Versatile security system keeps crime at bay at St. Luke's Hospital
Versatile security system keeps crime at bay at St. Luke's Hospital

Nov 1, 1997 12:00 PM

The security department relies on its serviceable, adaptable electronic system, and the help of local police.

As the security officer in the hospital command center looked at one of the 17 monitors comprising his work station, he noticed a man slouching behind a vehicle parked on a street on the hospital's perimeter. Zooming in, he observed that the person had opened the car door and had objects in his hand. He watched the man go to a car parked just behind the vehicle and put the objects in it. At the same time, he noticed that the window of the first car had been broken.

Immediately, the officer, one of 27 on the security staff of St. Luke's, a 950-employee, 242-bed hospital located in Newburgh, N.Y., contacted two other security officers who were patrolling the grounds. Quickly, they arrived at the scene, but not before the individual had noticed them coming, jumped into his car and fled.

"The man had barely driven down the hill a few blocks away when the Newburgh police apprehended him," recalls Michael Hannigan, director of security and safety for St. Luke's. The security officer had radioed the vehicle description and license plate number of the car. A recorder, moreover, had filmed the man's activities and when an officer zoomed in for a close-up, he obtained a full-face picture of him.

Two things are notable about this incident: * it shows how a security team working to protect a facility located in a high-crime area can, through training, security systems and good police relations, do its job without carrying arms of any kind; and * it was a rare occurrence.

"The officers carry no guns or clubs. They're not armed. We feel it's not needed or warranted," says Hannigan. That kind of protection, he believes, "is the police's job."

But a close working relationship with the police, who help Hannigan with training his staff just as he helps them with some aspects of their training - he is a state certified security training instructor - has provided the hospital community with an extra degree of protection. "The police are very pleased with our security systems, particularly our monitoring of the immediate periphery of the hospital," says Hannigan.

Hannigan has been the hospital's security director for nearly 15 years and is chairman of the Mid Hudson Chapter of the International Association for Health Care Security and Safety. In 1993, he began a $300,000-plus upgrade of the hospital's existing security systems. The upgrade has resulted in an expanded work station with 17 production-level monitors and more camera coverage. The hospital now has 31 surveillance cameras, all color, including four outdoor, pan/tilt/zoom cameras that cover parking lots and streets immediately adjacent to the hospital. Few incidents of theft or auto break-ins have occurred since the upgrade.

Because outpatients and visitors park on the streets immediately adjoining the hospital, cameras have been set up to cover those streets as well as the parking lots, entrances and hospital grounds.

Upgrading camera and other security coverage of the parking areas, and reorganizing the parking procedures to give certain employees, such as doctors, greater access to the facility, have also contributed to what Hannigan estimates is a 75 percent drop in incidents of theft over the past 21?2 years.

"The break-ins into vehicles have decreased because we have the four cameras on theoutside now. The emergency department is also covered by cameras, as is the main area where people first come into the hospital, so we can also respond more quickly to incidents of disorderly conduct," says Hannigan.

The heart of St. Luke's CCTV upgrade is a high-end, Kalatel Digiplex III KTD-341 512x64 Expanded System, which controls the camera system. The system includes a microprocessor-controlled, 64-input-by-1-output video switcher card, and video switcher chassis with 64-input and 16-output BNC connectors. The system was installed by Television Rental company of Woodside, N.Y., a firm that specializes in health care security systems and has a client rooster of 200 hospitals in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

According to field engineer Greg Pagan, the serviceability and adaptability of the Kalatel system make it appropriate for health care applications. The system includes the KTD-344 Multi-Channel Distribution Amplifier, which can be used to provide isolated, self-terminating outputs for each camera. With this system, each input can be distributed to four individual self-terminating outputs.

The design feature allows the user to avoid the "daisy chain" type of configuration when wiring cameras into video recording systems, monitors, quads and other systems. With the "daisy chain" configuration, everything is interdependent, and if one system goes, everything goes down, notes Pagan.

With the Kalatel system, all the cameras are wired into the center of the unit, and then each input is distributed - one to the Dedicated Micros recording system, one to the Kalatel Video Switcher Chassis, one to the American Dynamics quad system.

In this way, if one function fails, others continue to operate, notes Hannigan and Pagan. Pagan, Hannigan and the hospital's engineering staff all worked together closely to design the system. Another of its advantages, says Pagan, is the use of two-conductor cable, or twisted pair, wiring to send data signals, rather than coaxial cable. "What this does is eliminate the ground loops that can occur when you connect cable in different buildings, disturbing and distorting signals. The Kalatel system is immune from that effect, because it sends its data signals in an RS-422 computer format over the twisted pair wiring," says Pagan.

