Advanced care hospital has advanced security
Advanced care hospital has advanced security

Mar 1, 2001 12:00 PM

Every baby is tagged with a sensor on his or her bracelet, which transmits signals to antennas placed on the ceiling throughout the unit.

At Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y., the 100 full- and part-time security officers who work under the supervision of Kevin Cullen, director of security, pride themselves on being ready to meet any crisis.

The 1,000-bed advanced care hospital has the region's only comprehensive cardiac program, pediatric intensive care unit, level 1 trauma center, and transplant center. It contains the only burn center between New York City and the Canadian border, and is one of only five pediatric asthma clinical research centers in the nation. It is also a teaching hospital for the adjacent New York Medical College.

The hospital's security systems includes an Andover Controls Infinity access control system with six Andover Model 780 hub panels, each controlling eight doors, and one Infinity CX9200 main control panel. Fifteen Motorola card readers are hard-wired through the ceiling back to the remote hub panels.

Designated a Level 1 Trauma Center (the highest level), the hospital's 92-acre campus includes a heliport with two leased helicopters to transport acute-care patients from a seven-county region in the mid-Hudson Valley.

When a helicopter lands with a patient, floor and car patrols are deployed to help off-load the patient and escort the patient and medical personnel through the hallways.

The officers who meet the helicopters are trained in helicopter safety. They help medical personnel physically remove the patient from the helicopter, then help escort the patient directly to the emergency room, or to the elevators leading to the operating room, intensive care or pediatric floors. We will deploy three to four security officers for each such crisis, says Cullen.

This sensitivity to patients' needs, along with special training, adds a dimension to the security officer's job at the 1.2-million-square-foot, 5,000-employee complex. According to Cullen, all of the hospital employees, including departmental administrators, have helped shape the hospital security department's policies and systems.

An extensive CCTV system uses a dedicated fiber-optic network, 108 Sony Model SSC-DC 14 fixed, indoor and outdoor black and white cameras, seven Sony SVT-L400 time-lapse VCRs, six 19-inch and eight 9-inch Sony monitors, seven Robot MV16p multiplexers and one 28-camera switcher by American Dynamics.

Over the past three years, we have expanded from 21 to 108 cameras, says Cullen.

That expansion has also included an upgraded, state-of-the-art infant anti-abduction system and a geriatric anti-wandering system, both by RF Technologies. The security system also includes a Datacard digital photo ID system; expanded intrusion alarm monitoring systems by Magnum Alert and ADT, among others; and an extended fiber optic network to reach additional buildings in the complex.

Cullen and his predecessor, Norman Werner, now associate corporate compliance officer, attribute a sharp decrease in theft of expensive equipment to the expanded CCTV system. Cameras were added strategically in pediatric, plant maintenance, HVAC and operating room areas. Improved lighting was added to receiving areas and loading docks, increasing the efficiency of the cameras in those areas.

Theft abated significantly, says Werner. We've seen it go down at least 50 percent and we've seen a 100 percent drop in theft in the second floor operating room suite, which contains 16 operating rooms. Before adding the cameras to this area, there had been chronic theft of expensive operating room instrumentation. Now, with 16 cameras positioned in this area, theft has virtually disappeared.

Cullen emphasizes that an organization-wide staff orientation helped employees understand the benefits of expanded technologies.

Employee cooperation with the new photo imaging system has also helped make this technology work at Westchester Medical Center. As part of its expansion, the security department installed a Datacard photo imaging system which produces custom-made IDs with the employee's picture. The system includes a Datacard Image Card 4 printer, a signature pad, and Quick Works software. The ID cards work with proximity readers but also have mag stripe technology for stand-alone systems in high-security areas.

Notes Werner, Photo ID compliance has gone up greatly since we started using the prox cards. Now, people always wear their ID's because they need them for access to certain areas and to enter the building on evenings and weekends.

Integrating the access control and photo imaging systems has been a great help, says Frederick R. Neider, security specialist. He says that the Motorola card readers used by employees to gain access to primary entrances on evenings and weekends are hard-wired to remote hub panels that control various door functions, such as request-to-exit and schedules. These Andover Controls remote hub panels are connected by coaxial and electrical cable to the main control panel, the Infinity CX9200, which is in turn connected to the main file server, which runs on a Windows NT operating platform.

The Infinity software program is installed on two workstations in the security command center, where most of the security systems are routed.

In this room, the Infinity CX9200 main control panel sits beside a Fiber Options Fiber Optic RX Fiber Card Cage. Here, video signals carried by fiber are converted and then transmitted by coaxial wire to the Robot multiplexers and, from there, to the monitors and VCRs.

The program has been custom-designed for our facility and works very well, Neider says. We can control door schedules or locks with the click of a mouse. We generate weekly reports and search for access information by ID card number. We can also enter new cards and keep and access activity and event logs.

Werner, Cullen and Neider are especially proud of the RF Technologies infant anti-abduction system. Every baby is tagged with a sensor on his or her bracelet, which transmits signals to antennas placed on the ceiling throughout the unit. If a band gets within four feet of one of the exit doors, it automatically locks the door and an alarm rings in three places: the nursing station, the ER security post, and the security control center, says Werner.

Similarly, if the band is cut, an alarm goes off. If an alarm goes off, we implement what we call Code Pink. In case of Code Pink an announcement is made over our PA system to alert employees, says Cullen, who adds that cameras are placed at every exit of the nursery. Security personnel have assigned functions in case of a Code Pink, he says.

Adding extra security measures to particularly vulnerable areas is a crucial part of Westchester Medical Center's approach to security. In addition to the infant anti-abduction system, there is a motion detection system with intrusion alarms on doors and/or windows in the Medical Arts Atrium, which houses outpatient services. There is also a stand-alone keypad or proximity card system in certain areas, such as central sterile processing and endoscopy.

To keep its electronic systems in good repair, the hospital uses the services of Pinkerton Systems Integration (PSI), Atlanta, for preventive maintenance. PSI maintains the CCTV system components, including VCR, monitors and multiplexers, and the mag locks and card readers, on a quarterly basis.

In the future, say Cullen and Werner, the hospital plans to integrate the intrusion alarms with the Infinity Access Control System. They hope to expand card access and prox readers to additional sensitive departments, and to expand the function of the photo IDs, perhaps using them as parking passes and all-in-one cards.

An outside contractor runs parking lot and garage guard booths and access gates, but the hospital maintains responsibility for perimeter security with car and bicycle patrols.

The bicycle patrols add a personal, customer-relations touch to security that is a particular source of pride to the hospital. Two security officers ride around the campus during daylight hours. While their primary function is to provide security, they also serve as customer service representatives, and may give directions to visitors or even help out with a flat tire or dead battery.

It reduces visitors' anxiety when they see an approachable, smiling face, says Werner.

In the Emergency Department, there are two trauma rooms, a five-bed observation area, three additional pediatric beds, four to five standard emergency room beds, and a 16-bed ER holding room area. Security is provided to this area 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

We carefully pick and train the security officers who work in this and other highly sensitive areas, such as pediatrics and the Behavior Health Center, says Cullen, who adds that violence prevention and aggression de-escalation training are particularly important for these areas.

Customer satisfaction is the central focus of the entire hospital. Providing a safe and secure environment for patients, visitors and staff is our contribution, and it's one we're particularly proud to make, he says.
Carol Carey is an Monroe, N.Y.-based writer and regular contributor to Access Control & Security Systems Integration.

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