Elegance meets electronics Combining old-fashioned luxury with modern security systems at
Elegance meets electronics Combining old-fashioned luxury with modern security systems at Hotel Del Coronado.

Dec 1, 1998 12:00 PM
Carol Carey

Visitors to San Diego's elegant, Victorian-style Hotel Del Coronado - a historical landmark frequented by worldwide dignitaries and U.S. presidents - may not realize as they enjoy themselves in the upscale, oceanfront resort that a complex security system quietly operates beneath its glistening red rooftops.Situated on 33 seaside acres, the 692-room, 1,200-employee complex, with six separate buildings, is like a city within a city, with numerous departments operating autonomously.Watching over that self-contained "city" is a prodigious loss prevention department that not only protects guests and their belongings, but also monitors a kitchen that serves 2,500 meals a day (6,000 on holidays); a maintenance staff of painters, carpenters, electricians and plumbers; a laundry and dry-cleaning facility that handles more than 20 other hotels' laundry needs; and upholstery, carpentry and print shops."For a hotel our size, we probably have one of the largest security departments of any hotel in California," says Paul Carter, director of loss prevention for 18 years. "And, our losses here are very low compared to the industry." The 22-member Loss Prevention Department must juggle daily duties with VIP visits, including many by President Clinton before and after he became president. Presidents who have stayed at the 109-year-old hotel include George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, John Kennedy and others dating back to the ear ly 1900s. Of them all, Reagan required the most security because of an earlier attempt on his life.While staff members like the challenge of VIP visits, they also face 12-hour shifts and more stress during the visits.For instance, before a presidential visit, bomb squads from either the San Diego County Sheriff's Department or the U.S. Secret Service use dogs to check the resort. Several hotel security officers help the Secret Service identify hotel staff members and guide bomb squads. Secret Service and communications officials arrive up to two weeks before the President, with a White House visit usually requiring up to 200 rooms. The President's plane lands at the North Island Naval Base in Coronado, a few miles from the hotel.

"The Loss Prevention Department has been extremely successful in handling a variety of VIPs," Carter says. "They use side entrances, back entrances, back service elevators and the dock area, if necessary."Protecting the Hotel Del Coronado - one of the world's largest wooden structures - from both fire and internal theft is Carter's top priority, he says. When his staff is not preparing for Presidential visits, they have their hands full operating the extensive security systems, including: a CCTV system of about 46 CCD cameras controlled by Burle switchers; a panic alarm system integrated with the cameras at the cashier posts, retail outlets, restaurants and bars; a fire safety system; and tracking software for facilitating internal investigations.

Putting out firesbefore they happenFire prevention is accomplished by the Gamewell Life Safety System, which includes 32,000 sprinkler heads, smoke detectors, heat detectors, water flow devices and pull stations. Transponder cabinets with circuit boards, programmed to detect alarm locations, carry fire alarm signals through a large loop of 3-pair copper conductor shield cables, to a CT100 processor, which sends the location to loss prevention's main computer, a Compaq Deskpro with an NEC monitor. Local fire officials, as well as hotel security officers, are dispatched to the site after the alarm's location appears on the monitor. All system transponders connect to the CT100. "We then assess the situation, determining if it is a false alarm or a serious incident," Carter says. "We do have incidents, for instance, when steam from cleaning devices sets off alarms."

