Security never tasted So sweet
Security never tasted So sweet

Jul 1, 2004 12:00 PM

Located in the outskirts of Hershey, Pa., is Hershey Park, the "Sweetest Place on Earth" made even sweeter by the technology and manpower that keep its visitors feeling safe.

Hershey Park named for the famous milk chocolate bar was founded in 1907 to provide a peaceful recreation area for the workers and residents of the factory town constructed around the new Hershey factory.

Almost a century later, Hershey Foods Corp. is the no. 3 world market leader in the candy business, producing the sweetly simple Hershey's bar and almost 30 other varieties of chocolate candies and grocery items. Hershey Park has grown into the Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Co. which includes the full-scale Hershey Park theme park, the Hershey Park Arena, the Hershey Park Stadium, ZooAmerica, and the new Giant Center Arena.

In addition, the Hotel Hershey accommodates groups up to 500 and entertains with a 9-hole golf course, a 17,000-square-foot spa offering chocolate-themed pampering, and the 20-acre Hershey Gardens. The Hershey Lodge and Convention Center offers more than 665 rooms and 100,000 square feet of meeting space.

The first amphitheater built in 1908 in the new Hershey Park boasted 1,500 tiered seats on a sloping hillside and an entrance sign that read, "Ye who enter here leave dull cares behind."

The park management today has the same priority: ensuring that park visitors can leave daily woes behind at the gate. Each of the park's 30,000 visitors must pass through a security checkpoint at one of 24 entrances. All hand-carried items (such as purses and backpacks) are searched, with security guards monitoring for outside food or beverages, alcohol, drugs or weapons.

"Aside from the amusement park and the many special events it offers, we are the home of the Hershey Bears professional hockey team, the site for our state's high school athletic championships, and the area's premiere site for concerts and shows for all ages events attracting more than four million visitors a year," says Tim Shellenberger, Hershey Park director of safety and security.

"One of our highest priorities is making sure people inside the park feel safe and secure, and one of the ways to do this is to make sure everyone is subject to search," says Shellenberger.

"Everyone" includes the park's 3,500 employees. Employees are restricted to entering through two entrances where their hand-carried items are also searched. Their mag-stripe access control cards provide them with discounts within the park, with access to the park when not working, and with various discounts within the town of Hershey.

To continue the perception, and reality, of public safety once visitors pass the gates, Hershey Park relies on a combination of technology and well-trained staff members.

More than 250 security staff members protect the park complex each day. In 2002, the park added a CCTV system by Bosch Security Systems, formerly Philips, hoping the 24 new AutoDome cameras would act as a visible, physical deterrent; aid in the apprehension of wrongful acts; and provide a valuable method of documentation, while offsetting insurance costs.

The system integration team from SimplexGrinnell first recommended the Bosch equipment to park personnel and arranged a tour of the Bosch manufacturing and training facility in Lancaster, Pa.

The Bosch Day/Night Auto-Domes, which automatically switch to monochrome after dark, are used primarily to monitor entrances/exits and the park's perimeter. To enable the Auto-Domes to monitor the park's perimeter, the SimplexGrinnell team installed more than 3,000 feet of conduit and fiber-optic cable around the park's borders. Cameras outfitted with wireless transmitters and receivers were used when the terrain or existing construction would require significant trenching to install cable.

Because the installation was completed during the park's off-season, park visitors were not a challenge for the SimplexGrinnell installation team, Instead, "the main challenge was the sheer size and acreage of the park," says team member Kevin Hayden. "The outdoor camera locations had to be very carefully selected to factor in rides, trees and shrubbery."

The AutoDomes are linked by fiber optics to a Bosch 8600 Allegiant Switcher/Controller and a System 4 multiplexer and digital video recorder. A redundant control office for the CCTV system protects against any loss of video due to power outage or equipment failure. A minimum of two weeks of recordings must be stored, according to company policy, although four weeks of storage is often on hand.

"Having the ability to look at the camera's viewpoints using a PC is something we're looking into for select personnel," Shellenberger says. Park security personnel are also considering the introduction of more cameras.

"They're a very good tool for documentation," Shellenberger says. "Wherever an incident takes place, there's always multiple stories. But the security system doesn't lie."

To coordinate the direction of cameras with maximum efficiency, the camera operator monitors the park's 16 radio frequencies using a Motorola base station and portable handheld radios. "In many cases, the camera is on the scene before the security staff gets there," Shellenberger says.

In addition to working to prevent criminal activity or accidents, an amusement park must also contend with large numbers of park visitors.

"It's a great big playground, and it's a difficult task to keep 25,000 to 30,000 people playing safely," says Shellenberger, whose myriad job roles include supervision of the park's First Aid Center. "But our primary concern is the weather and the elements. We have thunderstorms, tornadoes; even severe heat can be an issue."

The best way to keep park visitors safe is to practice skillful crowd management, he says. Park organizers try to keep an even mix of refreshment vendors, rides and attractions, kids' acts, theaters and new rides throughout the park.

"All departments are particularly conscious of the need to keep people evenly distributed," Shellenberger says. "That's all part of good crowd management. If you manage the crowds, you don't have to worry about crowd control."

Crowd management does not end at the park gates. Some days, park employees help more than 18,000 vehicles park safely.

"When you have multiple venues, facilitating good traffic flow can be a challenge," Shellenberger says. The park monitors all key intersections with cameras, and will manually change the signal at the intersection when necessary. "Our first warning is through our cameras."

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