Q&A: ILA Great Lakes Chapter President Pete Dinschel

July 6, 2010
Pete Dinschel answers Locksmith Ledger’s questions about his job and the access control system used at his workplace, the Carpenters Training Center.

In addition to serving as a full-time instructor at the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters Carpenter Training Center (CTC), Pete Dinschel holds numerous professional distinctions and is active in many trade associations that serve the locksmith industry. Along with colleague Art Urbano, he handles all CTC architectural hardware, mechanical keying, and electronic access control.

Following are the Ledger’s questions and Dinschel’s answers.

What is your background?

I’m a 33-year union carpenter with an early career building houses, moving to installing cabinets/trim in houses, later to commercial cabinets/trim, which just included installing more and more hardware in various quantities, types, and manufacturers.

Prior to carpentry, I obtained an architectural degree and for seven years worked for two well-respected architecture firms. For 14 years, while working daily as a union carpenter, I taught architectural classes at a local junior college in the evenings.

I’m a long-time member of CSI (the Construction Specifications Institute), DHI (the Door and Hardware Institute), NFPA (the National Fire Protection Association), AWI (the Architectural Woodwork Institute), and ICC (the International Code Council).

What is your job now?

For the last 17 years, I have been a full-time instructor at the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, Carpenter Training Center (CTC). The CTC serves 35,000 union carpenters with apprentice training and approximately 300 skill advancement courses, growing to over 500,000 square feet in six buildings spread throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.

I specialize in several architectural hardware classes at the CTC. We have 12 installation classes, and all except one are heavily hands-on. We have both an Ingersoll Rand and a DORMA Certified Installer program, and are talking with Detex about a CI as well as ASSA ABLOY about a SARGENT, Yale, and Corbin-Russwin CI. These are factory certified classes for our union carpenter members taught by our factory certified in-house staff. The CTC also has several lock maintenance classes covering change keys, master keys, interchangeable core keying, and battery operated electronic access control. (For information on Skill Advancement Program, visit the web site www. chicap.org.) In 1994, I took over the Schlage 5-pin master key system in our building and replaced it with a 64-page Schlage 6-pin Primus system. I handle all CTC architectural hardware, mechanical keying, and electronic access control.

Are you a licensed commercial locksmith?

No. Both Art and I are Certified Institutional Locksmiths (CIL), a certification from the Institutional Locksmiths’ Association. An institutional locksmith is an in-house locksmith. Illinois allows in-house employees of a contractor or facility to perform limited locksmithing tasks if the person performing the service does not hold himself or herself out as a locksmith to the public.

Are you active in the ILA?

Yes. For nine years, I have been a member of the Great Lakes Chapter with a five-year stint as Chapter Secretary and currently a three-year stint as Chapter President ([email protected]). I also participate heavily in the ILA national organization on several committees overseeing the ILA conferences and institutional locksmith certification. I have been awarded two of the highest ILA national awards: the 2009 President’s Award and the 2007 Mentor Award.

How did you get interested in locksmithing?

It started with my first installations of architectural hardware. I kept getting cylinders to install that would not operate properly. In the 1970’s I found a locksmithing book that explained enough for me to tweak the tailpiece end cap into operation. I started to take apart extra cylinders to see how they worked. In 1979, I rekeyed my apartment building while sitting with the tenants at a picnic table in the back yard. My pin kit consisted of pins and springs from many hand-me-down cylinders. I have my own real LAB pin kits now, won as raffle prizes at ILA functions over the years.

In 1996, I met Carl Dean and became an Ingersoll Rand Certified Installer Trainer. In 1997, Carl got me a seat in the two traveling Ingersoll Rand Architectural Hardware Technical Schools - one called Products and the other caller Openings. An actual installer was rare in these classes. I met well-known personnel with whom I still communicate today - ¬¬Carl Dean, Lloyd Seliber, Pete Brenia, and George Nimee to name only a few.

Let’s talk about access control at the CTC building.

