Security in resort country
 
Security in resort country

Dec 1, 2000 12:00 PM
CAROL CAREY

In the Land of Mickey, the Rosen hotel group protects assets and people with technology that is discreet and powerful.

From the infrared lights shining into darkened parking areas, to the microwave transmitters used in surveillance, to automatic deadbolt room locks, security at Rosen Hotels and Resorts is a marvel of the discreet use of state-of-the-art technology.

The Rosen Centre, the largest property of Rosen Hotels and Resorts, is a luxury hotel located five miles from Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. It is near Universal Studios, Sea World and the Orange County Convention Center. It features tennis courts, a health club, spa, sauna, two restaurants, a deli and gift shops. The company's other five properties are all within a 10-mile radius in the International Drive area, Orlando's hotel, shopping and tourist Mecca.

Many tourists and families visit the corporation's flagship Rosen Centre. They come to relax and enjoy the local sights. Glenn C. Wilson, corporate security, safety and investigations, notes: "When the hotel first opened, a professional thief was breaking into rooms. We discussed the situation with representatives from TESA, which supplies our access control system and also mechanical door locks. We asked for a system of deadbolt locks that would lock automatically when doors were closed. Since then, the breaking and entering has stopped.

"We have elderly people who visit the property and don't think to throw the deadbolt lock," says Wilson. "And for many of the families who are here to visit Disney World, keeping track of their children and seeing Mickey Mouse are priorities. They, too, can easily forget to throw a lock. So the automatic deadbolts have been very helpful."

Wilson, along with corporate risk manager Ashley Bacot, has managed to incorporate nuts-and-bolts concerns such as budget, public relations, ease of use, and crime-fighting capacity into a security program that manages to be cost-efficient, discreet and technologically advanced. Bill Covert, a contracted consultant, and Karen Faircloth, director of the Millennium Technology Group, are also part of a team that has helped to design and update the security system.

Security efforts have reduced crime at the Rosen Centre and the five other Orlando hotels owned and operated by Rosen Hotels and Resorts Inc. Wilson and Bacot manage safety, security, investigations and risk management for all of the hotels, and the safety/security team consists of a 110-person, in-house staff working full time.

The use of infrared technology at Rosen Hotels and Resorts has helped stem a tide of car thefts along International Drive and has helped put several career criminals behind bars. "At night, along International Drive, there was a spree of auto thefts and smash-and-grabs, in which windows would get smashed and belongings taken from cars," says Wilson. "To combat this, we looked at the lighting in our parking areas."

One option, says Wilson, is to use infrared lights, which are invisible to the naked eye but which activate at night and fill in the gaps that street or parking lot lights leave unfilled. "A camera reads the light and can therefore pick up images in areas that seem to be dark," says Wilson.

"We ran tests, and were impressed with both the cost-effectiveness and the performance of the system," says Wilson.

"We now use infrared lights in many areas. These incorporate light bulbs that filter out all light except for a specific bandwidth. The bulb turns on and off with photo sensors, and is activated when it is dark outside. Cameras positioned in strategic areas are able to pick up images despite the apparent darkness," says Wilson.

The technology has helped the Rosen Plaza, one of Rosen Hotels and Resorts' convention properties, to deter further crime in the parking lot and exterior areas. "There were three cases in the past year when we apprehended people. One was a car thief and the two others were involved in smash-and-grabs. After their arrests, these people were linked to other crimes against area properties. In addition, we believe the technology acts as a deterrent because the lights and cameras are visible and can be identified by would-be perpetrators," says Wilson.

The infrared lights are positioned throughout the exterior of the Rosen Plaza hotel, in the parking lots and near exit doors, and complement the other outdoor lighting so that there is always a consistent level of light. "We have 12 to 15 of these lights, which are manufactured by Pelco," says Wilson. Images are picked up by the same cameras that are used throughout the hotel, which has approximately 75 Pelco and Kalatel cameras both indoors and outside, including approximately 20 pan/tilt cameras. Most, but not all, are color.

While the "bad guys" who operate professionally along International Drive may have been deterred by the infrared lighting system outdoors and the automatic deadbolt locks indoors, these were not enough to keep internal theft at bay. Wilson reiterates the claim of many security directors, especially of large service organizations such as hotels or hospitals, that employee theft is a major concern. To combat it, Wilson uses room surveillance, when necessary, to help control internal crime among the approximately 3,500 employees of the Rosen Hotels and Resorts' six hotels. Because of these efforts, internal theft has been reduced by 60 percent.

