Home to a vibrant community in Western Massachusetts, Greenfield Community College is a public two-year community college known for its robust transfer programs. With over 35 degree and certificate options, the College provides job training and career development opportunities to 2,000 part- and full-time students across five campuses.
Alex Wiltz, Director of Public Safety, also serves as the College’s Chief of Police and Emergency Management Coordinator. Strongly focused on student well-being, Wiltz is always seeking ways to improve resources and processes pertaining to campus safety. When Greenfield Community College received funds from the FY20 Higher Education Safety and Security Grant, Wiltz saw an opportunity to deploy a cloud-based access control system that would streamline both security management and emergency response.
“In November of 2018, we had a lockdown occur on campus. It was clear to us that more had to be done to beef up our emergency notification system., There had to be an easier way to put the school under lockdown without requiring police to go around campus and physically secure buildings.”
Wiltz inherited a legacy access control system that was installed in 2011 and limited in its capabilities. The licensing fees for the system came with a hefty cost and exceeded the College’s budget. Additionally, there was no way to lock doors remotely or view historical logs of access-based events. During the 2018 lockdown, two police officers patrolling the main campus had to go door-to-door and lock them one-by-one. With a small team handling security for the entire campus, Wiltz needed a way to quickly secure buildings and allow his team to respond to an incident.
“If we have another emergency situation, we need to be able to lock our campus down instantly. Verkada had everything I was looking for in an access system: centralized control, cloud-based, no servers required, and intuitive enough that I don’t need to spend a day training people how to use it.”
With Verkada, Wiltz can remotely manage doors and users from any mobile or any web-based browser. Remote access is enabled by default and software updates are pushed automatically, with no additional cost or configurations required. Additionally, having a cloud-based solution on a modern interface has made it simpler and faster for Wiltz to provision users, set door schedules, and review access-based events.
“What I like about Verkada is everything is super easy to get to. It doesn’t take me seven steps to add a user, in two steps I’m done.”
Fast Emergency Response with Cloud-Based Lockdown
“In an emergency situation, we can secure the building in seconds rather than minutes. I can lock our exterior doors almost instantly through my phone or computer, which is a level of control we didn’t have before.”
Wiltz has drastically reduced emergency response time with a cloud-based solution; he can quickly lock and unlock doors from his mobile device via the Verkada Pass app or any web-based browser via Command. Through Command, he can create and customize Lockdown Scenarios that outline which doors to lock, which users can trigger it, and which users—such as first responders—still have access to doors during a lockdown. All it takes is a quick click of a button to activate lockdown mode and instantly secure predesignated doors. With native camera integration, he will have instant visibility into access-based events and be able to share live feeds with first responders in a few taps.
Automate Door Schedules for Permitted Campus Hours
“Before Verkada, our officers were getting called to let people into locked buildings every 10-15 minutes. Now, staff members can let themselves into the buildings they need access to, during the exact times they need to be there. It’s freed up my team’s workload so they can focus on high-level safety tasks.”
To enable contact tracing and ensure COVID-19 protocol compliance, exterior doors are kept locked to the public. Wiltz schedules doors to automatically unlock for certain user groups during specific times of the day so staff members can badge themselves in, saving Wiltz’s team significant time and overhead costs. “My team and I have ‘General access’ with 24/7 permission to lock and unlock any door on campus. While most faculty members have what we call ‘COVID access’ from Monday to Friday 7 am to 10 pm, we can schedule specific groups to be allowed access on the weekends such as our Paramedic program that meets on Saturdays.” During holidays or events, Wiltz can set exceptions to temporarily modify door access without having to change the full schedule.
Tiered-levels of Access to Facilities Across Campus
“We set tiered-level access for different user groups to restrict entry into controlled areas. Not everyone with IT access can unlock the server room.”
Wiltz divides staff members into different access levels and sets role-based (RBAC) permissions based on their needs. Instead of carrying around multiple keys, staff members can unlock the doors they’re pre-authorized to access with just one key fob. For restricted areas, Wiltz layers custom permissions within user groups to prevent unauthorized individuals from entering. All police officers have access to all doors except Wiltz’s office, but only Wiltz and his sergeant can unlock his office. Similarly, some users can enter the IT room but can’t unlock the server room where critical technology is housed. “We used to have a punch pad system outside the server room running Windows 98. We decided to change it over to Verkada so we can track who goes in if we have a problem."
Remote Site Visibility with Activity Logs
“Every access event is recorded on an audit log, which makes it easy to scan through and pinpoint unusual activities. If I type in a filter like ‘forced doors’ or ‘denied’, the system will display every instance of forced doors or denied access events. If I see that someone needs access to a particular building, I can simply click on the door and let them in from my computer or phone.”
Through Verkada’s centralized platform, Wiltz can view a full log of historical events and identify activities that may require his attention. By seeing which doors tend to be forced open, he knows where to make Request to Exit (REX) adjustments. By running a log of ‘denied’ access events, he has a high-level view of staff members trying to enter buildings in restricted times or areas. From there, he can either follow up with them or grant them remote access via Verkada Pass or Command.
Modular Pricing per Door Licenses
“Verkada pricing is based on the number of doors I choose to install, which makes a huge difference in terms of cost. If I have one door on a 4-door controller, I only need to pay for one door. ”
Wiltz’s previous access control solution had a yearly charge regardless of how many doors were on the system, “When you have a small campus, you soon find that you are paying a lot per door with an annual license fee compared to a per door fee.” With Verkada, software and firmware updates are automatically deployed over-the-air at no additional expense. “We pay around $5,000 a year for one-year licenses, which is nothing for an access control system. It lowers the cost significantly to have it priced per door.” His Verkada license also includes new feature sets at no extra cost, which are heavily influenced by customer feedback. “There’s been constant evolution and rolling changes. I gave feedback to the Verkada team on one feature request and saw it was added three days later, the responsiveness has been amazing.”
Looking Ahead: An Integrated Camera System
“The ease of use has been a big piece for us. The best thing about Verkada is that it’s saved my staff so much time and so many steps on managing building access, so they can focus on other aspects of their job and be out where they need to be. I’ve seen demos of the new features that are coming in OTA updates, and it makes me excited for what’s to come.”
Wiltz plans to deploy additional cameras to integrate with the access control system, providing him with improved visibility into access-based events. He and his team will have more context, visual evidence, rapid response enablement in the event of an incident. “Now that we have a substantial system of controlled doors, the cameras are going to be our main focus moving forward.”
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