Jun 1, 2001 12:00 PM

This has really taken us to where we want to be. The VCR system forced us to search for video we wanted to save. The process sometimes took hours.

Eighteen months ago, St. Vincent Hospitals and Health Services of Indianapolis diagnosed a security problem: the institution's security technology was outdated.

Like many large institutions, St. Vincent uses both closed circuit television and access control systems. When first installed 10 years ago, both systems provided state-of-the-art coverage.

Since 1991, however, the St. Vincent system has grown dramatically. The WSE 6100 access control system, for example, originally controlled access for about 2,000 employees. Today, the system accommodates 12,000 cardholders using 155 proximity card readers at the system's four primary sites.

The main CCTV system employed black and white cameras connected to the security center by hard-wired multiplexers, which displayed one frame of video per second. Security officers monitored the system 24 hours a day at a bank of four monitors in the security center, while time-lapse VCRs archived the images.

By early 2000, the growth of St. Vincent had overwhelmed the CCTV system and was reaching the maximum capacity of the access control system.

Emerging health care issues also required upgraded security systems. While St. Vincent has run into no significant problems in its pediatric, pharmacy, or emergency room facilities, well-publicized problems in these units at other facilities across the country demanded that security be tightened.

"These are key areas that need extra security," says Larry Aurs, security services manager for St. Vincent. "So in planning to upgrade security, we have tried to be proactive in adding more protection to these areas."

St. Vincent's security officials asked Koorsen Protection Services to assist the hospital in upgrading both its CCTV and access control system. Based in Indianapolis with 16 offices across the Midwest and Southeast, Koorsen specializes in integrating fire and security technologies.

Koorsen worked with Aurs and Don Hubele, St. Vincent's manager of facility services, to develop a strategy to enable the hospital system to make the transition from old to new security technologies over a couple of years. "We set priorities for what we wanted to do over a two-year period, as money allowed," says Pete Whitehouse, systems sales manager with Koorsen. "For example, when we started the process 18 months ago, the access control system was functioning fine and wouldn't reach capacity for a couple of years.

"On the other hand, the existing CCTV system was questionable. The black-and-white video was not very detailed and reviewing archived video was difficult," says Whitehouse.

Aurs and Hubele asked that the CCTV upgrade come first, setting three priorities.

The first priority was to purchase color cameras to provide more detail to the officers monitoring the system in the security center.

The second priority was to double the number of cameras to about 120 to improve existing coverage in sensitive areas such as pediatrics and to initiate coverage in other facilities within the growing health services system. Facilities that received new cameras on the main campus included the main hospital, a professional building, and a cardiology building. St. Vincent also wanted the new CCTV system to cover three remote facilities: a stress center located across the street from the main facility, the New Hope hospice located about a mile away, and Carmel Hospital, a smaller full-service hospital about eight miles away.

Finally, Aurs and Hubele opted for a digital recording system that would eliminate VCRs and videotape. "They wanted a system that would provide better images that were easier to search, review and share with others," Whitehouse says.

This broad outline enabled Koorsen to begin specifying CCTV system components including cameras, a switching system, and a digital recording system.

Camera installation would then proceed area by area according to priorities set by Aurs and Hubele.

In moving to color cameras, Hubele had to determine the sophistication of the new cameras. "We had to decide if we had enough light to use straight color cameras on the exterior," Whitehouse says.

In fact, the hospital emitted enough light at night to avoid the use of day-night cameras. With this information, Koorsen specified eight color cameras in high-speed domes to cover the exterior areas of the main campus. Three high-speed dome cameras provide exterior coverage at Carmel Hospital.

Hubele and Whitehouse settled on two camera suppliers: Vicon Industries Inc., Rosemont, Ill., and Panasonic Closed Circuit Video Equipment, Secaucus, N.J.

Vicon also supplies all the interior cameras for the system, including small, fixed, corner-mounted cameras and 12-inch fixed domes.

"The inside cameras are fixed on strategic targets," Hubele says. "We concentrated coverage heavily in our pediatric care areas. While we haven't had problems with infant abductions, we are aware of incidents that have occurred throughout the nation."

"We have also positioned cameras in other strategic areas including the pharmacy, emergency room, the hallways in front of the locker rooms, the main concourse entrance, the cashier's office, and an above-ground parking structure," says Hubele.

The old CCTV system moved video to the security center with coaxial cable, but Hubele is now using fiber-optic cable wherever possible.

Early this year, Hubele began installing his own fiber-optic systems with the help of Optical Cable Corp., Roanoke, Va. "We ran a big strand of fiber to the professional office building adjacent to the main hospital," he says. "We have 20 cameras and 20 transmitters there. A 48-strand fiber runs back to the security office. That gives the system room to grow."

The existing coaxial cable and new fiber now push video from 69 cameras on the main campus into a Vicon 1200 matrix switcher in the control room.

A console supplied by Winsted, Minneapolis, houses the switcher controls, eight 15-inch Vicon color monitors, and the hospital's fire alarm computer.

For video recording, the switcher loops video into three First Line DVX 32000 digital video recording systems, housed in the rear of the security center. Supplied by Integral Technologies Inc., Indianapolis, each of the recording systems handles 32 cameras and offers recording capacities of 160 gigabytes.

First Line systems will record video on free-running, alarm, or motion detection settings. Hubele has set the systems to record through motion detection. At this level of coverage, the overall system will archive approximately six weeks of video. Incidents picked up by the system are saved to CDs.

"This has really taken us to where we want to be," Hubele says. "The VCR system forced us to search for video we wanted to save. The process sometimes took hours. With the First Line system, we simply specify a time and date and the system retrieves the video."

First Line systems work even harder at St. Vincent's remote locations, which employ freestanding CCTV systems. The Stress Center, for example, employs a First Line DVX 16000, which directly monitors 16 cameras. At Carmel Hospital, two DVX 32000 systems monitor approximately 60 cameras. Another DVX 8000 system keeps an eye on eight cameras in a remote warehouse facility.

These systems send video to a monitor available with the Integral Technologies' systems. The operator can view current video and call up saved video, while the system continues to record.

With the CCTV system under control, Aurs and Hubele have moved on to creating the same flexibility for the access control system. In mid-May, they issued a purchase order to Koorsen to upgrade the WSE 6100 to a new WSE (now NexWatch) Stargaze system.

Stargaze offers a Linux-based graphical user interface, an increase in capacity, and, perhaps most important, the ability to move gradually to a digital single card system.

Stargaze will accommodate St. Vincent's current analog proximity card system and existing network of 155 readers.

Currently, however, hospital employees must carry two cards. A WSE proximity card operates the access control readers. Datacard Corp., Minnetonka, Minn., provides separate photo ID cards with magnetic stripes used for time and attendance.

Once Stargaze is up and running, Hubele plans to begin the transition to a digital proximity card system capable of consolidating cards and adding services.

St. Vincent plans to make the transition gradually. Stargaze, which works with both analog readers and more advanced digital readers, is the first step.

Just as the completed CCTV upgrade now allows St. Vincent a flexible approach to system expansion, the Stargaze upgrade will do the same for access control.

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