Wilson emphasizes that such surveillance is done only when guests are out, and is one of several options used when a guest complains that a piece of jewelry or some other valuable is missing from his room.

"When we get such a complaint, one option is lock interrogation, which tells us who entered a room, and when. If the lock interrogation isn't conclusive, we will discreetly set up a surveillance camera in the room. We may place some "bait" in the room that would attract the would-be thief. Video signals from the camera are transmitted over microwave frequency with the use of a transmitter at one end and a receiver antenna at the other end. We'll usually use a small, LCD monitor and a portable Sony Z-box 8-millimeter recorder."

Since the hotel initiated this procedure five years ago, approximately 30 employees have been terminated or arrested. "Word has gotten out that we have zero tolerance for theft and, as a result, thefts have dropped. When an employee sees a fellow employee arrested or terminated, it sends a clear message," says Wilson.

Overall security at the Rosen Centre is governed by a TESA access control system using TESA HTPX-24 software which was chosen for its expandability. The system includes room and parking lot access as well as access to such areas as the pool deck, VIP lounge, and secure work areas that contain computer and building system controls.

The system runs off of its own file server and is connected, through an interface server, to a Comtrol interface box. Through a port on this box, the TESA system is connected to a Visual One Property Management system, also connected by a port to the Comtrol box. That system is installed on a separate file server, from which connections fan out to between 24 and 35 front desk work stations. Room keys can be activated and deactivated at these work stations.

"The Comtrol box has four ports in front and four in back," explains Faircloth of the Millennium Technology Group. "The Property Management system is connected to it, as are "vendors" such as the TESA system, the movie system, a credit card system and a telephone processor."

"The Property Management System server uses a switch network, or hub, with more than 275 connections. This core switch is in turn connected through a fiber optic network to smaller switch units, called IDF units, in various areas. These IDF units are then connected by copper to individual work stations," says Faircloth.

"The hotel is segmented into seven different IDF's, such as sales, finance, housekeeping, ballroom, health club," adds Faircloth.

Fiber optics and radio connectivity are currently used for the WAN that connects the six Rosen Hotels and Resorts properties and other subsidiaries, but the company is in the process of changing to a system that will use fiber exclusively, says Faircloth.

A secured computer room houses the file servers, while a security command center houses 15 monitors along with a Pelco matrix switcher and 16-position Pelco multiplexer that control the Rosen Centre's CCTV system. A series of four Cubic Video digital recorders record 16 cameras each and can be accessed over the Rosen Centre's LAN. Camera points are recorded continuously at certain strategic areas, such as exit doors, the front desk, the computer room, lounges and restaurants.

"We found the digital recorders to be less cumbersome than tapes, offering better storage and more cost efficiency," says Wilson, noting that each recorder has 200 gigabytes of hard drive. "Any series of pictures deemed important can be saved on a CD-ROM."

Transmission software which comes with the digital recorders and is installed on workstations enables a user, such as Wilson, to access either a live or recorded picture of any camera point. Wilson is also able to use the company's WAN to access sites at the other five properties.

"I can save an image and e-mail it to others throughout the properties, such as the security directors of the individual properties, or even outside, to the Orange County Sheriff's office, for instance," says Wilson.

Parking lot security and access, as well as exterior security, is a major focus of the Rosen Centre security program. With an open lot in back and a five-story parking garage on the premises, the hotel uses an extensive system of pan/tilt and fixed cameras. Cameras cover areas such as the hotel exterior, stairwells, and elevators.

In addition to the cameras, an added measure of convenience is provided by an audio system which can operate either with a button or simply by picking up sound. These audio stations are located at elevators and stairwell exits and entrances.

While there is a security checkpoint at the parking lot which is manned 24 hours per day, seven days per week, registered guests can use their TESA room keys to enter and leave at will through an outside aisle.

Wilson, Bacot, Covert and Faircloth are satisfied that the Rosen Centre and the company's five other hotels can provide safe and secure sites for tourists and conventioneers.

"A new hotel is planned, and WAN connections are being upgraded to further facilitate communication among sites, including remote monitoring capabilities," says Bacot.

 
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