Industry donations help protect day care center
 
Industry donations help protect day care center

Jul 1, 2000 12:00 PM
Jeanne Bonner

A white supremacist opened fire at the North Valley Jewish Community Center near Los Angeles on August 10, 1999. He shot five people, including three children. No one was killed, but one of the children was unconscious and without a pulse when the EMS arrived. That same day, the gunman had already killed a Filipino-American postal worker. According to day care center staff, the gunman parked his van - packed with ammunition - at the curb and simply walked in the front door.

It's not easy to find a happy ending to such a story. But the security industry rose to the occasion in the aftermath of the shooting, donating and installing security equipment to protect the day care from future attacks. The industry effort took place under the aegis of the Security Industry Association's SAINTS program (Safety, Awareness and Independence Through Security), which has also donated fire alarms to black churches across the country that were blighted by arson.

Ademco and its distribution arm, ADI, offered donations coordinated by the SAINTS program. The equipment helped to assure parents and children that it was safe to return to the community center. Steve Roth, president of ADI, Melville, N.Y., cited the nature of the "irrational acts" as motive for involving the company in this grim tale. ADI and Ademco are active members of the SAINTS program.

When the incident occurred, North Valley had been a client of USA Alarms, Chatsworth, Calif., for 13 years. USA Alarms had taken over monitoring of the center's fire and burglar systems. The center also had a few motion detectors, but like the burglar system, they were only used at night. At the time of the shooting, the center had been mulling over a proposal from USA Alarms to upgrade the burglar and fire system. In the aftermath of the shooting, George Gunning, CEO of USA Alarms, called Al Silver, executive vice president of Ademco, Syosset, N.Y., who committed Ademco and ADI to donate whatever equipment the center needed.

The North Valley Jewish Community Center, located in Granada Hills, a suburb of Los Angeles, offers after- school activities and senior citizen and child care services. It has five preschool classes and four child care classes. Each class is supervised by a teacher and a teacher's assistant. School enrichment activities at the center include karate, kids in the kitchen, and arts and crafts. Once a week, about 40 seniors come to the center for lunch. The center employs 40 people, including the director, several program secretaries and the teaching staff.

Following the shooting incident, the center decided to upgrade the fire and burglar alarm systems and install CCTV. With Ademco donating the equipment, George Gunning of USA Alarms volunteered to install the equipment without charge and assigned his son, Sean, a sales consultant for the company, to oversee the installation.

The center was eager to install CCTV. USA Alarms installed four Javelin cameras, a Javelin multiplexer and a Javelin 20-inch monitor. The center has several Sanyo recorders which tape continuously. The tapes are changed each week and stored for future reference. Two of the cameras were installed outside of the building to view the gates and another camera faces the front door. The fourth camera is placed just inside the entranceway, slightly hidden from view. The gunman had fled the scene after the shootin g and police mounted a state-wide search. The gunman eventually surrendered to the Las Vegas police the next day. "If anything like this happened again, we would get a clear picture of the intruder. We wouldn't be searching everywhere. We would know exactly what the person looked like," Sean Gunning explains.

USA Alarms installed the two outdoor cameras in a visible location to deter future attacks. "If somebody walks up, he sees all the cameras. The outdoor cameras are very visible. The indoor one is a recessed-mounted one, but I would rather have that one hidden away so that we still get a good picture of a gunman before he shoots it out," Gunning says.

The burglar and fire systems are separate, in accordance with Los Angeles county law prohibiting combination burglar and fire systems, and both communicate separately with the Ademco command center central station. The Ademco Vista 50 burglar system has one control panel and divides the secured facility into four partitions. Each partition has its own keypad and can be armed and disarmed individually. It allows the center the freedom to arm areas of the building that are not in use. The partitions include the nursery where the children play, the main building, and the administrative offices. Ademco Dual Technology motion detectors were also installed at the center.

Gunning installed between 30 and 40 smoke detectors. The new smoke detectors check in with the system every few minutes. There are also 10 to 20 heat detectors and 10 pull stations.

Gunning installed Ademco 211 Hold-Up buttons at all the desks in the front area of the center and in the director's office. When activated, they send silent signals to the central station in USA Alarm's offices, and USA Alarm notifies the police. In the old burglar system, a keypad by the entranceway contained the only panic button. The staff was unable to use it during the attack because it was located at the spot where the gunman entered.

The center chose not to install access control equipment. The staff felt it is essential that parents can come and go freely, says Gunning.

Although the center has never had a security staff, it now employs two full-time security guards, posted at the entrance. According to center staff, everyone feels safer because of the presence of the guards. The building and parking lot are surrounded by a locked gate. USA Alarm continues to do the monitoring for the center's alarms.

 
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