Alabama medical center updates electronic security
Alabama medical center updates electronic security

Mar 1, 2001 12:00 PM

Prior to last year, the Brookwood Medical Center, located in Homewood, Ala., a suburb of Birmingham, relied on a basic video surveillance system for security. But with the center's continued growth and the addition of a new parking deck ¡ª one of the largest in the state ¡ª improved efficiency and better security became necessary. In the spring of 1999, Brookwood upgraded its security system for the new millennium by adding an access control function.

"Security became the top priority because the new parking deck is pretty much off-campus. This meant relocating many hospital employees," says Mark McCormack, director of facilities management for Brookwood. "We wanted the deck to be well lit and highly secure."

Brookwood Medical Center is part of the Tenet Healthcare system. The 586-bed medical center resides on 85 acres. Brookwood specializes in women's services, cardiovascular medicine and surgery, cancer, psychiatric services, neurosurgery and neurology. The center employs more than 750 board-certified physicians, assisted by 1,600 employees and volunteers.

The medical center consists of 12 buildings, covering 1.1 million square feet, and two parking decks, covering another million square feet. The five areas currently protected by the security system include patient care, physician offices, ancillary areas, staff offices and the parking decks.

The main component of the new access control system is the C¡¤Cure 800 system from Sensormatic Electronics Corp., Boca Raton, Fla. Currently, Brookwood employees carry access cards containing picture identification. The badges are used to enter parking garages and to allow the tracking of vehicles. More than a dozen card readers on the system restrict employees' access to areas required to complete their jobs. Though time restrictions are not placed on the cards at the moment, the capability is there if needed.

Brookwood's in-house security department maintains and updates cards, keeping track of comings and goings. Staff members wear badges every day. Badges are deactivated within 24 hours of an employee's termination, although an employee's records may remain in the system permanently.

McCormack, working in tandem with security director Dwain Cabaniss, manages the access badges and ensures that the system is supervised 24 hours a day.

The C¡¤Cure system is also used to control video surveillance functions. When card readers are activated, the nearest camera displays an image of the employee on monitors in the security office. The security office is located on the south side of the hospital with direct access to an exterior road that encircles the campus. The system's 331 cameras monitor areas of the facilities, including entrances, exits, parking decks and lots, elevators, a 210-foot elevated crosswalk, hospital corridors, and the emergency room. A security dispatcher monitors the cameras 24 hours a day. The cameras are multiplexed and then recorded on 24 VCRs. Videotapes are stored for seven to 10 days. At any given time there are about 250 stored videotapes that can be reviewed if an incident occurs. All cameras are monitored directly in the security department office.

A feature of the new security system is the integration of a sophisticated baby alarm system, designed by Code Alert, a division of RF Technologies, Brookfield, Wis., and installed by Alscan, Homewood, Ala. The system automatically locks doors and shuts down the elevators when someone tries to remove a baby wearing an ankle tag from the nursery.

"The main concern in designing this system was safety of employees and patients, something that is often overlooked when construction or renovation projects are budgeted," says Ed Goldberg, president of Alscan, the systems integrator for Brookwood.

Aesthetics were also a factor in designing the system, adds Goldberg. A new console was designed for the ease of viewing all monitors and to make the dispatchers and security area more comfortable and functional.

"The new security system has been a major help," says McCormack. "The changeover to the new system went well, a smooth transition. The only hurdles involved getting everybody's information into the system with photos and badges."

The first batch of access cards covered 6,000 people. A sub-committee worked on the badges for three months prior to implementation. Committee members decided on the layout, on who would have access to where and on the turn-on date of the system.

"The access control system has assisted the security department, as well as the hospital, greatly," McCormack says. "And we have long-range plans to continually upgrade the system to accommodate continued growth and improve safety wherever possible."

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