In the main operations center, there are four 14-inch JVC monitors and 13 9-inch JVC monitors. All are production-level, high-resolution with in-line picture tubes and 0.28 mm dot matrix screen display. An underscan and flat screen feature allows the monitors to capture perimeter scenes and information (such as time of occurrence) that could otherwise be hidden upon playback. The underscan feature allows the operator to access a full picture, including what is going on behind the monitor frame.

The system includes an American Dynamics Color Quad system with three quad monitors. In addition to the Kalatel camera control system, St. Luke's uses a Dedicated Micros multiplexer hooked into a high-grade UPS (uninterrupted power supply). The high-end, duplex-color unit can record and play simultaneously, and contains a built-in motion detector that enables security officers to follow movement on a 16-frame screen. "The system will take more pictures of those locations where there is movement and those frames will be framed with red boxes that indicate activity, facilitating observation," says Pagan.

The multiplexer is housed in a secondary security operations station that contains one large, 20-inch monitor and two Panasonic 6040 time-lapse VCRs, one set to record 24 hours per day, the other to play back pictures.

This remote station is wired to the main Security Operations Center and the Kalatel system over the two-conductor, 18-gauge wire. "With the RS-422 computer format over the two-conductor wire you can send signals up to 10,000 feet, making it a high-performance system," says Pagan. He notes that the Kalatel system is expandable to control 512 pan/tilt/zoom cameras and 64 monitors.

Why the secondary operations center? Hannigan explains that, should an incident occur, he can watch it independently at this center, allowing security officers downstairs in the main center to continue camera surveillance of the incident. All 31 of the hospital's cameras are accessible to both centers.

Discussing how he uses the secondary operations center, Hannigan recalls, "There was a car accident in the parking lot, and one vehicle took off. I came up here and reviewed the tape. We were able to apprehend the individual who left the scene with the help of the tape, which showed the car and the individual."

Hannigan's attention to detail, in choosing a system that contains safeguards against malfunction, permeates the hospital's entire security program.

For instance, employee access and coverage of parking lots has been one of his priorities. With the upgrade several years ago, entrances and lots are now monitored by cameras, two-way telephones that contain cameras and monitors, keypads into which employees must input individual codes, and an Insta Card magnetic card access system with gate by Eastco of Pelham, N.Y.

Equally significant, Hannigan reorganized the hospital's parking procedures, setting aside certain lots, entrances, times (and procedures) for doctors and department heads, designating others for employees and still others for visitors and outpatients.

>From 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., the rear lot is restricted to all but doctors and department managers, who use the Eastco system to gain entrance into the parking lot. In this lot, since the Eastco system and then two cameras were installed, break-ins to cars have been eliminated. The presence of the cameras and access system in this lot has also meant that it does not need to be patrolled constantly, freeing security officers to focus more on the two front lots. Like other employees, the physicians and department heads also use the keypad system to gain entrance to the hospital by inputting their individual code.

"People are now restricted to coming through their designated area rather than any door," says Hannigan.

Two other parking areas, also covered by cameras, have been designated for employees and visitors. At the door to the employee entrance is an Aiphone combination intercom and monitor with a camera contained in the intercom at the entrance. Employees use the keypad system to gain entrance and the security officer can communicate with them if there is a problem.

A Panasonic 6040 time-lapse VCR records 16 camera points 24 hours per day, including all entrances. Tapes are held for a month to allow for review if necessary.

There are two small parking areas in front of the hospital for outpatients and for free valet parking for visitors. The valet parking cuts down on congestion and facilitates visitor safety and access. All visitors must enter from the front, lobby door.

A PA communication system allows security officers to further control parking lots, disbursing neighborhood youth who might gather in them at times.

In keeping with his "touch all bases" philosophy, Hannigan also installed Sensormatic Patient Protector Electronic Monitoring System to guard against abductions in the labor and delivery, nursery and pediatric areas. The system includes a wafer thin electronic tag placed on a wrist or ankle band worn by the child or baby. If the baby is taken off the floor, the system is activated by an alarm that sounds both on the floor and at the Security Operations Center. As a further precaution, three strobe lights have been connected to the system to alert nurses of a possible abduction when they are at the far end of the floor, where the alarm might be harder to hear.

The system uses detection pedestals at exits or corridors that create an electronic zone of protection, with audio/visual alarms alerting security personnel and nurses.

"We have never had an incident here, and we installed this as a proactive device. We test it twice a year on each shift," notes Hannigan.

In summing up St. Luke's security achievements, Nicholas G. Licata, director of public relations and marketing for the past 11?2 years, notes, "The hospital, with its excellent security program, has a low incidence of problems, but its image is affected by its presence in a community with a high crime rate.

"The security department, the people who operate the cameras, patrol and respond when something happens are superb. When you come here, as an employee or visitor or patient, you see how safe it really is. What few isolated incidents there have been since we have had the security upgrade, we have been able to respond to because we could monitor, record, and play back what had happened."

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