27 Aug 2015

East Whiteland Volunteer Fire Association Creates Open, Accessible Space for Firefighters with brigh


  • Ease traffic flow and reduce congestion for faster emergency response
  • Simple, cost-effective installation
  • User-friendly interface
  • Easy to add users and doors, assign personnel access
  • Superior performance and reliability
  • Highly secure; better overall protection
  • Excellent technical support and training for personnel

The Customer

East Whiteland Township, located 20 miles west of Philadelphia, is a family-oriented community with a growing population and increasing industrial presence. Established in 1953 to provide fire, rescue and EMS services to the township, the East Whiteland Volunteer Fire Association has evolved to meet the needs of this expanding suburb. In an effort to accommodate the growing number of firefighters, the fire company recently moved to a new firehouse designed to provide a more collaborative and comfortable work environment. The fire department’s diverse and transitory volunteer workforce needed a simple and effective way to manage access throughout the 19,000-square-foot building. Turning to the experts at Great Valley Lockshop Inc., the East Whiteland Volunteer Fire Association selected Vanderbilt’s bright blue® Intelligent Access Management System to easily manage the department’s 26 doors and close to 150 cardholders.

The Challenge

Because every second counts in an emergency situation, firefighters need fast, easy access to the equipment they need when a call comes in. “The main function of any access management system at a firehouse is to help get firefighters where they need to be as quickly as possible,” explained Chris Strauss, Deputy Fire Chief at the East Whiteland Fire Company and president at Great Valley Lockshop. “With so many people coming and going, and various restricted areas including mechanical spaces, storage rooms and offices, access management is a huge challenge.” To create an open and easily accessible space, the fire department eliminated all keyed-only doors and installed the bright blue, solution along with electric door hardware and key fobs.

The Solution

For Strauss, a security hardware specialist, the first step was to select the electronic hardware best suited to compliment the bright blue access management system. “My job is to ensure that the complete solution, from door hardware to access management software, performs optimally,” said Strauss. Schlage Aptique were installed on 24 of 26 doors with door prop alarms on all exterior doors, and those between the office and apparatus bay, which also use the lockdown function. PIN codes were added to two readers in case of accidental lockout. The two remaining doors leverage the bright blue system for the door prop alarm. Managed by a three-person team including Strauss, the fire chief and president, the bright blue system supports 150 users.

“With the simple installation of a junction box and card reader at each door, I can easily customize access requirements depending on location,” said Strauss, who added that while most systems have at least six wires that need to be connected to the panel, bright blue only requires two for a much cleaner installation. Overall, Strauss asserts that the installation was smooth and trouble-free. “I really liked the fact that I could connect to the panel from my laptop to do all the necessary programming and testing before we went live with the system.” Straus also conducted all the in-house training, which was very straightforward.

The Results

Not only is bright blue easy to install, it is also simple to configure and use. Strauss set up the event scheduling feature on the doors between the office and apparatus bay to trigger the facility lockdown function when a 911 call comes in. “This way we can prevent unauthorized access to our offices when firefighters are called out to an emergency,” explained Strauss. “I can also very easily add doors or change access requirements by following simple prompts.”

In fact, the bright blue access management solution is so easy to use that volunteer firefighters can easily manage the system themselves. “Most volunteers do not have a technology background, so ease-of-use was imperative,” stated Strauss. User-friendly configuration wizards and helpful tips make the process so easy that the facility manager was able to add three new doors to the system on his own, which also reduced installation costs. With a high turnover in volunteers, the East Whiteland Volunteer Fire Association relies on the advanced functionality of bright blue to quickly add and delete users as required. “bright blue is the perfect access management solution for a firehouse or small business.”

With a Linux-based operating system, bright blue is also as reliable as it is easy to use. “bright blue always works the way it’s supposed to, which is absolutely critical in our line of work,” said Strauss. Prior to the new installation, the previous system in the old firehouse caused a lot of problems. For example, the panel and software froze, doors didn’t always operate correctly and the vendor no longer supported the system. “From a performance standpoint, Vanderbilt is night and day compared to the old system,” he said.

System reliability was another key requirement at the firehouse, where fast access to the apparatus bay could mean the difference between life and death. “Not only do we have an override key stored in a lockbox for emergency situations, but we’ve also backed up the system so that if the network goes down in one of our remote locations, we can default to site code to ensure that a firefighter is never locked out.”

Excellent technical support also contributes to the reliability and overall performance of the bright blue solution. “Vanderbilt delivers some of the best support we’ve ever received,” Strauss said. “The tech guys know me and respond quickly to any questions I have – they are simply the best.”

bright blue’s reliability and enhanced security functions also help protect the firehouse from outside threats. User, operator and administrator access levels control what each person is authorized to view and help prevent internal threats. “By being able to assign personnel access to different doors based on time schedules, security levels and roles, we can extend security right across our buildings for greater overall protection.”

bright blue delivers a complete access management solution in a box, using a plug-and-play approach that simplifies installation, management and everyday use. “Time is of the essence in an emergency situation,” Strauss emphasized. “Our firefighters and volunteers need an access management solution that is easy to use, reliable, and gets them out the door as quickly as possible. Vanderbilt’s bright blue delivers.”


Download the full case study: East Whiteland Volunteer Fire Association