Nothing But the Best
Nothing But the Best

Nov 1, 2002 12:00 PM
by Don Garbera

Weary of trying to add functionality to dilapidated security equipment, how many users would welcome the chance to build a system from the ground up? Such was the opportunity recently at a high-end hotel in New York City.

The Saint Moritz Hotel, located in the heart of New York City, had been closed since 1996 until the Millennium Partnership entered into a management agreement with the Ritz-Carlton Hotel chain to re-open it in 2000. The hotel re-opened as the Ritz-Carlton after an extensive renovation.

With the building stripped to a shell, it allowed the newly formed loss prevention operation to build a security system from scratch.

The security system design was conceived by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., and patterned after other Ritz-Carlton hotel properties. The company then hired Allen Barker as director of loss prevention for the New York hotel operation, with responsibility for guest and staff security, but also for the security of 11 multi-million-dollar condominiums on the top floors of the building. Barker previously served as director of loss prevention at Sofitel, a French hotel in New York City, and as director of loss prevention at the Stamford, Conn., Marriott Hotel.

"A lot of thought was put into the system implementation as to guest and employee requirements," Barker says. "We knew that because the hotel is located across the street from Central Park, the city's largest outdoor park and recreational area, and given the notoriety of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel chain, we would garner a lot of attention from the less-desirable individuals who frequent the neighborhood. Particular attention was paid to addressing these concerns. In addition, we needed a simple system design which would give us a detailed accounting of where anyone is in the building."

An Ultrak system was chosen for the hotel consisting of 33 CCTV cameras that feed into three Ultrak multiplexers and VCRs located in the security control room.

Hotel guest rooms are secured with a Saflok system consisting of a stand-alone unit located on each door. The card key system is programmed so the card expires when a guest checks out, denying any further access to the room. When a new guest checks into the same room, a new card is issued, automatically removing the previous card from the system.

"The Saflok system allows for lock interrogations; providing us with an audit trail for determining who entered the room, and at what time and date," Barker says. "We are also able to prohibit any type of entry by simply inserting a special prohibiting key into the lock, for example, if a guest has a credit issue with the hotel."

The Windows-based Saflok system provides limited entry for housekeeping staff into the room during certain times of the day. The system also incorporates an automatic dead-bolt feature that activates once the door is shut. This enables dead-bolt activation even with no one in the room; thus increasing the level of protection. The system includes a privacy button that, when pressed, allows only security personnel to enter the room.

The hotel's front desk area includes CCTV cameras and duress alarms that send a silent signal to the control room when activated.

Employee identification badges are created with an Eltron thermal printing system, which enables employees to be added or deleted via computer.

All hotel elevators are monitored through a ThyssenKrupp system which gives an accounting of where each elevator is at any given time, whether doors are open or closed, and if any cars are in an alarm situation or inoperable. A Zenitel (formerly Stento) intercom system allows for communication with elevator occupants if necessary.

An FCI Fire Control instrument panel series 7200 notifies the loss prevention control room of any fire condition. The system includes 175 smoke detectors and 76 pull-stations throughout the building. If a pull-station, smoke detector or sprinkler head is activated, the control room is notified.

All emergency doors incorporate Sentrol door contacts which include a direct link to the control room. CCTV cameras also patrol all emergency exits.

Employees are allowed to use only one set of doors when reporting to work. Prior to entering, they must depress an intercom button and announce themselves, while a CCTV camera monitors them. The employee entrance doors use a magnetic door-release mechanism which, when touched, releases the doors as employees leave for the day.

The hotel uses an ALPS computer program that has been written exclusively for the Ritz-Carlton chain of hotels. It provides an automated means for handling routine loss-prevention tasks. Instead of maintaining a traditional log book, it is done by computer, and incident/accident reports and lost and found documentation are also handled by the ALPS system.

Another important feature of the system is automatic key control for back-of-house doors. "Employee and vendor card keys are scanned into the automated system, enabling us to run reports which indicate dates and times keys are signed-out," Barker says. "Another important element of the ALPS system is a reports function which provides reports on any unreturned keys."

Barker says that the system also documents employee attendance and generates a report on staff members who are either late or unable to report for work. The loss prevention unit then sends the report to the employee's supervisor.

Nine loss prevention officers are responsible for security. A Guard 1 Plus reporting system from TimeKeeping Systems Inc., consists of a wand that scans metallic sensors placed at locations within the building and is used for continual security tours of the property. The officers communicate with the control room via Motorola HT 1250 radios.

All officers are proprietary, and have Certified Lodging Security Officer (CLSO) certification; which is earned through a course sponsored by the American Hotel and Motel Association. The certification is mandated by the State of New York.

Although the hotel is still relatively new, the loss prevention staff has already handled incidents which range from protecting famous guests to handling unruly patrons in the hotel's lounge.

A recent incident involved a foreign guest who claimed, after going back to Europe, that $1,000 was stolen from her room.

"The lock on the guest's room (indicated) that only the guest's card key was used for entry during the dates and times in question," Barker says. "The Windows-based feature of the lock system allowed us to download a copy of the report and e-mail it to the guest in Europe. She then discovered that the money was in a secret compartment within her briefcase, and apologized for making the complaint."

Don Garbera is a Stamford, Conn.-based writer and regular contributor to Access Control & Security Systems.

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