Success in Campus Security

One Cohesive Protection System for Western Washington University

Breaches to security by students on a campus and the frequency of campus arsons (an estimated 1,000 per year) have given many school administrators the reason to upgrade their institution's infrastructure of communications, establishing a higher degree of safety for students and personnel. Located in Lynnwood, WA., Federal Firesafety Inc.—a company specializing in the design and the installation of high-end fire alarm and security systems helped Western Washington University to achieve such a goal. Edwards Systems Technology (EST) in Connecticut manufactures the system known as the FireWorks Snergy System that is unique because security and access control functions are combined in truly one system, giving personnel the much needed information for effective action. Whereas, in the industry, a majority of these type of systems are separate and require gateways or relays to talk between fire and security.

Vital to this goal is Ethernet technology suitable to create the required connectivity. This is one of the first Ethernet installations of this magnitude for this type of application ever accomplished according to Federal Firesafety. More than 34 thousand devices, i.e. Smoke Detectors, Pull Stations, Motion Sensors, Duress buttons or other items to be monitored are part of the network.

TCP/IP, used at the recommendation of EST, is the protocol. TCP/IP powers the Internet, but it is known for its reliability and efficiency. It also allows for the interoperability between the system's existing and new equipment.

As part of the upgrade, Federal Firesafety approached Contemporary Controls, Downers, Grove, Ill., as the supplier for the six- and eight-port Ethernet switches in the system based on the results of the testing of the products conducted by EST in several Beta sites. Any adverse situations were critical to the selection of these switches, as the system needs to access important information with split-second timing.

In this application, removing the grounding on these switches was significant because unlike industrial control systems, fire alarm systems always float above ground. In this way, fire alarm systems can measure the wires for integrity by potential to ground. "A ground is cause for concern as the system may not function as required," explains Chris Golian, vice president of Federal Firesafety. "Multiple grounds create a path between circuits and may be the source for failure."

"Another important fact," says Golian, "is that we'll always be able to receive a consistent supply from Contemporary Controls. In my business, you develop the plans and submittals a year before construction. If the product we select is no longer available, it can mean a redesign and a resubmittal, even if there is a replacement that works in the same manner."


The Project

Western Washington University is a liberal arts college situated in Bellingham, just 90 miles north of Seattle. The University maintains 73 buildings on a 215-acre campus and 15 residence halls housing 4,000 students.

In November of 2002, Federal Firesafety was contracted by the University to upgrade the combined fire, security and access control system throughout the campus. The need for the upgrade was no surprise. The method of communications for the fire alarm and security systems were separate and primitive. "The fire alarm system used the McCullogh Loop (telegraph) format, providing a very slow and limited data transmission," explained Golian. "The security system was DOS-based and not completely Y2K-compliant."

Western Washington University

Due to the nature of the project, access control and security were tied together into the fire system. "This was unique in the industry," said Golian. "Because of this type of system, it was necessary that all devices—security, FireWorks terminals, serial device servers, monitors and Ethernet switches had to acquire UL 864 Recognition." This means the components had to pass stringent hardware tests in order to acquire a UL Listing on the system. UL 864 Recognition is required to meet the NFPA 72 code requirements that any communications path used for transmitting critical life safety data be listed for fire-protective signaling use. In the fire alarm industry that communication path is known as the Signaling Line Circuit. If any component is not Recognized, then the Listing for the entire system is lost.

One reason for the system's success was the selection of the Ethernet switches from Contemporary Controls, resulting in the system becoming more valuable in terms of its features.
The company's switches are marketed under the CTRLink® trade name, its new Industrial Ethernet product line. CTRLink—from repeating hubs to managed switching hubs to media converters—is designed to be cost-effective and to improve network performance.

The switches had to meet key criteria for this application. "Reliability was an important factor in terms of monitoring and controlling security and life safety situations," said Golian. "We encountered cost benefits because of their convenient mounting provisions. These units offered plug-and-play technology that saved us labor time because there was no set-up or configuration required. Plug-and-play technology allowed us to take the switches out of the box, mount them in the cabinets, power them and plug in the fiber. But the most significant benefit was greater flexibility. With only a small amount of available bandwidth used, we were able to add more card readers and video controls without shutting down the network or expending a lot of engineering hours. The system can support more than 4,000 access doors alone."

The Contemporary Controls' EIS8-100T switch provides eight 10/100 Mbps copper ports utilizing RJ-45 connectors. The EIS6-100T/FT is a similar design but with only four copper ports
and two fiber optic ports utilizing ST connectors. The fiber optic units can be deployed over long distances (up to 2 km) and in locations where high noise immunity is required. The switches offer wide range AC/DCoperation, but for this application, they only need to operate from low-voltage DC power. An MTBF of more than 40 years gives these switches an added networking advantage.