Staying aheadof employee theftThe reporting and tracking system, PPM2000, produced by the Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, company of the same name, controls internal theft by tracking the frequency, types and locations of incidents. Use of graphs provided by the software helps staff identify high-risk areas, Carter says."We can also track an individual if we have a series of thefts in a particular place. The reports show the time the incidents occurred, another way of spotting patterns," Carter says.Limiting employee access to one entrance and one exit also helps control internal theft, Carter says. Property and package checks and a pass system monitor property removed from hotel premises."Employees know that their lockers and the employee rest rooms are also controlled by security and subject to inspection at any time," Carter says.Guest-room safes help minimize theft. "When the key needs to be changed, we change the entire core," Carter says. "We'll send a security officer up to the room and he or she will change the safe's core as well as supply a new key. We will do this whenever we notice that a key to a safe is missing. We have never had a loss from a guest-room safe."Each key is cataloged in the computer system by core, key and room numbers; only one number corresponds to each key in the hotel. The system, Safekeeper, is manufactured by Safekeeper Co., Orlando, Fla., a division of Michigan-based Computerized Security Systems.Controlling access to the safes would not be effective, of course, without also controlling room access, accomplished with the electronic Saflok system, also manufactured by Computerized Security Systems. The electronic door locks, opened with magnetic stripe cards programmed at one of 13 stations, are battery powered with their own memory. A dedicated, copper-wire loop system connects the Saflok stations, equipped with key programmers and laptop computers, to the main computer. "We can look into that memory to find out who has been in the room," Carter says. "Every key must be signed out during the day by employees - the cleaning staff, security officers, bellmen, whoever has access to rooms. We always know who has which key."Each computer station where card keys are made has a key programmer and a laptop computer that controls the programmer or requests information from the main computer. These laptops communicate with the primary system via telephone lines and modems. The main computer continually checks each station for its status, particularly to see whether it is operational.The system generates reports, revealing who uses computers at which stations at what times. Each employee has a code that enables them to make keys, and the computer can generate status reports detailing these codes.

Overt cameras spread through six buildingsThe hub of security activity swirls around the security control room, also the main loss prevention office, where security officers work 24-hour shifts, aided by eight monitors, including several 5-inch Ikegamis and two 16-inch Sanyos. Officers play tapes on three Sony VCRs, using 16-inch monitors.Coaxial cable connects the five Vicon pan/tilt/zoom cameras with Rainbow lenses and Panasonic and Sanyo cameras to the security control office. "We have six different buildings that are unconnected, so some of the wiring does go underground," says Carter. Longer runs require RG6 coaxial cable; shorter runs call for the RG59 coaxial cable. American Dynamics and Robot quad multiplexers are programmed into the Burle switcher system. Integrated with the CCTV system, the panic alarm system includes 15 panic buttons in sensitive areas such as restaurants, bars and cashiers' posts. When activated, a panic button sends a signal through copper wire to the alarm system apparatus, wired to a camera in the area. Security officers identify alarm locations on a control room monitor by identifying the camera first.

Radios help avert problemsShould problems develop, department heads communicate with Motorola MT2000 flip-phone radios and the Nextel Emergency Communications system, which enables them to contact each other at distances up to 1,000 miles. The flip-phone radios switch to cellular telephones without the need for dialing area codes or conducting time-consuming "roaming" procedures.The radios are programmed for use by 15 departments. They have digital read-out screens that enable users to select the desired party or convert to cell phones on a menu. The radio emergency system, considered the priority, overrides the cell system, Carter says.Security officers patrolling the hotel use Motorola MT300 radios. A Nextel radio-equipped base station in the dispatch office allows patrol officers to communicate with each other and other departments through radio channels. Dispatchers contact patrol officers through the radios about emergency situations.

Photos aid with investigationsDigital photography is another tool for investigations. Officers use a camera and a software program on the main computer to add photos to investigative reports sent over a computer line to relevant departments.Carter explains: "We take the pictures, connect the camera to the computer, call up the Smartmedia program and download the pictures to our computer. We can take up to 15 pictures at a time, and we receive a thumbnail photo on the screen which we either store or print out. We number and catalog the photos. The photos have enhanced our reports, which we disseminate to managers. For instance, if we have found an area has been left unsecured, we can reinforce this with a photo."Reports sent to department managers are transmitted on the hotel's internal network, the Hotel Information Service. Carter downloads the Smartmedia photos on a CD to access them for uses in the information service reports.The hotel's connection, by modem, to CDB Infotek, Santa Ana, Calif., also enhances reports. CDB Infotek provides criminal record and Division of Motor Vehicle checks.Some Hotel Del Coronado guests use the hotel as a base for visiting local attractions such as Sea World, San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park or Wild Animal Park. Others choose to linger and enjoy the amenities such as its lounges and bars, five restaurants, sauna, steam room, game room, swimming pools and outdoor tennis courts. Either way, they can relax in the knowledge that, thanks to Carter and his staff, they are enjoying one of the safest and most secure resorts in California.

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