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Installation of PDK Cloud-Based Access Control Systems in a Foothill Church

Posted on April 22, 2024

A Safer Sanctuary: Foothills Church’s Upgrade to PDK

For houses of worship, the safety and well-being of congregants couldn’t be any more important. Foothills Church, a tight-knit community in the heart of Rancho Santa Margarita, California, faced significant safety and logistical challenges with its existing mechanical locks and keys system. With a congregation of about 200 members and a building spanning 15,000 square feet, Foothills Church sought a modern, flexible solution to address its evolving needs. With the expertise of Action 1st, a local commercial locksmith, they successfully installed a ProdataKey (PDK) access control system and transformed how the church protects its people.

Foothills Church

Foothills Church, founded in the early 1980s, was the first church in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. Led by Pastor Roger Horning, the church is committed to helping people grow and foster their faith by creating genuine relationships. Pastor Horning describes how close the community is, “The people are connected and take care of each other like family.” Churches and other houses of worship face unique security challenges. Creating a safe and protected yet welcoming environment for the congregation and visitors is a top priority.

Challenges with an Outdated System

The church’s reliance on physical locks and keys presented significant logistical headaches, with concerns ranging from the difficulty of tracking multiple keys to the risk of unauthorized access. The building has three exterior entrances, a main auditorium, and individual offices and classrooms, each with its specific key. Around twenty individuals had a set of five to six keys for access to the building.

This outdated system really bothered Pastor Horning.

“In a volunteer organization like ours, somebody may just hand a key to someone. You can put ‘do not duplicate’ stamps all you want, but you really have no control over who has keys or when copies are made. So, over time, you just lose track.”

Pastor Horning, ProdataKey Case Study

Pastor Horning needed a more secure and manageable access control system to protect the church’s people, property, and privacy, especially given the unfortunate incidents experienced by other religious buildings in recent years.

The Need for Security

The primary focus of Foothills Church was ensuring the safety of its congregation. The threat of unauthorized individuals gaining entry is a genuine concern amid rising attacks on places of worship nationwide. Pastor Horning explains how the threat hit home,

“There is a small church not too far from us where someone went in to hurt people.”

With the church in use every day for Sunday services, early morning and evening meetings, and hosting two other ministries, a controlled access system became essential.

The PDK Solution

Pastor Horning needed a secure, flexible, low-maintenance solution to manage daily access. He had three different integrators bid on the project, and ultimately, Action 1st, led by CEO and Owner Russell Yost, was selected. Yost recommended ProdataKey for its robust cloud-based features and unique user-friendliness. “It seemed like an ideal fit for their needs. They wanted something very easy to use, but with lots of different capabilities,” says Yost.

The Action 1st team collaborated with Foothills Church to create a customized PDK system to fit all their needs, and it was officially installed in June of 2022. The system has a total of 20 doors, providing controlled access for the three exterior entrances and interior office and classroom spaces. Action 1st opted for PDK Red Series ethernet controllers and readers for ultimate security and performance. The installation experience was seamless. Yost explains, “On our end, the installation went so well. It was such a smooth process. For us, it fit in exactly what we expected.”

The Best Access Control for Churches

Easy to Use, Advanced Features

Installing PDK delivered transformative benefits for Foothills Church.

“This system ended up being even better than we had hoped for,”

says Pastor Horning. With the intuitive ProdataKey mobile app, Pastor Horning has the power to unlock any door anytime and administer every aspect of the system with ease.

Pastor Horning loves the flexibility of managing who has access to the building with a simple click of a button on his smartphone. This feature has been especially helpful for managing specific access for the regular cleaning crew, meeting groups, and other ministries the church hosts. “We can give them access to certain rooms, only on certain days, and during certain time frames,” says Pastor Horning. With their previous system, there was no way to provide this level of controlled access.

