Center for Developmental Disabilities installs access control, CCTV, fire alarms
Center for Developmental Disabilities installs access control, CCTV, fire alarms

Sep 1, 2000 12:00 PM

The center for Developmental Disabilities in Woodbury, N.Y., has come a long way since it began in 1958 as a few families seeking an alternative to institutional care for their children. In 1966, the center received state funding to build a school and a residence, comprising 47,000 square feet. A recent construction project has added 27,000 square feet to the existing administration/school building and has brought security to the forefront at this private, non-profit agency in the New York suburbs.

The center serves children, adolescents and adults who have autism and other developmental disabilities and is committed to helping them overcome barriers to living, learning and working. The center provides educational, vocational, residential and community-based services.

Funded by both government and private sources, the center serves more than 100 children and 200 adults in its daytime programs. Additionally, the center operates a 32-bed residence for children and serves about 100 adults in community-based homes and supported apartments. The staff includes special education teachers, vocational teachers, social workers, speech pathologists and a variety of other skilled workers.

The major construction project significantly expanded the center's main facility in Woodbury, which now totals 75,000 square feet. The center has 12 other facilities in Nassau County, where it offers day treatment and residential programs.

In conjunction with the construction project, the center enhanced its security system and life safety systems to meet increased demands. Specifically, the fire alarm system was expanded and upgraded, and the center had its first "true" security system designed and installed. Simplex, a supplier of fire detection and security solutions, provided the advanced building systems needed to protect the newly expanded building.

Seven new classrooms were added. The expansion also included a new gym, library/media room, and a computer room. Additionally, existing areas of the building were renovated and building systems upgraded and modernized. The second floor is the residential area, now consisting of four apartments, each with four bedrooms, a kitchen and a dining/living room.

Security has become more important than ever. Until 1999, security at the center consisted of simply locking the doors at the end of the day. There was no computerized access control, monitoring or CCTV surveillance.

"Security and fire safety are of utmost importance to us," says Patricia Monteforte, director of operations at the center. "It is a responsibility I take personally, and one I do not take lightly."

Center's special needs addressed

The center's security system features access control on several entrance doors, which are activated by proximity card readers. Five CCTV cameras watch the entrance doors and are monitored at a workstation staffed around the clock. The cameras are multiplexed and can be viewed on security monitors. The system also includes a video distribution amplifier so that additional viewing monitors can be located at remote entry locations.

The cameras are also tied to entry doors on a dry-contact basis. If a door is broken into, the appropriate camera is activated and a time-lapse video recorder begins recording the alarmed location. The system is also set up to allow remote entry, enabling staff members to open a specific door after confirming video recognition with the CCTV camera. The feature is useful in allowing parents who come to visit their children in the evening to enter after video recognition is confirmed.

Advanced fire alarm system

The fire alarm system was customized to meet the center's needs. In addition to the main annunciator panel, which displays system status and alarms, three additional remote annunciators have been located strategically in the building. Anyone near one of the remote annunciators can view the alarm condition and take action.

In lieu of the usual strobe and blaring buzzer-type fire notification devices, Simplex decided to employ strobe-only and strobe/voice notification appliances. This was done to minimize panic among the children in the event of an alarm. With this system, specially recorded messages are announced when an alarm condition occurs. Depending on the alarm location, the message announces the alarm area and directs occupants to an evacuation route. Total evacuation is avoided unless required, allowing the center's staff to maintain calm and order in alarm situations.

The fire alarm system at the center also features Simplex TrueAlarm sensing technology. TrueAlarm supports peak value logging, a feature that minimizes nuisance alarms by enabling a customer to set the sensitivity to coincide with the fire risk in the protected environment. True-Alarm sensors provide automatic adjustment for dirt, dust, humidity and aging, and signal the control panel when cleaning is required.

Looking out for the center's future needs

The Simplex Intelligent System Controller (ISC) provides versatility to tailor access management solutions to a facility. The fully modular distributed-processing controller provides design flexibility, while enabling the system to continue operating in the event of a file-server malfunction. The system remains up and running while the server is being repaired, maintaining system integrity.

"I recommended two ISCs for the center's security system even though we could have satisfied the system requirements with only one," says Joe DeBlasio, Simplex project manager for the center's installation. "One ISC would handle current requirements but the system would be at full capacity. Adding a second ISC now will make future expansion easy and less costly."

Training on the new security system

The center's personnel were not experienced with a modern security system so training was critical. Alexandra George, a senior security systems specialist from the Simplex Security Professional Services organization and a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), conducted the training and system operations analysis for the center's management.

"We decided to spend two days of our three-day training to get the center's people trained on the system and its operation, and reserve the third day for follow-up training," Ms. Monteforte says.

Customer-focused project management

The expansion project was completed in four phases, and it was critical that the fire alarm system be operational during construction and renovation. While the new Simplex system was installed, the old system had to remain functional. Simplex was able to integrate the old system into the new Simplex fire alarm panel so that the center had fire alarm protection during all phases of construction.

The center is thinking of tying all of the time and attendance reporting from its 12 other locations to the main location.

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