Kastle Lays Siege to New York


By Joseph Dobrian-Contributing Editor

The extraordinary emphasis in recent years ion preventing acts of terrorism and crime has made some building owners and tenants wonder whether they are up to the task of making their space as secure as possible. Thus, some observers maintain that outsourced, customized security systems, that are monitored remotely, are the best method. One of the companies banking on that assessment is Washington, DC-based Kastle Systems, a full-service electronic security and access control system provider that’s now making a strong sales push in the New York metro area.

Operating since 1972, Kastle offers highly customized response procedures through its centrally located operations centers. Kastle employs more than 450 people in offices in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Sydney, Australia . It handles security in 1,654 buildings with 37,000 tenants carrying 1.7 million access cards. This includes 72% of all commercial office buildings in Washington, DC that are bigger than 75,000 sf.

“Prior to starting Kastle,” recalls company president A. Gene Samburg, “I had worked at Westinghouse, providing security systems to the White House. The methods of the White House security experts always worked because they used threat analysis. That is, they analyzed the threat and formed a solution, rather than working with whatever solutions were available.”

Samburg maintains the key difference between his system and competing products is that the latter are often built to meet specifications devised by security consultants, while Kastle pays more attention to specific, customized functions. “The problem is that the customer isn’t running his business based on voltage or firewall, but on functionality,” Samburg says. “We find 300 to 400 functional requirements, and we hit them, not the technical specs.”

Kastle also addresses one of the biggest problems facing a customer, who buys a proprietary system, which is running the system once it’s in place. “The usual proprietary system is like (Microsoft) Windows,” Samburg says. “You have to configure it. If you outsource the system, you tell us what to do. If you prefer hands-on control, we can loop the controls back to you through our website.”

A system that the building manager or tenant installs and runs on their own, Samburg says, can lead to inefficiencies. It distracts the user from the core business, requires the hiring of in-house personnel to handle maintenance and monitoring and hampers the installation of updated and improved systems. “What we’re offering is service,” he says. “From our remote locations, we provide management of the system to anyone not in the security business.

He continues, “Clients take us to where they need us to be. We also offer knowledge. One client of ours sat down and drew up a list of its needs and we were able to show them that they ‘d left a lot of things out and their system would do about half of what they wanted it to do.”

In terms of cost, Samburg asserts that Kastle Systems’ fee is a fraction of what a client would spend on personnel to run a security system . And with a customized system, it runs according to each individual client’s requirements. The client decides what will cause an alarm, whom the alarm will notify and so on. These customizations become more sophisticated almost daily, Samburg claims.

“For example, post-9/11, people wanted to lock their buildings down during the day,” he explains, “so we devised a system by which a tenant who wants to admit a certain visitor would sign onto our website and enter the visitor’s name beforehand so that it’s there when he or she arrives.

“We also hope to develop an interface with which we can handle the administration and management of other systems. We’ll hook onto Brand X and take over. Thus, our competitors won’t be the vendors of other security products, instead we’ll compete against the in-house people that our clients don’t have to hire.”

Samburg explains that Kastle Systems is set up to hit the eight points he considers essential to a well-run security system:

  • Design. Kastle designs a custom solution tailored specifically to the client’s security needs, beginning with threat analysis by the building’s owner, manager, engineer, architect and tenants, as well as Kastle’s own experts.
  • Installation. It blends the system with the aesthetics of the individual building.
  • Programming. Kastle can connect off-the-shelf security devices to a patented data collection panel in its operations centers. Specialized staff in the centers provide round-the-clock service and responses can be configured to suit the specific needs of the building or tenant space.
  • Monitoring. Kastle staffs 24-hour operations centers in various major cities.  These centers can contact buildings instantaneously through telephone lines from the building perimeters, elevators and data collection panels. All data lines are continuously monitored. Alarms, propped-open doors, long access, and tamperings can be noted.

I didn’t feel comfortable not having monitoring on-premises, as well. They gave us that redundancy.


