Key Tracking across Campus
When managing the keys of an entire campus (or two), it can be a challenge to keep track of their whereabouts. Northeastern Facilities is in the process of updating the key tracking systems across both the Boston and Mills College campuses to further improve security and management.
The project began about two years ago, says Carl Parisien, Associate Director of Facilities Infrastructure and Applications, with the purchase of secure key cabinets and the software applications that manage them. “When I came on board with PREF, Catherine Walsh and Gary Younger communicated the need for a better key management process. They understood the need for better key security.” With that, a project team was organized, and the decision to purchase secure key cabinets, and the software applications that manage them, was made. The cabinets manage how and when keys are checked in and out of different buildings.
“Trades people and contractors will have to be granted access to these key cabinets, and they’ll pull their keys from fobs,” Parisien explains. Users will then be required to return the keys to the correct cabinet by the end of the day. “It will take a while,” says Parisien, “but the goal is for each building to have its own secure key cabinet.” Steve O’Leary is leading the project, working closely with Greg Geyer, Jon Julian, Chris Ronzio, Chris Chase, Andrea Doucette, and others to implement a campus key policy, which will incorporate a new key design and require re-keying all the doors across campus.
So far, three key cabinets have been installed on Northeastern’s Boston campus, and four more are on order. Two cabinets have been ordered, but not yet installed, on the Mills College campus.
When Parisien and the Facilities team originally undertook this task, they expected the project would be a relatively simple fix. But as it progressed and more stones were turned over, they realized there were even more ways the system could be improved.
“It started small,” Parisien explains. But over time, the team realized, “If we really want to do the right thing here and make the campus safer and more secure, we almost have to start from scratch by re-coring and re-keying all the doors, installing secure cabinets in each building, and managing the key return process. And it’s still ongoing. There’s still a lot more to be done.”
To assist in this process, Facilities used SimpleK, a software application that manages the steps of the keying process, from key requests to cutting a key, as well as the key inventory itself. The university also hired PASEK, a security company, to help re-key all the doors across campus. “We’re doing the same thing out in Mills College,” Parisien adds.
If all goes to plan, the project team will be ordering cabinets for a while. “There’s all these background components that have to happen, but there is a bigger plan for a lot more cabinets.”
With the right location, a new key cabinet can be installed in as little as a day. “There needs to be power nearby, and we also need the ability to connect to NUnet because the boxes talk to some servers in our data center,” says Parisien. But without these conditions already established, installations could take more time – up to a few weeks.
The updates to Northeastern’s key tracking present a big change for Facilities management systems. But with time, they will help to improve efficiency and make campuses a safer space for students, faculty, and staff.
Written by Daria Healey, November 29th, 2022