Dec 1, 2001 12:00 PM

On a quiet Connecticut peninsula, night has settled, and small waves breaking on shore are the only sound. Atop three sleek, six-story buildings set back from the shore, a dozen thermal imaging cameras scan the darkness for heat variances. Inside one of the buildings, video from the scene plays out on a bank of 24 monitors. Should the cameras detect a variance in the infrared spectrum ! caused, for example, by the sudden appearance of a boat or person ! on the screen will appear its form, illustrated in bright-white relief, thus activating a swift chain of security responses.

Heat-seeking cameras are only one component of a world-class security program that protects biomedical research giant Pfizer's new global research and development headquarters, located on the Thames River and overlooking Long Island Sound, in New London, Conn.

Pfizer is the largest privately-funded biomedical research company in the world, posting global revenues of $29.6 billion in 2000. The new $294 million, 750,000-square-foot headquarters facility, administration central to research programs involving more than 12,000 Pfizer scientists around the world, opened in June and represents the largest in-state business expansion in Connecticut history, according to Gov. John Rowland.

Across the river from Pfizer's research and development site in Groton, Conn., the 22-acre site is also notable because Pfizer has revived the estuary adjacent to the peninsula, making it again habitable for aquatic life after years of industrial abuse ! and presenting unique security design challenges in the bargain.

Neil Wiseman, senior supervisor of security operations management for Pfizer R&D, New England, oversees security for both Pfizer's Connecticut and Massachusetts security operations. The Connecticut sites alone ! with thousands of researchers in Groton and some 2,100 employees in New London ! present an oversight challenge similar to that of a small metropolis.

The security command center at the Groton site is home to a full-time fire department and serves as a 911 center, dispatching fire, medical, hazardous materials teams and security response on a 24-hour basis. Additionally, Wiseman explains that on a typical day, he has staff dedicated to investigating everything from workplace violence to theft to motor vehicle infractions. Still others participate in managing a bus transportation system that transports some 400,000 people a year; maintaining Pfizer's fleet of more than 100 cars; and supervising a contract guard force of about 150.

The New London R&D headquarters includes tightly-secured administrative office spaces, a glass-fronted cafeteria with seating for 550, a credit union, fitness center, a parking garage for 1,790 cars, a ferry dock for employees commuting between Groton and New London and a helipad, its own security command center and a childcare facility ! all secured by a Recognition Systems biometric hand geometry access control system.

To design and engineer the new facility's security program initially, Wiseman says Pfizer consulted Risk Management Associates (RMA), Leucadia, Calif, which worked directly with the project architect from the start. "The threat assessment was based on security issues faced by the pharmaceutical industry as a whole such as groups opposed to certain research or even to drug pricing," Wiseman notes, "but we also wanted to create specific security synergies with the Groton site."

RMA is one of several firms comprising what Wiseman calls the Security Systems Group. "On a daily basis, the Systems Group is responsible for maintaining the brains in both the Groton security command center, monitored by Pfizer employees, and in the New London center, monitored by contract Pinkerton employees, as well as the access control, surveillance and intrusion alarm system components."

Between the two sites, he says, there are about 2,000 security points on the system, including 750 card readers, 500 CCTV and thermal imaging cameras, a perimeter intrusion protection system, emergency phones and more than 100 roving and stationary security officers providing watchful human eyes and ears.

RMA systems technician Bob Sollo says system components are integrated and were designed to feed off of one another smoothly.

Interior system solutions at the two sites include a PCSC proximity access control system on sensitive interior doors such as the library or telecommunications and file rooms, Ilco door locks serving as stand-alone access control on certain doors, and a variety of color CCTV cameras monitoring select locations and emergency phones.

But the first line of defense for the New London site is its sophisticated exterior protection system, which required special consideration, says Sollo, because Pfizer's commitment to preserving the natural waterfront aesthetic precluded 'prison-like' surveillance such as artificial light, fencing or poles. "Pfizer is always ahead technologically, and this is, after all, their global R&D headquarters," he points out.

"The New London site is surrounded on three sides by water," Wiseman adds. "So the question was, what technology could allow us to protect it at night, in absolute darkness, without fencing, at distances of at least several hundred feet? Thermal imaging cameras were the answer."

The series 300 Raytheon cameras Pfizer selected see only longwave or true infrared energy and are in no way affected by the presence or lack of visible light, explains Robert Kienlen of Raytheon Commercial Infrared. "The reason the military has used the technology for 25 years," Kielen says, "is that all objects emit their own infrared energy according to their temperature. Thermal imaging senses temperature differences to about 0.1 degrees centigrade or less and allows you to see that energy."

Thermal imaging cameras have been available commercially for nearly seven years, but they aren't cheap; Wiseman notes that someone can currently expect to pay between $7,000 and $9,000 per camera. According to Kienlan, however, Raytheon's goal is to bring pricing down below the $5,000 mark for security applications. He says night surveillance is a challenge for the security industry as a whole in that standard CCTV cameras need some type of light or infrared illuminator to see in the dark ! a package that can cost several thousand dollars. But with an infrared illuminator, which he likens to a stand-alone heat lamp, the farthest a CCTV camera can see is about 150 feet into the near-infrared spectrum, or that spectrum still requires some ambient light, he says.

"Thermal imagers have about 8-10 times the performance of a CCTV camera with an IR illuminator," Kienlen says. "With thermal imagers, depending on the lens you use, you can see a man at a half mile or more, a car or boat or truck at maybe 2-3 miles, and land features at as far as 20-30 miles away in total darkness. Range is limited only by how big the object is, how much temperature difference it has and the atmosphere."

The images yielded by the cameras, however, are very different from those yielded by CCTV cameras, Sollo notes. "Thermal yields only black, white and gray images: Anything hot is white, and anything cold is black, but at night time, they're like gold. They're not affected by rain and fog, and they pick things up as a bright white spot against a dark background.

Although Pfizer is not currently using the cameras for fire detection, firefighters routinely use them to see through smoky conditions, Sollo adds.

Pfizer relies on fixed and pan-tilt-zoom cameras in daylight hours, several of which are located in the vicinity of the thermal cameras and all of which are continuously digitally recorded using Intellex units by Sensormatic. "Once any sort of activity is detected, day or night," Sollo says, "an alarm condition results and we can focus recording, follow you around campus and dispatch security on foot or by vehicle."

The New London facility is further guarded by a fiber-optic detection system on the limited perimeter fencing and which can also be buried underground, Sollo notes. Upon detecting the slightest vibration, the system activates an alarm condition and swift camera and dispatch response. Exterior gates and parking areas are monitored with both PCSC access control readers and various fixed and pan-tilt-zoom cameras.

Over the next year and a half, Pfizer plans to incorporate thermal imagers into its Groton security operation, says Wiseman, and that will further fulfill Sollo's description of Pfizer's security modus operandi: "You don't see it, but it's there."

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