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The large La Cité College campus touts ten interconnected buildings and six parking lots, set on 60 acres of land. Securing this campus is no easy feat by any means. Aiphone emergency towers with IX Series intercom stations enable a distressed student to directly have a two-way conversation with campus officers.

I was happy to know we’d have a high-quality, functional system in place soon after I’d started the job,” said Martin Gregoire, Campus Security Director, La Cité College.

Multi-layer security system

Students at Ottawa’s French language college, La Cité, are protected by a multi-layer security system

Students at Ottawa’s French language college, La Cité, are protected by a multi-layer security system. From the time they arrive to one of six parking lots, to roaming within the campus’ 10 inter-connected buildings, students have access to reliable security.

Opened in 1995, the La Cité campus is Ontario’s largest French-language college with over 5,000 students. It offers 140 post-secondary programs with degrees ranging from architecture to security management. The large campus touts ten interconnected buildings and six parking lots set on 60 acres of land and securing the campus is not easy.

Aiphone emergency towers

The most recent addition to the security system is 15 parking lot emergency towers from Aiphone. The towers with IX Series intercom stations enable a distressed student to directly have a two-way conversation with campus officers. The intercom’s embedded camera provides officers with live video to more accurately assess and respond to a situation.

Rock Levesque, Project Manager for the Ottawa-based security integrator, ComNet Networks and Security, said the new towers replaced previous call stations created by a member of the campus IT department.

IX Series intercom stations

The previous stations only allow one-way communication. Pushing the emergency button initiated a siren that was so loud that students had difficulty hearing the security staff. Also, the stations often didn’t work.

It defeated the purpose of having a system,” said Rock Levesque, adding “The only thing guards would know is that there was a call from a specific station. An officer would be dispatched having no idea of the situation. And we could spend a week repairing the stations, with no guarantee the next day they would still work.

Upgrading the emergency system

Concerned about student safety, college administrators decided to upgrade the entire system last fall

Concerned about student safety, college administrators decided to upgrade the entire system last fall. About the same time, Martin Gregoire took over as campus security director, after 24 years in protective services, at the University of Ottawa.

They asked my opinion of the plan,” said Martin Gregoire, adding “I told them security is a lot like an onion with its many layers. They made the right decision to start on the exterior and work their way in. I was happy to know we’d have a high-quality, functional system in place soon, after I’d started the job.

Customised mobile app

La Cité College also uses a customised mobile app that enables students to contact security, receive notifications, and perform other non-emergency functions. Gregoire said he also views the AppArmor program as a valuable security layer that augments, rather than replaces, the emergency towers.

We can have the best plans on paper, but it’s when you get hit that you realize what tools are missing or not working. We need to know that we will eventually be hit and plan for it now,” said Martin Gregoire, Campus Security Director, La Cité College.

Importance of multi-layered security

Security is a lot like an onion with its many layers. They made the right decision to start on the exterior and work their way in.” Martin Gregoire, Campus Security Director, La Cité College.

Getting rid of the towers would be a mistake,” said Martin Gregoire, adding “Our towers are connected via landline. They are always on and you can’t lose the signal, as you can with a cellular-based system. The towers have no batteries that can die. And security officers immediately know the precise location of a tower call.

Importance of campus emergency towers

The campus’ emergency towers helped to fill the communications gap

Martin Gregoire knows about the loss of cellular service. He was at the University of Ottawa in 2014, when a gunman in the nearby Canadian Parliament building led to a campus lockdown and a temporary loss of cellular service. The campus’ emergency towers helped to fill the communications gap. La Cité’s emergency towers have the standard blue light that makes them easy to spot at night or in foggy conditions.

The intercoms feature two call buttons for different priority levels. An assistance button enables students to seek directions or report a crime, while an emergency button is for summoning immediate help.

Axis 360° multi-pixel, PTZ and bullet cameras

Rock Levesque said weather-resistant paging horns attached to the stations are used by officers, provided by Securitas, to provide one-way mass notification information, during a lockdown or other emergencies. This spring, the campus will use optional CCTV arms on four towers to mount Axis 360° multi-pixel cameras.

This will provide the security team with more detailed views of the most distant parking lots. Additional Axis PTZ and bullet cameras are mounted on building exteriors. A Genetec access control system is used throughout campus buildings. There are also panic buttons installed in hallways and some restrooms.

Highly-layered security and advanced planning

Martin Gregoire is a strong proponent of highly-layered security systems and advanced planning. He supports his ideas with a quote from former heavyweight boxing champion, Mike Tyson.

Reporters asked Tyson if he had a plan for a fight in which he had been knocked down,” said Gregoire, adding “He said, ‘Yeah, I had a plan until I got hit’. We can have the best plans on paper, but it’s when you get hit that you realise what tools are missing or not working. We need to know we will eventually be hit and plan for it now.

Campus security upgrade

Both Gregoire and Levesque said the next planned campus security upgrade will involve the installation of emergency towers and stations outside buildings and inside on each floor near stairwells. Budgets will likely require installations to be completed one building at a time.

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