A prescription for preventive security
 
A prescription for preventive security

Sep 1, 1999 12:00 PM
Michael Fickes

Security technology isn't just for big city buildings anymore.

The Princeton Community Hospital in the town of Princeton, W. Va., recently installed state-of-the-art access control, closed-circuit television and infant abduction prevention systems to support a security staff of 14.

For many years, hospital officials had relied solely on a bar-code based guard tour system and a 20-year-old silent alarm system to support the institution's security officers.

Changes in the regional environment sparked the move to more advanced security. "Our goal is to provide a safe environment for patients, employees, physicians and visitors," says William Bowling, the hospital's vice president of support services.

The 210-bed, not-for-profit hospital spans 210,000 square feet, employs 1,100 people and accommodates another 400 to 900 patients, physicians and visitors on any given day.

In recent years, Clarence Littlejohn, supervisor of security at the hospital, had noticed an increase in crime in the area surrounding the hospital. He also observed a rising number of transients passing by the hospital, thanks to its location near an Interstate 480 interchange.

These observations, combined with hospital projections calling for significant growth in the area's population, led Littlejohn and Bowling to commission a forward-looking security study from Lockwood Greene, a consulting firm based in Spartanburg, S.C.

The study confirmed Littlejohn's findings about changes in the area surrounding the hospital. Other hospitals in the community had reported security problems. A neighboring high school had run up against a hostage crisis. Crime statistics showed new crime patterns across the region.

Lockwood Greene recommended two possible responses. The first involved doubling the hospital security staff to 30. The second suggested supporting the existing staff with security technology. Budgetary considerations argued in favor of technology.

"While the study was under way, we had a non-fatal gun incident in our emergency room," Littlejohn says. "No one was injured, but we had a weapon discharged in the ER. We wanted to take a proactive stance."

Bowling and Littlejohn began to investigate security technology, visiting other hospitals in West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. Their criteria called for an integrated system offering ease-of-use, technical flexibility and expandability capable of accommodating the hospital's plans for growth.

FINDING A PROTOTYPE On their research tour, an access control and CCTV system used by the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore caught their attention. Designed around access control technology supplied by Lenel Systems International Inc. of Pittsford, N.Y., the system satisfied Princeton Community Hospital's security criteria.

Bowling and Littlejohn called upon DEI Integrated Security Control Systems, a Baltimore-based integration firm. DEI developed a design for Princeton Community Hospital based on a Lenel card access and badging system, according to Todd Harrington, regional sales manager with DEI. In addition, DEI integrated a Pelco CCTV system and Code Alert infant abduction prevention system made by RF Technologies of Chicago.

The DEI design placed HID proximity card readers at 22 exterior and interior doors throughout the hospital. "The exterior doors include the main entrance, physician entrances and the emergency room entrance," Littlejohn says. "From 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., those doors are open to the public, but we control them after 8 p.m. We control a number of interior doors 24 hours a day. These include doors leading to obstetrics-gynecology, the psychiatric unit, the emergency room, and outpatient day-surgery services. We also use card readers to control access to plant operations."

Three Lenel intelligent field panels connect the proximity readers to the hospital's security center and provide for expansion, should Littlejohn decide that more doors need controlling.

VERSATILE BADGING An integrated Lenel badging station located in the security center maintains a data link to the human resources department, which regularly sends updated employee records to security.

"When a new employee joins the hospital, human resources sends him to the security station to get an ID badge," Littlejohn says. "We take a picture with a Hitachi digital camera, which feeds the image into a PC database managed by Lenel software."

A Magicard 300 by Ultra Electronics handles card printing chores at the badging station.

The card media carry high-density magnetic stripes, which allow employees to use their identification cards to clock in and out. "When we were shopping for systems, we wanted something that would work with our present mag-stripe time-keeping system," Bowling says. "Lenel offered that. The Magicard printer also prints cards with bar codes. This provides us with flexibility in making decisions about how we want to handle time and attendance records."

Lenel's NT compatibility offers another kind of flexibility. Currently, a hard-wiring system connects the hospital's three field panels to the security center. Lenel technology allows the field panels to plug into a Windows NT network, eliminating the need to hard-wire the panels back to the security center. "The hospital has plans to install an NT network, and when that happens, we will be able to incorporate system expansions through the network," Bowling says.

CCTV, ALARM CONTROL The open architecture of the Lenel software also delivered control efficiencies to the hospital's new CCTV system.

That system uses 23 Pelco color cameras, 13 with Pelco pan/tilt/zoom mounts, to monitor parking lots and walkways outside the hospital as well as entrances, main corridors, administrative areas, lab areas and hospital units such as the emergency room where trouble might arise unexpectedly.

Coaxial and RS-422 data cables connect the cameras to the security center, where a Pelco 9500 matrix switcher, three Dedicated Micros multiplexers, three PSA video cassette recorders anda bank of Sanyo color monitors manage the cameras and the video recording tasks. The data cable provides switcher control over camera presets and pan/tilt/zoom functions.

While the Lenel computer manages all alarm and access control functions for the system, it also connects to the Pelco switcher through an RS-232 cable. This is where access control and CCTV integrate. "The RS-232 cable will send alarms generated by the access control system to the switcher," Harrington says. "The switcher has been programmed to determine what camera is closest to a particular alarm, to pan, tilt and zoom into a preset view, and to send alarm video to the monitors. We have the system programmed to bring up video on forced doors, duress alarms and invalid card reads."

In addition to the security center, a remote security station at the entrance to the emergency room and another at the switchboard provide back-up monitoring.

"Our security officers patrol the hospital continuously," Littlejohn says. "As a result, there are times when no one is in the security center. After 8 p.m., we always have an officer at the remote station in the emergency room. We've programmed the monitor at that station to switch randomly through all of the cameras. Currently, this station does not receive alarm notifications, but it will after a planned expansion of the system.

"We've also put an alarm computer and two CCTV monitors next to the switchboard operator. When an alarm activates, video comes up on one of the monitors, and the operator dispatches a security officer to the scene," Littlejohn says. "The switchboard operator, the security officer at the remote station, and officers checking into the main security station manage to provide complete coverage of the system."

PREVENTING INFANT ABDUCTION The Code Alert infant abduction prevention system forms the final link in the Princeton Community Hospital security system.

The system provides children in the pediatric unit with wrist bands containing radio frequency (RF) transmitters. Sensors located on the walls outside of the unit pick up the RF transmissions as a wrist band moves past. The sensors set off alarms at the pediatric nursing station, the alarm monitor at the switchboard and the security center. The Lenel system creates a time and date stamp for the incident. Nearby cameras pan, tilt, and zoom into viewing position, and the VCRs begin recording.

The ability to integrate the Code Alert system into the overall security technology package appealed to Littlejohn. He also likes a fail-safe mechanism built into the system. "With some RF systems, you can cut off the wrist band, leave the transmitter, and take the child," he says. "With this system, you must deactivate the tag before removing it. If you don't, it activates an alarm."

Littlejohn has also set a fail-safe policy to ensure the system does what it is supposed to do. No Code Alert alarm can be cut off or cleared until security and the nursing staff have found the child in question.

Perhaps the best feature of the hospital security system is its expandability.

The hospital recently broke ground on a new wing. As construction proceeds, DEI will install card readers and cameras to monitor security there. Plans also call for the addition of a network of duress alarm buttons, provided by Sentrol Inc. of Tualatin, Ore.

At the touch of a few keystrokes, the Lenel-controlled PC will expand its reach and take on the additional access control, alarm, and monitoring responsibilities of the new wing.

 
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