Pastor Horning has found both the ProdataKey app and the browser platform straightforward and convenient. He uses the software to create recurring automatic schedules for the church building, allowing for more general access during specific times. For example, on Sunday mornings, the front door automatically unlocks when people arrive but automatically locks 15 minutes after the service begins. The church has security personnel on-site who can let someone in if they arrive later, but the door is already locked if a person approaches with a weapon.

With the help of the Action 1st team, Foothills Church configured the system to maximize its simple conveniences. Pastor Horning’s credentials are set up so that if he swipes at the front entrance, his personal and the main office doors also automatically unlock. They also have a multi-swipe feature set up. Users with enabled permissions can multi-swipe at an individual door to keep it unlocked for an extended time outside the automatic open schedule.

Why PDK Red Readers?

Russell Yost and Action 1st recommended PDK Red Readers and credentials for their unmatched security and anti-clonable features. “There are just certain situations where you want more security than just the standard. And I feel like at church, you don’t want someone buying a product on Amazon and scanning a fob to get in. A church is a very sacred place for numerous reasons, and we need to protect the people there,” says Yost.

PDK Red Readers deploy OSDP (Open Supervised Device Protocol), which supports advanced AES-128 encryption and monitors wires for tamper detection. Combined with encrypted PDK Red key fob credentials, the duplication concerns with mechanical keys and low-frequency prox cards are solved.

Maximized Security

Beyond the high-security hardware, the PDK platform offers additional features to maximize the system’s security. With the ProdataKey app or web browser, users can trigger a complete system lockdown in case of a threat. Pastor Horning explains the heightened peace of mind,

“We can hit one button and lock every door in the case of an emergency. We don’t have to run around to each door to secure the building.”

With instant alerts, Pastor Horning knows about all access events in real-time for faster, better-informed responses. He can configure the system to send him an email or text notification for when a specific user enters the building and when they leave. Action 1st installed a DPS (Door Position Sensor) on the two back doors and the multipurpose room. Door Prop Alerts are enabled so Pastor Horning is notified when one of those doors is left open.

Comprehensive access reporting increases accountability and aids investigations. “If something disappears out of a room, we can look at the activity log and find the last person to unlock the door,” says Horning. Leveraging all of PDK’s advanced features delivers an unparalleled security experience.

The Partnership: PDK + Action 1st

Action 1st, founded in 1984 by Russell Yost’s father, Wayne Yost, is a premier commercial locksmith serving Orange County and greater Southern California. The company originally started as a 24/7 locksmith but has since undergone a transformation under the leadership of Russell Yost, expanding its services to include electronic access control and video surveillance systems. As Yost took over the company, he “saw that access control was the direction the industry was going.” He saw the value of recurring revenue for commercial customers, and now, most of their business is cloud-based access control.

ProdataKey initially stood out to Action 1st for its ease of use and advanced cloud-based features. The platform’s focus on intuitiveness simplifies installations and configuration for integrators. Technicians can configure systems directly from the ProdataKey app while they are on-site or even remotely before hardware is installed.

PDK’s System and Health dashboard provides a detailed status overview of every device connected to a customer account, empowering integrators to diagnose system issues and remotely troubleshoot. Integrators can quickly view the connection status, sync status, and software version for enhanced insight into the system. Yost explains how the feature helps better service their customers, “We are a small company, so it’s not always the most convenient to roll a truck anytime there is an issue.” Often, it only takes a simple phone call to the end user to resolve a problem. Clients no longer have to wait for an appointment to get their system up and running.

Cloud-based systems are future-proof. Automatic updates ensure that PDK systems are always equipped with the latest features without making a service call for every new release. The future-proof nature of PDK aligned with Foothill Church’s goal to install an access control system requiring little to no recurring maintenance.

The ProdataKey installation at Foothills Church, made possible by the expertise of Action 1st, exemplifies the game-changing power of modern access control solutions for houses of worship. The system’s high-security hardware, cloud-based management, and advanced features not only gave Foothills Church a new sense of safety but also provided a user-friendly and efficient platform for everyday operations. The application shows just how impactful technology can be in creating secure and welcoming environments within our communities.

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