Another reason for the system's success was EST's FireWorks hardware and software technology designed to work with security, life safety and property protection systems. Using the latest Windows® operating system and FireWorks software, an operator can protect the
University by viewing the four-quadrant display that details events from high to low priority— exactly what is occurring on campus.

The quadrants are the Map Quadrant, the Image Quadrant, Event List Quadrant and the Event Action Quadrant. The Map Quadrant give the operator an overview of the emergency in the context of its surroundings and the entire University. The Image Quadrant displays images relating to the emergency or even live video of the emergency itself. For example, it can show the model of a smoke detector in a residence hall that is in alarm. The Event List Quadrant displays the events in order of priority, from high to low—color-coded by priority. The Event Action Quadrant provides instructions on how to respond to the emergency, and also to acknowledge that these instructions have been carried out.

FireWorks is invaluable as a tool for preventative maintenance. Operators are able to retrieve system reports such as disabled devices and system history in order to manage the University more efficiently and to reduce the operating budget.

It also prevents unwanted alarms by permitting authorized personnel to disconnect affected devices during construction or renovations that could compromise proper system responses.


The System Architecture

The system architecture communicates over Ethernet in 35 buildings on the campus with plans to convert one more building this summer and all the residence halls in the next few years. Devices can be positioned side-by-side or miles apart.

The Ethernet is monitored full time for integrity. The data transmitted must get through to allow annunciation of an emergency condition and control of the fire alarm panels from a central computer installed at a critical point within each of the buildings. Golian indicated that school administrators asked Federal Firesafety to demonstrate possible collisions. They activated alarms in ten buildings simultaneously with no lack of response.

Interior of the Communications Cabinet

The access control database computer is separate from the monitoring and control computer. (The monitoring and control computer (FireWorks) database had to be built from scratch with imports from the fire alarm and security panels in each building and updated CAD floor plans.)

UL 864 Listed FireWorks terminals all reside on the Ethernet network and are positioned in the buildings near the installation of the fire alarm system. Copper or fiber connection to the next terminal is determined by distance. Several EIS8-100T's, connected by CAT 5 cabling, are employed when the terminals are short distances apart on the network.

The system architecture locks together through the switches. All had ST fiber connectors for the campus loop and 4-CAT 5 ports for the panels. The switches are installed in a separate cabinet
adjacent to each fire alarm panel located in each of the 32 building's secure electrical room. Each panel has two outputs connected by RS-232 to two serial device servers. These device servers are
mounted within the fire alarm control panel and cables via CAT 5 patch cables to the fiber switch.

Golian said Federal Firesafety utilized an existing spare pair of multimode fiber circulating throughout the campus. One administrative building has multimode to unimode converters on each end because there was no multimode to this facility.

The length of the fiber between switches is an average 270 m, in some cases more than 1000 m. The unimode run is just under two miles.

Fire/Security alarm cabinet

"In this project, it was understandable that safety was a major issue" stressed Golian. "That's why the Contemporary Controls' fiber switches can be powered by two separate and constant sources of power and the loop has a terminal on each end. Each switch is powered at 24 V DC by the fire alarm panel it is serving. In addition, we utilized a secondary hookup of a battery on the diode protected 2nd power supply connection. This provides continuity of the fiber network if a fire alarm panel must be powered down for maintenance. In addition, there is a dial up modem provided in case of a complete failure caused when a backhoe takes out the loop by accident."

Typically, one FireWorks terminal is located in the police dispatch console of the campus services building. The operator in police dispatch monitors all devices in the buildings by viewing the floor plans. The system flashes red for fire and orange for security. For example, when a smoke sensor or security violation occurs, the FireWorks system displays the exact location of the device and the type of alarm so fire or police personnel know where to arrive at the scene. In the event of a fault or even dirt building up in a smoke detector over time, the system will indicate which device in order to reduce troubleshooting and speed the response in an emergency.

The other terminal in the campus services building is located in the security equipment room. This is not staffed by any personnel but is used to perform maintenace. The campus technicians can test and disable devices from their terminal without disturbing dispatch to quickly detect the problem and fix it. Again, copper or fiber connection to the next terminal is determined by distance the campus.

The project was completed in September of 2003. Golian feels assured that as Western Washington University intends further expansion, Contemporary Controls' engineers will respond with the effective action so readily displayed in the University's cohesive system. "Contemporary Controls' engineers listened to me when I requested information and solved the problem with the correction of the ground," says Golian. "Contemporary Controls response and action was excellent."