A safe investment

It’s hard to overlook the eye-catching Göteborg Opera House, a 160-meter wide building, which graces the Swedish city’s harbor. Designed by architect Jan Izikowitz and completed in 1994, it is still considered to be one of the most technically advanced and modern opera houses in the world, with state-of-the-art lighting, stage and sound technology.

There is a steady stream of traffic in, out, and within the various departments in the building. In addition to receiving 250,000 visitors a year, the opera house has a permanent staff of 560 and about the same number of temporary employees working on performances. All of these employees are issued access cards.

Intelligent doors
Since the opera house serves as both a public space and a place of work, technically sophisticated security systems, enabling smooth access, have been prioritized. The Göteborg Opera House is the first in the world to install an ASSA ABLOY Hi-O door. Hi-O stands for Highly Intelligent Opening and the technology is based on an established standard for managing electromechanical door products. The Hi-O door system is linked to the building’s IP network and the status of the door is centrally logged.

Supporting Hi-O is ASSA’s ARX security system, which the Göteborg Opera House recently installed throughout the building. The new system shows the status of all card readers, doors, burglar alarms and an entry house phone, so if anything is amiss it is easy to identify precisely where the problem is. “The ARX system quickly lets us see what is going on in the building and it is really easy to use,” says Göteborg Opera House Property Manager, Arne Sahlstedt.

The ARX system replaced the opera house’s old access system when, after 14 years in operation, spare parts for it were becoming obsolete. “The ARX system was easy to install and there was very little configuration involved because we were able to build upon the existing system,” Sahlstedt adds.

The system was down for only a few short periods during installation and employees were unaware of the changes until they received new access cards. “We have received extremely positive feedback from our employees who find the new RFID cards extremely easy to use,” says Sahlstedt.“They can now just touch the cards to the reader and the door opens.”

If there’s a will, there’s a way
Improving security doesn’t have to cost a fortune – or be too complicated, Sahlstedt points out. “When we upgraded to the new security system, we were able to use all of the original old cables and the existing computer network which has saved us a lot of money.”

Getting the necessary funding from the Västra Götaland municipality which owns the opera, and from the city of Göteborg which owns the building, was not terribly difficult he adds since both organizations place high importance on making public places secure.

The Göteborg Opera House has only experienced one major break in – in the 90s when an intruder scaled the wall – yet Sahlstedt says that those responsible for financing security appreciate how important it is to install and maintain good systems. A couple of tragic incidents in the region are still fresh in people’s minds and perhaps one reason why  security upgrades get the attention and financing they deserve, he notes.

Risk analysis
To help support his case for security investments Sahlstedt prepares an annual budget outlining the necessary measures and associated costs. He also puts together a risk analysis, which contains input gathered from approximately 20 departments.  These processes help Sahlstedt determine which security steps to take in the coming year and also support his purchasing requests.

In the risk analysis, each department rates the level of risk, for example a fire, theft, or injury on a scale of one to four, with four indicating high risk. In addition to risks like theft or break-ins, the opera house has other risks to consider: With so much happening behind the scenes – heavy stage sets being shifted around, lights and electrical wiring being adjusted, costumes being changed in a mad dash – keeping unauthorized visitors out of backstage areas to avoid injuries and accidents is vital.

As a high profile public space, the opera house could be a target for terrorists. “The likelihood of a terrorist attack here is low but the consequences would be at the high end of the risk analysis scale. The Moscow incident (A guerilla group seized the Moscow Opera House in 2002, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 people) is an example of this,” says Sahlstedt.

He believes the Göteborg Opera House has achieved the right balance of security and convenience. “Employees must be able to move about freely between the stage area and other places without security measures hindering opera activities,” he explains.

During a performance, for example, performers need to access their dressing rooms for quick costume changes so carrying a key, fob or card with them is out of the question. By issuing staff with a personal pincode, security has been maintained in all 40 of the opera’s dressing rooms without disrupting a single performance.

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