Minnesota Life protects employees, visitors at its St. Paul headquarters
Minnesota Life protects employees, visitors at its St. Paul headquarters

Oct 1, 2001 12:00 PM

Criminals contemplating breaking the law near Robert Street in downtown St. Paul, Minn., had better think twice. Outdoor cameras protecting the headquarters of Minnesota Life Insurance Co. ! on the job 24 hours a day ! have already recorded drug deals, fights and even the aftermath of a shooting incident.

The insurance company's corporate security officers have a good relationship with the St. Paul Police Department. On several occasions, the company has shared its security tapes with the police to aid investigations. The police department even operates a storefront substation in one of Minnesota Life's buildings.

"It's not that downtown St. Paul is a high-crime area," says Joseph Beissel, the company's corporate security supervisor, "but as in any major city, there are always a few people doing things they should not be doing."

"We have been able to capture several incidents on our digital recorders that have helped the police," he continues. "Our security officers and the police have a very good working relationship and that ! along with our security system ! helps make our campus a very safe place to work."

The security system includes video surveillance, access control and intercom components. It protects about 2,400 employees working in one of four buildings owned or leased by Minnesota Life in St. Paul.

Minnesota Life, founded around 120 years ago, provides more than $240 billion of life insurance protection and manages about $20 billion in assets. The company serves more than six million clients in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Minnesota Life has 27 regional offices and 4,000 employees and field representatives throughout the country.

In St. Paul, Minnesota Life owns a 21-story, 375,500-square-foot building at 400 Robert Street. Across the street at 401 Robert, it owns another building ! with 571,000 square feet of space in 13 stories. The two buildings provide 1,360 parking spaces, with the majority located below ground. More company employees work in about 10,000 square feet of leased space in an adjacent building. The bulk of Minnesota Life's computer and data operations are located about two miles away in a two-story, 132,000-square-foot building.

The buildings at 400 and 401 Robert St. house retail operations on the first two floors including restaurants, a bank, a florist and a travel agency. Several other office tenants lease excess space on other floors. Each of the tenants can link into the building's security system or maintain its own stand-alone system. Tenants also are issued cards by Minnesota Life to enable them to enter the main doors, freight elevators and loading docks in each building after hours and on weekends.

The buildings in the central business district are linked by skywalks ! covered passages that join at the second floor and allow employees to move comfortably from one building to the other without facing the cold Minnesota winters.

It is on the second floor that most visitors first encounter the Minnesota Life security operation. There, guests and vendors at each building are greeted at a screening and reception area. Guests are issued badges they must wear while in the building. The person the guest is visiting is paged to escort the visitor into the offices.

Vendors and contractors who may need access to the offices for several days go to an identification badging center, where their pictures are taken and added to their access badges. Badges are color-coded to identify contractors, guests, employees and tenants. Beissel says the security staff makes about 40-50 badges each week for new employees, contractors and vendors. They issue about 60 guest badges daily for each of the two major buildings.

Access control is provided by a C?CURE 800/8000 security management system from Sensormatic Electronics Corp., Boca Raton, Fla. A total of 107 card readers, using proximity card technology from HID Corp., Irvine, Calif., are located at main public entries, loading docks, the parking garages and offices requiring additional security.

Each area has time-and-date entry restrictions. Beissel estimates there are about 30 to 40 different time-and-date groups, allowing access to work areas only as needed by employees to perform their jobs. Although they are not required to wear badges, company employees are expected to have their access cards in their possession at all times while at work and must show them to gain entrance into the buildings.

There are 10 C?CURE client stations on the system ! two in the security control room at 401 Robert, two in security supervisors' offices, four at the skyway reception desks, one in the offsite computer center and one in the ID badging station. They provide remote monitoring and operation of the access system. Security officers at a client station also can quickly pull up photos of employees to ensure that individuals attempting to enter the offices after hours are indeed employees.

Beissel said Minnesota Life maintains a security staff of about 30 officers, two of whom patrol 400 and 401 Robert Street at all times.

The access system includes 17 advanced process controllers (apC) panels, also from Sensormatic. The host computer downloads information into each controller's memory. If the host were to fail, the system would still function to limit access to unauthorized personnel. During the failure, events are stored on the apCs and uploaded to the host when communication is re-established. The access system and video surveillance equipment are backed up by an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). The two Robert Street buildings also have a 100 percent generator backup power supply in case of a utility failure. The company's intranet connects the access control system in each of the four St. Paul buildings to the security control room.

Minnesota Life added a bar code to each employee access card to enable them to purchase bus passes and food and drink in the company cafeteria. The costs are deducted from optional accounts into which the employees may make deposits.

"This is a nice convenience we are able to offer our employees using this access system," Beissel said.

Another security component is an intercom system with call boxes on the outside doors and the parking ramps. The system, by Stento USA, Kansas City, Mo., allows immediate contact with the security control room. Once an intercom is used, an adjacent video surveillance camera automatically brings up a view of the site on control room monitors, thus providing officers additional information about what response is required.

There are a total of 138 Sensormatic cameras ! 79 fixed and 59 DeltaDome programmable cameras ! on the system. Nearly all are color cameras, with the exception of those in the parking garage in 400 Robert Street. There, orange-colored lighting make black-and-white cameras just as effective as color models.

The cameras are positioned to provide views of the parking garages, main entrances and outside perimeters of both buildings. The outdoor cameras are kept in heated housings that melt snow and ice to provide clear views throughout the winter. Minnesota Life's computer center maintains it own small, stand-alone video surveillance system on site.

Video is transmitted via fiber optics to the security control room. Officers use a Sensormatic AD2150 switcher and TouchTracker controllers to select views and operate the dome cameras. The video is displayed on Sensormatic monitors, as well as two 36-inch monitors from Sony Security Systems, Park Ridge, N.J., which are used for main alarms. Two monitors from Secaucus, N.J.-based Panasonic Security & Digital Imaging receive signals from a rooftop satellite dish that receives the Weather Channel and CNN, enabling security personnel to monitor news that might affect Minnesota Life's operations. Until recently, the company recorded its video on five VCRs, Beissel says.

"But we became very unhappy with the amount of downtime the units had for maintenance," he adds. "Also, storage of the videotapes was taking more and more room."

Thus, they changed to 10 Intellex video management systems from Sensormatic. Each Intellex unit can record more than 700 hours of real-time video on its hard drive. The video is stored on small digital audio tapes (DAT) that occupy less space than standard videotapes. Each DAT is stored for at least 30 days before being reused.

"And since the Intellex serves as both a multiplexer and a recorder, it has the ability to let us review recorded material without interrupting the recording process," Beissel says. "That is something we couldn't do with a VCR."

Local systems integrator, Videotronix Inc., helped Beissel and Rohn Anderson, also a corporate security supervisor, to design the system, plan expansion, and train Minnesota Life security officers in its use.

"As we continue to enlarge our workforce and expand and take over leased space in our buildings, we are constantly adding new card readers and cameras," Beissel says. "It is a never-ending operation."

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