OK. In 1998 because of attending the IR traveling schools, John Callery of Schlage gave the CTC a Schlage e.Primus battery-operated L-series mortise lock to evaluate. It operated only with iButton credentials and could be programmed manually with colored “control” iButtons or with primitive Schlage software (primitive by today’s standards). The lock came with a three-day training class in Security, Colo., at the Schlage factory. In a very small class, I learned how to install, program, and maintain the lock. This class also included going into a clean room at the factory and each student building a D-series version e.Primus lock. I met Jim Farr, a Schlage engineer who I have contacted over the years many times with questions.

I installed the single evaluation mortise lock on our CTC main facility staff entrance and it quite literally changed our lives.

I hope manufacturers, representatives, and suppliers continue to offer evaluation products to facilities, it works. We have sure bought a lot of product.

Prior to this lock, only five people had keys to our facility. There were times when none of the five showed up to let the instructors or students into the building (Murphy’s Law). This was back in the days of no cell phones and pagers. An instructor would have to go to a gas station pay phone and call a couple of the key holders to find one that could divert from what they were doing to open the training center.

Using the electronic lock and its software, the administrators allowed several other instructors to have daily access to the building. The software allowed a specified access time and an audit of who was entering.

In 1999, this was expanded to additional D-series e.Primus locks and iButtons for all the CTC staff. We were still limited to just a five-second access at this point, no toggling the lock into or out of passage mode. For several months, a few stubborn staff would not use their iButton credential, entering either by following someone else through the open door or walking to the usually-open overhead dock doors to enter the building. Everyone was granted access when they needed it; day, evenings, weekends, or a combination of the three.

This has evolved into 135 Schlage software controlled (SMS-Select) battery operated access control locks with 150 iButton credentials. Many staff members have no hard keys (mechanical keys) for our facilities, just their iButton credential allowing access (as allowed by the administration) to classrooms, shops, faculty rooms, lecture halls, janitor’s closets, and lunchrooms. I’m proud to say we have assistant coordinators that can give complete facility tours in our various centers (the main facility being 195,000 square feet) with just their iButtons; they have never been issued Primus master keys.

Can you tell us more about the time zones for staff access?

This is one of the most interesting parts of setting up an access control system. The locksmith, institutional or commercial, needs to understand the various facility operations to create the appropriate system. All the software packages have the capability for time zones, but none comes out of the box for a specific facility. In our case:

1) The office staff needed daily access day hours.

2) Some of the full-time instructors needed daily access day hours, some instructors daily access day and evening hours, and some instructors daily access day and evening with Saturday access

3) The administrators and maintenance staff needed either 7-day day & evening access or 24/7 access. This quickly evolved into nine time zones.

We have since added new time zones as needed and now have 39 different time zones in our system. Our time zones are for exterior openings only, interior door access (if allowed for an opening) is 24/7.

Art and I attach a personalized one-page note with all newly issued iButtons indicating:

1) their time zone

2) the fact that there is an audit trail

3) a request that users do not lend your iButton to someone else

4) if iButton is lost, report it immediately

5) which doors in the facility their lButton will access

6) simple instructions on to operate the locks

The list is kept very general in nature. While I take it for granted, the fact that the lock does not hinder egress seems to be a typical question.

Anything interesting about the credentials?

You bet. The original Schlage iButtons were susceptible to damage from pressing too hard at the lock. We had to replace many of with the newer Schlage iButtons and we have had no further problems.

There are problems with over-use of credentials. Once an IR programming credential is lost or disabled, every lock must be opened, the memory cleared, another programming credential entered into the lock, the lock closed, and then re-programmed.

PINs only for access can be a problem. In our case, students are sometimes just too close when the instructor is entering a PIN. All our instructor iButtons (only instructor staff can toggle locks) are set to cycle the lock for five seconds then relock with the capability to also toggle the lock locked or unlocked. A PIN is required with the iButton to cycle and a second pin with the iButton to toggle. Only my partner and I have a third PIN to lockout a lock, again only with our iButtons.

About a year ago, we upgraded the SMS-Select software and lost the ability to issue new iButtons with multiple PINs to toggle or lockout. Every software upgrade has had small changes made by software engineers. I have talked to the New Jersey Schlage software crew and hope my input will have some positive effect on future changes.

How often do you reprogram the locks?

