Stamford Hospital
Stamford Hospital

Jun 1, 1997 12:00 PM

Stamford, Conn., has blossomed in recent years. It is home to some of America's largest corporations, among them Xerox, IBM and GTE, and the corporate headquarters of Swiss Bank is coming within the next year. Stamford also boasts an upscale mall, and a fashionable downtown area has been rebuilt within the last 10 to 15 years. Serving Stamford and its residential communities is a hospital that has been around since the late 1800s. Stamford Hospital, which sits on 17 acres not far from an area that experiences a lot of criminal activity, houses one of the most sophisticated security operations in the state.

A dedicated staff Run by Bill Schmidt, the safety and security department at Stamford Hospital is responsible for monitoring and control of persons entering and leaving the hospital. Officers man designated access points, and cameras are located at ingress/egress doors controlled by a card access system. Officers patrolling the complex are also accompanied by guard dogs. Schmidt has been with the hospital for more than 17 years. Previously, he was with the Stamford Police Department and retired at the rank of sergeant.

Director of security operations John Perrotta also came on board after a long tenure with the Stamford Police Department. His duties are to institute and oversee security officer training programs and to develop hospital personal safety programs. He also assists Schmidt in implementing department objectives, policies and procedures.

The senior security staff coordinator is Andrea Turnbull, who is responsible for overseeing annual salary and non-salary budgets and monitoring monthly expenditures to ensure budgetary compliance. She is also responsible for scheduling security personnel on all shifts and coordinating security activities and special projects. Protective measures

CCTV cameras are located throughout the complex. There are six black-and-white Vicon cameras with pan-and-tilt capabilities located at strategic points on roof tops. They incorporate auto-iris TV lenses with motorized zoom and infrared illuminators. Twenty-four Magnavox cameras - which will soon be replaced with Sony units - are located throughout the hospital. Some are exposed and others are mounted in Pelco housings.

The hospital also uses panic alarms and motion detectors. Panic alarms are situated in human resources, cashier windows, the front lobby, the emergency room and on the maternity floor. Motion detectors are located in the cashier department and off-site satellite buildings as well as in the management information building, visiting nurse association building and the hospice building.

Card access is another important part of the security operation. When we started the system in 1990, our original Continental Smart Term controllers had a 3,000-card capacity. Because the hospital has grown so much, we had to install memory upgrade boards to increase the capacity to 10,000 cards, says Schmidt.

Wiegand card readers are located at more than 100 points guarding areas such as perimeter doors and the administration building. All the external doors are also supported by Aiphone video intercoms. Front lobby doors go into an automatic lock mode at the end of the business day and cannot be entered without a laminated access card that incorporates an employee photo.

We were experiencing a lot of noise and interference from the tremendous amount of electronic medical equipment used by the hospital, so we installed a fiber-optic communications link between all our Smart Term controllers and Continental CA-450 `head end' software, says Schmidt.

All cards are programmed in the security department. If an employee loses a card or leaves the institution, the card is immediately deactivated. The hospital has two off-site facilities on the card access system. The facilities communicate back to the CA-450 software via dedicated and dialed telephone modems.

Crash barriers, made by Industrial Time and Systems, are used in the physicians' parking lot to prohibit unauthorized parking. All parking facilities incorporate emergency call boxes from RCS Communications that are linked to the security control room and to hand-held Motorola radios carried by security officers.

During an emergency when the call button on the box is depressed, a recorded message immediately announces its location so the nearest officer can attend to the incident. The box also allows two-way conversation with the person in distress. A blue strobe light mounted high on the pole with the call box flashes 12 times to help the officer locate the site quickly.

The security control room employs Vicon and Sanyo black-and-white monitors and a recently added Sony 14-inch color monitor. It also houses an American Dynamics quad splitter and Toshiba and Vicon videocassette recorders.

The control room is manned 24 hours a day and is the heartbeat of the operation. It helps us interact with employees, visitors and patients in a timely manner, says Schmidt.

If an alarm is triggered, the location is immediately displayed on the CA-450 computer screen. If an alarm is triggered at a door watched by a CCTV camera, the picture will also appear on the control room's main monitor. The control room officer uses a joystick controller to look around the area where security was breached. Cameras are positioned to overlap to eliminate blind spots.

The maternity and pediatric floors use a Sensormatic infant protection system to double-tag infants. If a baby is moved to an unauthorized location, a local alarm sounds at the egress point, alerting the staff in the immediate area. Simultaneously, an alarm sounds in the security control room, giving the exact location on the access card computer. CCTV cameras record and display the event on the main monitor. A security officer's best friend

The security operation also uses four trained German shepherd guard dogs imported from Germany. With training, they cost $10,000 each. Schmidt says the hospital imports the dogs from Europe because better breeding gives them more stamina, strength and endurance. The dogs live on campus, where they develop loyalty to the hospital staff. We got the first dog in 1988. Although there were no real security problems on campus, it was determined dogs would be a deterrent to possible future problems, says Schmidt.

Dogs receive 12 weeks of intensive basic training from a qualified private dog trainer. The first part of the training consists of the dog bonding with the new handler. The second phase involves teaching the dog the heel, sit and down positions, along with responding to re-call commands. In the third phase, the dog is taught to identify potential combative and disorderly situations. The fourth part of training consists of obeying specific commands such as grabbing and holding a perpetrator on command. In the fifth phase, the trainer visits the security department twice a month, providing refresher and upgrading of training such as teaching the dogs to search and locate.

Officers go through two training programs designed to educate them in the fundamentals of security procedures. One is provided on-site by Schmidt and Perotta and one by R.E.B. Security Training at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. The department also uses its own certified instructors to teach specialized areas such as handcuff use and concepts of defensive baton and defensive cap-stun aerosol spray. The cap-stun spray is designed to stop an aggressor instantly without permanent physical effects.

Preventing close calls Schmidt says the security operation encounters a range of incidents. We get close to 5,000 calls for assistance a year. Most are routine such as safety hazards and helping nursing staff assist a patient to bed. An atypical incident we handled last year involved unauthorized door entry at an off-campus site. An alarm reported door security was breached. A K-9 officer was immediately dispatched to the intrusion location where he found the rear door to the building ajar. His dog reinforced his suspicion that someone was inside. The officer made his presence and the fact that he had a canine present known to the intruder. He then instructed the intruder to come out. After receiving no response, the officer entered the building, and the dog flushed out the perpetrator who was handcuffed and arrested.

A non-criminal incident recently handled by Schmidt's staff involved a patient in a lounge in the middle of the night. The officer monitoring the cameras in the control facility observed the patient as he entered. The patient lit a cigarette and fell asleep. The control room officer immediately dispatched a nearby patrol officer and averted a near catastrophe. The security staff has also on numerous occasions helped the Stamford Police Department apprehend offenders who enter the hospital to evade capture.

Throughout the years, there has been no major crime at the hospital - an accomplishment Schmidt attributes to extensive security systems and proactive strategies, the use of canines, administrative support and the cooperation of hospital employees.

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