ORLANDO, Fla. – In 2013, UCF police officers charged into Tower One as soon as the fire alarm went off, foiling the plans of the student who pulled the alarm heavily armed and ready for a mass shooting, police said.
Instead, with officers at his door, the student gave up and killed himself.
UCF’s director of Security Management, Steven Freund, said that incident gave the police department a “wake-up call.”
“There was a DVR in Tower One at that time that we needed to get that camera footage from,” Freund said. “At the time, it required going into that building to access the DVR to view the footage.”
Freund discovered police couldn’t immediately access surveillance video and didn’t know which buildings had cameras and where they were.
“Previously under the old system, we might not know if a camera existed in some locations,” Freund said.
Police didn’t have master keys to many of the doors on campus. And all of the different key cards and surveillance cameras in the different buildings were on different systems.
“If we were to encounter a door that had some type of access control system, we might not have had the ability to get into that door, and we would have had to contact the person in charge of managing that system and provision access for us, sometimes it required a separate access card,” Freund said. “It was a nightmare.”
That also meant an immediate campus-wide lockdown was impossible, something students told Police Chief Carl Metzger they were quite concerned about.
“It’s all about safety and it really started with Parkland actually,” Metzger said. “We started looking at the process of locking down and it was way too cumbersome and complicated.”
So Freund spent the last several years upgrading the campus’ entire security and surveillance system - all door locks and cameras. He merged the seven different systems into one that can be accessed and controlled from the UCF Emergency Operations Center.
“If there is an active assailant on campus and you want to lock every building, we now have that access,” Freund said. “We spent several million dollars upgrading about 20 buildings on campus, adding more than a hundred doors to our electronic control access system.”
The new system allows system managers to immediately revoke keycard access to anyone who has left the campus or should no longer have access.
“We’re able to de-provision access very quickly so if a student leaves or an employee leaves the university or a student leaves the university and they have access on their UCF Card to certain spaces, our system will automatically de-provision their access quickly when they leave the university,” Freund said.
And dispatchers in UCF’s Emergency Communications Center, if given the order to lock down, can now push a single red button and secure all of the doors on any of the four UCF campuses.
“One push of a button and our dispatch center and our campus is locked down in an emergency,” Metzger said. “And [before the upgrade] it would have been very challenging for a dispatcher how to figure out how to do that, if they could do it at all.”
Metzger said already the new system has gotten results together. After the recent rash of campus-wide car break-ins, detectives accessed all of the cameras they needed almost instantly over the internet, pinpointed the crooks and arrested them.
“Knowing that fall is coming and we’re going to have a full campus, we want to make sure we’re prepared for anything that might be thrown our way,” Metzger said.
Metzger said 90% of the campus has been upgraded, including all of the main buildings. It’ll take about a year to finish the upgrades.