The Issue at LVVWD
Las Vegas Valley Water District (LVVWD) has many facilities, exterior cabinets, doors, equipment, cabinets which are secured, in many cases, by a common lock that many people have keys to. These items and areas have occasionally been broken into by others because they have come across the keys or because they have cut the locks. The goal for LVVWD has been to come up with a device that can secure entry doors, exit doors and cabinet doors, including electrical cabinets, telephone cabinets, meter cabinets and any other device that they use in the field. LVVWD also wants to ensure that all the appropriate people within the company can get into these areas quickly and easily. Key control for building doors has improved greatly, however, key control for cabinets that sometimes have individual shop locks on them, or a common lock with keys provided to everyone, are less secure.
There were specific instances of vandalism and offsite activities and LVVWD was looking for a positive key control program. It was becoming very difficult to manage the different locks throughout the organization, as all of LVVWD’s locks were coded to three or four different master type locks. Employees would end up having too many keys for too many locks. “You’d end up with a key ring with 47 keys on it to make sure you could access everywhere. You couldn’t master lock the entire facility with one master key because not everybody needs access to all of those areas,” explained Stephen Anderson, Systems Operations Manager at LVVWD. They wanted a system that would reduce the amount of keys and allow access to certain areas for specific employees from the same key program.
In addition to their needs at LVVWD, The America Infrastructures Act was also passed in 2018 which includes risk and resiliency analysis and looks at how you control keys and access to various portions of your facility. Those that use a standard key an issue an individual ten keys are meeting the bare minimum requirements as long as they have good key control by collecting keys when employees retire or leave, assure there’s no duplication and account for lost keys when they happen. LVVWD was looking for a new solution that allows this to become computerized and automated.
WaterStart came to LVVWD with a lock technology from Outlocks, and LVVWD’s security team took the lead on the pilot. The technology includes a matchbox size device with numeric keypad that is permanently in the possession of LVVWD employees or service providers. Based on permissions granted in the LNLi software, the employee requests an access code using secure non web system. The code, when entered in the KnocKey allows the generation of knock sequence that will unlock the locks. You need to have the correct code to get into a lock, and you receive the code by an initial phone call contact to enter the code in your device.
The purpose of the Outlocks technology was to reduce the number of keys that people needed to carry. The ideal concept for LVVWD was to get everything down to one device that a technician or a person could carry around the campus and not have key control for different sets of keys.
Alan Schmidt, the security manager during the time of the pilot, has now been retired for about three years. Alan installed the Outlocks technology in a remote area at their Searchlight facility, 60 miles away from the main campus in Las Vegas, on the various cabinets that were out in the field. LVVWD picked the sight because it was remote and it had vandalism in the past.
The pilot gave LVVWD good peace of mind that LVVWD’s Searchlight site was secured. LVVWD explained that one drawback of being at such a remote sight was that it was hard for their security team to respond and support the maintenance teams that were out there. Another negative issue identified was that some of the modifications to the cabinets and doors to install the technology wasn’t as seamless as they would have hoped.
Anderson explained that the technology works well on low voltage equipment where you can easily make modifications to cabinets, hinges, locks etc. “It doesn’t work so well on high voltage or higher voltage equipment that have safety parameters built into the locking cabinet structure. Our security staff, when they did some of the modifications, weren’t aware of some of those concerns until after they had already damaged the cabinets,” said Anderson.
The biggest problem with the technology was the difficulty in getting proper codes, as the devices needed to have the proper codes to be able to work. In some ways, this was seen as a positive for extra security because it is codeable and securable, but it turned into a time consuming problem as well. According to Stephen Anderson, “You had to make a phone call to get the code to access the device, so that it could do its magic and unlock. Sometimes the technician would forget to get the code before he left, which would create problems and we didn’t all have cells phones at this time in 2015.”
Once you got the code in your device you would tap the lock, the codes would transmit and then the lock would open or close. The major problem was that an employee would either not get the proper code before they left for the facility or when they got out there they couldn’t get the right communication link to get to code.
Though LVVWD didn’t have success with Outlocks it led them to the looking at the next, greatest technology which they are now beginning to implement. Anderson says, “It really got us going. Getting the desire to find a better solution and knowing that there was lots of progress being made out there in this space was really the biggest benefit. Try something, even if you don’t like this, you may like some similar technology or the potential of it. And then you can either wait for technology to improve or actively look for something else if it doesn’t meet your needs, which in this case, it didn’t meet all of our needs.”
The Outlocks technology has since been removed and a new system has been deployed. “It was a good concept that got us going on a security feature for our facilities. We learned from the Outlocks pilot and our current security manager worked with another company to get a different type that they’re installing on everything that they can.”
OUTLOCKS, Inc., an Israeli corporation, has a unique locking system based on patented technology which combines innovative, robust locking units with an advanced management system that is designed to address the unique requirements of securing outdoor assets. The locking system is based on patented technology which combines innovative robust locking units with an advanced management system that is designed to address the unique requirements of securing outdoor assets.