Revamping Security on Campus

Revamping Security on Campus

University of Central Florida (UCF) strives to protect one of the country’s largest educational institutions

THE UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA (UCF), A PUBLIC RESEARCH UNIVERSITY IN ORLANDO, FLA., IS ONE OF THE LARGEST UNIVERSITIES IN THE UNITED STATES. WITH MORE THAN 64,000 STUDENTS AND 12,000 FACULTY AND STAFF SPREAD ACROSS 13 COLLEGES, 3 LARGE CAMPUSES AND 10 REGIONAL LOCATIONS, PROVIDING PHYSICAL SECURITY CAN BE CHALLENGING. IN AN EFFORT TO ENHANCE SECURITY ACROSS THE 1,415 ACRE MAIN CAMPUS AND ITS REGIONAL CAMPUSES, UCF CREATED THE DEPARTMENT OF SECURITY AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT IN DECEMBER 2014, WHICH COMBINED THE EXISTING OFFICE OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT WITH A NEWLY-FORMED OFFICE OF SECURITY MANAGEMENT. THE NEW DEPARTMENT WAS TASKED WITH ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM OF DECENTRALIZED SECURITY AND KEY SYSTEMS, AS WELL AS CONTINUING TO ENHANCE OVERALL SECURITY THROUGH UPGRADES TO EXISTING BUILDINGS AND CREATING PHYSICAL SECURITY STANDARDS FOR ALL NEW CAMPUS CONSTRUCTION.

To tackle the problem of decentralized security, the primary focus was to consolidate more than 2,200 cameras which were streaming to 58 recording servers, and to create policies and standards for where and how they are installed, used and maintained. In addition, the office had to address concerns about the proper retention and preventing unauthorized release of nearly 1 petabyte of video being stored at any given time. UCF’s access control was also disparate, with many different technologies, card formats and a widespread use of physical keys for more than 12,000 doors on the main campus alone. The varying access control technologies and key systems sometimes made it challenging for university personnel to gain access to certain buildings and rooms.

“I realized immediately that to start fixing the problems, we needed a plan,” said Jeff Morgan, UCF’s director of security and emergency management. “I began with identifying as many gaps as possible, and then planned to hire dedicated staff to begin improvements.”

The current security team at UCF is small but making an immediate and positive impact. Jeff started by hiring an Assistant Director of Security to lead the team. From there, UCF has hired two additional professionals from within their workforce who had experience in both security and information technology. The first addition to the team was Jacob Hughey, in July 2015, to manage security camera operations, maintenance and projects, and to help address the problem of having multiple recording servers in various locations across campus. UCF has shown their commitment to improving physical security by funding necessary infrastructure upgrades. Within just a few months, they purchased and installed a new 3.0 petabyte centralized server farm for the security camera footage and upgraded their video management software with the latest version.

In April 2016, Steven Freund was hired to manage the university’s access control system, work on converting disparate systems to the campus standard system, and increase the number of access controlled doors. He performed the first software upgrade of the access control software, which was three years behind the latest version. Both Jacob and Steven have implemented formal training for end users, started coordinating all installations and maintenance, and have formed strong partnerships with UCF’s IT Team, which they feel is a critical step moving forward.

This team has also been involved with designing the physical security for all new construction projects including academic buildings, utility buildings, research facilities, parking garages, the marching band practice facility, athletics facilities and retail locations. The team is designing the security for a new Downtown Orlando campus with new academic buildings, parking garages and a public safety space. The office’s staff attends all construction meetings from concept through completed construction and works closely with the architects, general contractors, electricians, security integrator and other subcontractors as necessary.

Some security professionals are fortunate to have the opportunity to be involved in helping build security into a newly constructed building once in their career. The UCF Security team has been involved in more than 10 new buildings and hundreds of minor projects, and UCF is continuing to grow at a rapid pace.