We are on a once-a-month schedule. Art and I check with the administrators for new credentials or staff members who need changes, then update the software and tour the facilities. Currently we need to move to each lock for programming and uploading the audit trail. We do this in several, but not all of our facilities. I have seen all the new wireless products on the market. Wireless products and programming would surely save me a lot of time.

Our newer locks have a 1,000-audit limit and we have several doors that reach 1,000 openings in just four days. The administration knows that they need to tell us immediately for the higher traffic doors if they want to pull an audit report.

How often do the locks require maintenance?

There is very little maintenance except watching the voltage in the batteries. With 135 locks, that adds up to 540 AA and AAA batteries to watch. From the iButton port our locks can be read with a multi-meter (about every three months during a monthly programming) for battery voltage and we replace batteries as necessary. Batteries on exterior doors in Chicago need to be changed prior to winter.

Anything else interesting with your system?

Yes. Our lunchrooms have vending machines and the administrators want the apprentices (our day students) to stay out of the lunchrooms when they should be in a class or shop. At the beginning of the day, the lunchrooms are open, then automatically lock, unlocking/locking for morning break and lunch and finally opening for evening classes just before the end of the apprentice day. Four exit device trims on two pairs of doors have operated this way every weekday for several years without fail. Besides the lunchroom doors, we have other locks that lock/unlock on set schedules.

I told you earlier the instructors can toggle a lock; they usually forget to re-toggle a lock at the end of the class. The original software did not allow this without a total unlock/lock cycle. The only way to unlock and then lock the door with the software was to leave it unlocked for one full minute! New Jersey didn’t think it was a problem to leave all doors unlocked for one minute . . . at exactly the same time each day . . .

I set up about 30 time zones so the one-minute unlocking would seem random on various doors on various days. It was anything but random. The latest software upgrade took away our multiple PINs but gave us a command to lock a lock without first requiring a toggle open command. We now lock all electronic locks 10 minutes after the day classes - in case a student leaves a lunchbox or tools in the classroom. Evening instructors toggle the doors open, so we give all 135 locks the command to lock 10 minutes after the evening classes end. Just to start the day secure, we give the lock command to all the locks prior to anyone entering the facilities.

Prior to electronic locks, a maintenance man had to walk the building each night locking most doors while leaving evening or Saturday class/shop doors unlocked. Someone had to walk the building again in the morning to unlock the necessary doors.

Did your access control system solve the problems?

Yes. We have can now control every type of hardware situation from door locks to exit devices to aluminum entrance doors. We stock many different parts to meet any servicing problem that might occur.

The 35 original Schlage e.Primus locks (introduced in 1998 and replaced by Locknetics products in 1999) are still operating fine. We needed to upgrade the motherboards in the locks, but the software still functions nicely with them. Because they are PIN only units, we have them mostly on classroom closets.

Anything else?

Yes. You need to be very careful about order numbers. There are more options for each electronic lock than for mechanical locks and the numbers must be carefully researched before ordering from a distributor. If you are ordering parts or locks with unusual lockset functions, the distributor may just be passing on your information to the factory. Request and check any order confirmations carefully or you may end up with several expensive electronic locksets that may not meet your requirements.

You need to have a spare lockset for each style of lock in case something does go wrong. If the problem seems software related; open the lock, clear the memory, and reprogram it. If the problem seems mechanical in nature, you will need to replace the lock and work on the problem back in the lock shop. We have occasionally had to send product back for repair and both our local supplier and the factory have been very helpful. I would also recommend checking and double-checking with your distributor to make sure that the product sent for repair is promptly returned in a timely manner.

An interesting story: our original software allowed me to send an unlock command on Friday and the lock would remain open until it was sent a timed lock command - as in Monday morning. Essentially, open all weekend. After our last software upgrade, the same lock locks at midnight, on its own. Not aware of this software change, I programmed a weekend to stay open for a contractor to wax the facility floors and shampoo the carpets. Unfortunately, all the locks locked at midnight on Friday night . . . There was a lot of duct tape used that night! There was nothing in the software documentation on this feature.

Do you still like your access control system?

The administrators, the staff, Art, and I are very pleased. I look forward to using the new Schlage AD-series electronic locks. I hear a combination iButton/PROX credential will be available allowing use in both our existing (iButton) product and future purchases of AD-Series product (PROX).