Apr 1, 2001 12:00 PM

Lila and DeWitt Wallace wanted to found a magazine to provide readers a condensed version of various published books of the day. So, in 1922, from a small loft in New York City and with a handful of employees, they started a magazine called Reader's Digest.

Throughout the years, the Reader's Digest Association Inc. has become a global publishing and direct marketing company. The company's flagship magazine, Reader's Digest, is published in 48 editions and 19 languages reaching almost 100 million readers around the world each month. The company also publishes do-it-yourself books, children's books, and special interest magazines including Walking and The Family Handyman.

The corporate headquarters are housed in a picturesque 19th century building that has been expanded through the years, and which presides over several acres of rolling hills in Westchester County, N.Y. Of the 4,800 people the corporation employs worldwide, about 1,200 work at the headquarters.

Joseph A. DiDona, manager of corporate security, is responsible for securing the headquarters as well as for employees around the globe. Prior to joining Reader's Digest, DiDona worked for 15 years with Philip Morris, where he managed its international headquarters.

DiDona's responsibilities at Reader's Digest are considerable. He manages the security operations at 74 locations in 34 countries in addition to the corporate facilities.

"I handle investigations, executive protection, and physical security for all of the company's holdings, as well as the safety of more than 300 visitors to the corporate offices each week," says DiDona.

DiDona and his department also protect a database of subscriber information housed in the global data center.

DiDona says his department has increased security at the Westchester facility and boosted employee awareness of security, because of the nationwide increase of crime in the workplace. The state-of-the-art security operation includes a Sensormatic C?Cure 800 card access system at more than 75 building locations around the 750,000 square-foot facility in Westchester, as well as at three other offices in New York City, Chicago and Toronto.

Each employee carries a Motorola proximity card, which includes the employee's photo and doubles as an identification card. The cards are printed on a Fargo printer. Employee photos are made with a package from Sensormatic, which uses a JVC TK400CU digital color camera equipped with a Computar zoom lens.

Twenty American Dynamics pan-tilt-zoom cameras patrol the parking lot, while Sony SSC-104 color cameras, as well as some Burle color and black-and-white units, keep vigil over interior sections of the connected buildings.

The data center and building corridors are outfitted with motion detectors, which have also been installed at the loading docks, the company store, employee garage, corporate video center, and residential areas that house visiting executives and employees relocating to the area.

The security control room features six Sony 20-inch call-up monitors, Burle and Phillips multiplexers, American Dynamics switcher, and Burle time-lapse recorders. The card access system is also monitored from the control facility, as is a facility-wide Aiphone intercom system. Intercoms and CCTV cameras are located at every card reader location, including employee entrances, and at selected perimeter door locations.

One of the three corporate grounds entrances, used as an employee entrance to parking areas, is secured via the card access system and an American Protection Equipment (APE) security barrier gate. The main entrance is secured with an iron gate that closes after hours. Employees who want to gain access during the evening must first be identified through an intercom and CCTV camera at either of the two gates. The third entrance is permanently closed, and is opened only for special events or visiting dignitaries requiring special security procedures.

Security personnel are all contract, except for DiDona, his supervisors, console operators and the department receptionist, who are proprietary.

All security people, contract and proprietary, receive New York State mandated eight-hour compliance training. They also receive CPR training and ongoing refresher training in public relations skills, access control techniques, and console room procedures. New hires must go through a minimum of 40 hours of training before they can man a console on their own.

DiDona uses the company's intranet to disseminate information to employees on safety procedures such as how to protect belongings during the holiday season when petty thefts rise. "Our home page has been a great aid serving as an awareness vehicle," adds DiDona.

DiDona also uses the company's LAN line to check on employees that have accessed card readers around the facility. He can view in real-time employees who have entered the global data center during any given hour of the day or night. Simultaneously, as he views the employee, his or her ID photo instantly shows up on DiDona's computer screen, as well as in the control room, and at the security coordinator's desk.

The founders of the Reader's Digest, DeWitt and Lila Wallace, passed away during the early 1980s. The Wallaces had no children, so they set up the Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund which continued to run the company as a private enterprise until it became a public entity in 1990. The Wallace Fund still exists, and is a philanthropic organization involved in cultural and artistic endeavors.

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