Looking to the future, Jeff recognizes the need to proactively monitor security at UCF. To accomplish this goal, he is designing and building a Global Security Operations Center (GSOC). Morgan stated, “UCF has a very state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center, but during Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 and during many exercises, we realized that we needed a dedicated location to monitor and respond to security concerns as they occur and provide real-time situational awareness.”

UCF is undergoing the physical and technological design of their GSOC with two video walls, three state-of-the-art workstations, and interoperability with the UCF Police Dispatch Center. The GSOC will have the ability to monitor security cameras, guard force operations, access control, and students and faculty who are traveling internationally.

“During many of the recent international incidents that have occurred, it was difficult to arrange timely communication with UCF students traveling abroad. UCF is increasing its travel abroad program from 300 students to 3,000 students in the upcoming year and looking at having future campuses overseas. We are creating this GSOC with that in mind, and putting technology and processes in place to actively monitor traveler locations for natural disasters, terrorist attacks and political unrest,” said Morgan.

UCF hosts many large special events, and the security team had to come up with a way to provide a flexible security solution to enhance the safety of the UCF community. For example, UCF hosts events such football and basketball tailgating, as well as Spirit Splash, which is UCF’s annual Homecoming week tradition. During Spirit Splash, 10,000 to 15,000 students run into the iconic Reflecting Pond, which is adjacent to the university’s main administration building. For these types of events, the team designed and built a mobile camera platform to set up security surveillance in any location at any time. As the team has strong local community police partnerships, they worked with local law enforcement partners to build a wireless camera network. UCF put this system to use for a political campaign visit by President Obama as well as the Florida U.S. Senatorial Debate between Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Patrick Murphy.

To make the wireless camera system work, they outfitted a lightly used UCF broadcast truck to become their new Security Communications Operations University Truck, which they refer to as “SCOUT.” Since it was put into service, it has been used for multiple events not only on campus, but also at the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl Game at Camping World Stadium and the 2017 Daytona 500. The vehicle has a 50-foot mast with two pan tilt zoom (PTZ) cameras, 4 deployable PTZs on tripods, and 4 outward facing security cameras providing security on all sides of the truck. The truck can run on a built-in generator or be plugged into a 50 amp circuit. It has a public safety radio and campus radio system, which can be used as a repeater to allow radio communications to work, even without a nearby radio tower to receive and transmit the signals. The communications capability was the result of the security team working closely with their UCF Emergency Management partners, specifically Joe Thalheimer, UCF’s Warning and Communications Coordinator. This truck gives UCF a mobile security and communications capability which can be used anywhere on any of UCF’s campuses for events or in areas where there is a lack of adequate security camera coverage.

The department isn’t stopping there. In addition to its numerous accomplishments to date, they are evaluating and implementing a License Plate Recognition (LPR) system to be installed around campus to help support UCF Parking Services and UCF Police. They continue to build their partnership with UCF IT, as many of the new technologies rely on UCF’s network infrastructure. To make sure the security devices perform well on the wired or wireless network and meet expectations for quality and reliability, UCF IT now bench tests and field tests every new model of camera and card reader before using them on campus.

“We are partnering with our key hardware manufacturers to communicate our requirements and goals, as well as to be some of the first to evaluate new products as they are announced,” said Morgan. “These partnerships have allowed us to maintain and enhance the interoperability of our security systems. UCF’s vision is to continue growing the Department of Security and Emergency Management to meet the existing and increasing university needs, and we are thankful for all the support they have demonstrated.”

Today, having the right team to conduct security management at a large institution of higher education is critical. As technology advances, it is important to stay on top of trends and utilize its full potential as a force multiplier. As threats change, so should your security posture, and a well-trained, prepared and equipped security management team will have the right solution.

This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of CSLS.

Digital Edition

  • Campus Security & Life Safety Magazine - November 2017

    November 2017

    Featuring:

    • The Importance of Fire Alarms
    • Increasing Security
    • Safe Learning
    • Time For An Upgrade
    • Bullying No More

    View This Issue