  • Kastle Systems provide uninterruptible power, ensure the telephone lines are operational and include redundancy to keep the sys­tem operating.
  • Administration. Each client building or tenant has a dedicated Kastle customer advocate.
  • Maintenance/Service. Technicians provide repair and preventative service on all Kastle security equipment in the building. Maintenance is free for the first 12 months after system installation.
  • Changes/Upgrades. Account managers determine how a building’s needs change and advise the client on updates and upgrades.

Maureen Beirne, Kastle’s new vice president of sales, has spent more than 20 years selling technological solutions to Fortune 1000 companies and to the real estate community. She says her current mission is to establish a stronger position for Kastle in New York City, then do the same in Boston and other urban areas on the East Coast.

“My goal is to build relationships,” she says. “Once you establish the value of outsourcing, other companies will come on board.

“We provide closed-circuit TV, turnstiles, access carding, and a menu of services at both the building and tenant levels.” She continues, “Many companies started pitching technology in the post-9/11 climate where customer awareness had been raised. But those who know us, know that it’s functionality that’s vital, not the bells and whistles.”

For example, Beirne points to Kastle’s check-in link feature, an Internet based capability that displays a spreadsheet of all employees, stating where they are and how they can be reached. (“I’m on sales calls from 8 to 10, can be reached at 212-xxx-xxxx.”) The visitor management system, also Internet-based, lets each building know when a visitor is expected and what kind of security clearance to grant him or her-on an instantaneous basis.

Realizing that class C and B buildings have a need for A-level security, Kastle provided a custom installation.

DAVID RIVNAK-Collegiate Church Corp.

Cynthia Hirsch, area director of administration for Ernst & Young, notes that Kastle serves the professional services firm in more than 10 locations nationwide, including four in New York City. Most notably, the company ‘s headquarters at 5 Times Sq.

“Their card-key system is unique to Kastle,11 she says. “Normally they do all the monitoring from outside, but since we have 4,000 people in the heart of Times Square, I didn’t feel comfortable not having monitoring on-premises as well.  They gave us that redundancy, but they do the monitoring from midnight to 6 a.m. when the building is empty.”

Sharon Perry, Ernst & Young’s metro New York area security director , says she likes the way Kastle Systems can adjust the levels of access for sensitive locations. “Kastle was able to work with Advanced Electronic Systems, which had provided our turnstiles to provide system compatibility,” she adds. When you badge in, we now have a record of who has gone into the building, with separate records for people who might need to be located in a hurry, such as fire wardens.”

Project manager Paul Buhite, of Owings Mills, MD-based Aon, says he started using Kastle post- 9/11, primarily because of the vendor’s ability to work easily with multiple facilities.

“We were in the Trade Centers,” he says, “so when we got up and running again we split our facilities. I was impressed by Kastle’s virtual connections, the ability to maintain security at several sites. We also have offices in Chicago, Houston, Owings Mills, Greenwich (CT) and many people who travel from office to office. Kastle allows us to enable and disable cards, so visitors from our other locations don’t have to go through guard desks.

“Moreover, pre-9/11 we did not have standardized security procedures in place; our offices did what they wanted. Post-9/11 we’ve taken a more corporate view, and our larger offices all use Kastle Systems. Kastle is not always the right choice for our smaller offices-those of 10 to 15 people-but  even there, Kastle’s access cards are compatible with existing security. ”

David Rivnak, director of real estate and acquisitions for Collegiate Church Corp. of  New  York  City, reports that Kastle serves in three of the organization’s multi-tenant properties.

“They’re very helpful,” he says. “I’ve long sought to upgrade security, realizing that class C and B buildings have·a need for A-level security, if not more so, since A buildings have concierges and guards, while B and C buildings more likely have a stand-alone system. Kastle provided a custom installation for all our buildings that had unique requirements, such as basement accessibility via the subway.

“What with varying building needs and different tenant hours, adapt­ability was very important. It wasn’t rocket science, but it did require a lot of putting heads together, and Kastle came up with great customized pack­ages .11-RENY

Reprinted with permission from the September 2004 edition of Real Estate New York

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