Taking Access Control
Historic Alabama church opts for cost-effective pure IP solution
- By Monique Merhige
- April 14, 2020
The Oakwood University Church located in Huntsville,
Ala. provides spiritual nurture to more than 2,000
members and 1,600 students on the campus of
Oakwood University, an historical African American
University founded in 1896. Oakwood University
Church is part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a world-wide
organization with more than 19 million members in countries around
the world. The church was looking for a way to secure their facility
while seamlessly executing their prime objective of meeting the spiritual
needs of its congregants.
In the Spring of 2016, Oakwood University Church security personnel
conducted a comprehensive security assessment of the campus
and submitted its recommendations to the church’s senior pastor,
Dr. Carlton Byrd.
The assessment uncovered that the church needed to improve
security at their facilities and make major changes in the way access
was controlled. Instead of having hundreds of keys assigned to staff
members; the church needed to control access electronically. When
the new Family Life Center building was approved for construction
in December 2016, a major requirement was to wire all entrances and
doors for an automated entry system.
To meet this new requirement, the church needed to find an
access control solution that was easy to manage from one unified
platform, while also integrating seamlessly with its existing video
Searching for the Right Solution
With no access control system in place, it was difficult for Oakwood
University Church to track who was going in and out of their facilities
daily. When they needed to give access to someone after hours, certain
church members would be required to drive a long distance to an
associate pastor’s home just to pick up a key to open the facility.
They were also required to then drive back to return the key to the
pastor; making it a cumbersome task. In many cases, personnel
would leave without notification and not turn in their keys; making it
difficult for the management team to control future access. Instead,
the church was looking to tailor access profiles for each user based on
their roles and responsibilities. They wanted to ensure that a person’s
access could be controlled with a set of constraints that allowed an
individual to access a certain area at a specific time.
In addition, the church was certainly not prepared for an active
shooter incident and knew it needed to make important changes to
their security. As a preventative measure, management was looking to
implement an automated access control system that offered the security
of remote management. It was important to Oakwood University
Church to have the ability to lock all doors with a single keystroke
remotely in the event of a lockdown situation. A cost-effective cloudbased
access control system was needed to make the church a safe
haven for its members and students and alleviate all these access issues.
Keeping the Solution Pure IP
ISONAS™ was chosen by church officials primarily because of its
cloud-based access control management capability. A local certified
integrator was called in to assess the church’s facilities and make recommendations
to improve safety. Digital Support Systems is a leading
integration firm that combines state-of-the-art software with
hardware innovation to connect diverse access control artifacts over
a cloud-based IP infrastructure.
“Over the past year, Digital Support Systems has become enamored
with ISONAS™'s Pure IP cloud-based access control solutions
and has helped push the IP revolution forward by steering customers
away from traditional panel-based access control systems,” said Jim
Wilson, system analyst at Digital Support Systems.
After careful review by Digital Support Systems and ISONAS™, it
was determined that it would be best to outfit the church in five phases
over the period of five years.
By using a phased approach, it allowed the church to slowly build
a cost-effective powerful integrated access control system on one unified
platform. Both ISONAS™ and Digital Support Systems customized
the solution based on the church’s needs. Phase 1 consisted of 14
doors in the administrative complex being outfitted with RC-04
reader-controllers. The ISONAS™ reader-controllers deliver advanced
technical functionality with an easy installation process.
Phase 2 consisted of outfitting 27 doors in the church’s new Family
Life Center which opened in February 2018. Phase 3 included adding
readers to 14 more doors in the administrative wing of the church.
With 55 readers installed in 2019, Phase 4 will add on 14 double
doors surrounding the sanctuary on both upper and lower levels and
Phase 5 would complete the remaining 22 doors; bringing the total
number of ISONAS™ readers in a five-year time span to 91.
Adding the Hardware
In addition to the ISONAS™ hardware, the Pure Access Software was
implemented to give the church remote access capabilities. Software,
Pure Access is a cloud-based access control application that provides
users the ability to manage their access control from anywhere at any
time, on any device. By using the ISONAS™ hardware and software
solution together, the church was able to improve security and specifically
tailor access to each user and remove access immediately
In addition, door groups can now be locked and unlocked automatically
as the church had a mapping of all areas on a detailed floor
plan that gave a graphical representation of all reader locations. The
church also benefited significantly by not having to rely on costly
personnel to lock and unlock specific areas as the church could now
make these types of requests remotely on their mobile phone.
Unscheduled openings could also be implemented remotely with all
entries logged for auditing purposes.
Access Control Solution Brings Church to A Higher Power
“The support we received from ISONAS™ and Digital Support Systems
has been stellar. They have provided onsite training at no extra charge
and are responsive to any requests we have made over the course of this
project,” Byrd said. “This has been the primary reason why the ISONAS
™ Pure IP solution has been selected as the perfect fit for us.”
Byrd also said the ability to lock-down the entire facility with a
single keystroke is a “tour de force” in the industry and we believe
that it is an investment well spent. The access control project has been
a huge success in terms of establishing a structured mechanism for
managing the flow of individuals within the facility. The primary
challenge encountered was how to configure the access control system
to accommodate the various traffic patterns contingent with
“I believe that we have succeeded in this regard. Without a doubt,
this would not be possible without the dedicated efforts of ISONAS ™
and Jim Wilson and the Digital Support Systems team,” Byrd said.
Gaining an Understanding
Oakwood University Church has come to understand the importance
of combining technology with ministry in a way that has allowed the
church to secure their facility, while seamlessly executing the prime
objectives of meeting the spiritual needs of its congregants.
The church has realized a cost savings on average of $3,500 in
physical key management within the past year by not having to reissue
master keys and change locks anymore. Now that they had a
secure and scalable access control system in place, the church could
expand and add to the system seamlessly. With a total of approximately
55 readers installed and 44 more to be installed within the
next year, plus over 75 video surveillance cameras on the premises;
the church has reached a higher power by having a significant threat
management capability behind them.
This article originally appeared in the March April 2020 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.