Specifically Speaking with Jeff Pronschinske

Security practice leader, Mead & Hunt, Wauwatosa, Wisc.
Monday, May 4, 2015

How many employees does Mead & Hunt have? How many are involved with physical security and what is your specialty?

Mead & Hunt is a national consulting engineering firm with 30 offices with more than 500 employees who provide integrated design solutions for architectural, civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, technology and security markets. Mead & Hunt is one of a handful of firms in the nation able to offer integrated detention equipment and security electronics design solutions for the corrections market while also offering physical and electronic security design services for the commercial market. There are 12 individuals in the firm dedicated to the delivery of security design services.    

Why are you such a big proponent of the types of security systems used in corrections applications? What are the characteristics and benefits of these systems?

Security systems for the correctional market differ from those used in commercial sectors. Both correctional and commercial-grade security systems involve the integration of low-voltage security systems under a single graphic user interface. In commercial markets, security integration is accomplished through the card access controllers that alarm to subscription PCs. In correctional markets, security integration is accomplished through the use of programmable logic controllers and industrial-grade relays that alarm to touch screen workstations. The backbone of a correctional-grade security system is its PLC. PLCs are built with industrial-grade electronic components that are incredibly reliable. With a shelf life of 25 to 30 years, their failure rate is extremely limited. PLCs have been used successfully in correctional markets for decades. They are also widely used in manufacturing, mining and water resources. The benefit of using a PLC for a security system backbone is that they integrate a greater variety of low-voltage security systems under a single GUI. Card access systems are typically able to integrate simple contact closures such as electronic locking hardware, duress alarms and video surveillance systems. PLC controllers are able to further expand system integration to also include voice communication, door intercom, and emergency mass notification systems. Most importantly, they are able to do so in an open-architecture, non-proprietary, non-restrictive manner.   

If everyone wants open systems, why are corrections-grade security systems not used in more applications outside of corrections? Do you think they will be in the future?

The future of commercial-grade security could benefit from lessons learned in correctional markets. Regardless of whether the security system is integrated using PLC or card access controllers, a move toward open-architecture, non-proprietary, non-restrictive solutions would benefit the industry greatly. A convergence is taking place in the electronics industry toward these types of security solutions. Facility owners want security systems they can either maintain themselves or enable them to solicit competitive bids for future service and expansion. Unlike fire alarm systems, security systems are not rated as an assembly. They are able to be built using standard off-the-shelf electronic components and software available from any local electronic warehouse. While not suited for every commercial project, there are some projects where the cost of non-proprietary PLC-based technology would outweigh the cost of closed, proprietary, card access systems. However, the benefits of the security technology available in the corrections market make it well suited for a multitude of commercial applications