sure to be at risk Those findings present a huge data security concern, one that must be fixed immediately. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has since released guidance for those working from their bedrooms and dining tables. Designed to help overcome these challenges, the ‘security checklists’ and ‘top tips’ should be the first port of call for many. Yet throughout, the ICO make reference to ‘following your organization’s policies and guidance’ – highlighting that the onus isn’t solely on the individuals working from their makeshift offices. Office managers have a monumental task on their hands to ensure teams are well equipped within their home setups. Without the right equipment, policies and guidance, businesses are sure to be at risk. But it would be wrong to insinuate that unsecure desk data has only now become an issue for organizations. Modern office spaces Keeping clear desks has long been a battle for many office managers. In fact, clear desk policies are practiced in most modern office spaces, with it recognized as a key preventative to personal information being wrongly accessed and so falling foul of GDPR legislation. Throwing sensitive documents in the bin was never an option pre-pandemic However, the unsupervised aspect of home working has led to a potentially more lax approach to these policies, or in some cases, they can’t be followed at all. For those taking a more laid back approach, organization leaders must remind staff of their data security responsibilities and why clear desk policies have previously proven effective. Ultimately, throwing sensitive documents in the bin was never an option pre-pandemic and this must be carried through to home workspaces now. Securely destroy documents There are also concerns over the equipment people have access to at home. For example, without a reliable home shredding solution, data security suddenly becomes a tougher task. To add to that, several recommendations state that employees working from home should avoid throwing documents away by instead transporting them to the office for shredding once lockdown rules ease. While this is an option, it does pose further issues, with document security at risk of accidental loss or even theft throughout the transportation period, not to mention the time spent in storage. The best and most effective way to securely destroy documents is at the source, especially in environments where higher levels of personal data is regularly handled. Correct shredding equipment The recent findings on home office behavior represent a true security risk Only when home workers implement their own clear desk policies alongside the correct shredding equipment (at the correct security level), can both home office spaces and regular offices become data secure. Realistically, these solutions should, like the common home printer, become a staple in home office spaces moving forward. The likelihood is that many UK workers will remain in their home offices for the foreseeable future, only to emerge as hybrid workers post-pandemic. And while the current working environment is more ideal for some than others, the recent findings on home office behavior represent a true security risk to organizations. With this in mind, it’s now more key than ever for business leaders, their office managers and homeworkers to all step up and get a handle on home data security policies (as well as maintaining their standards back at the office) – starting with the implementation of clear desk policies. After all, a clear desk equals a clear mind.