by Karyn Hodgson
March 15, 2006
Mirroring IT, open designable software is business-centric.
Going from nowhere to a sophisticated security plan doesn’t have to include complex technology. Open, designable software, real-time alarm management and e-mail security service requests can create an off-shelf, business-centric enterprise solution.
An example is Connecticut Valley Hospital, which doesn’t have a new access control system yet. But the operation does have a new outlook on security and a new plan for a more modern approach, thanks to an upcoming software upgrade and a new integrator.
Connecticut Valley is a psychiatric hospital that houses mentally ill patients in many different buildings.
“Our focus is generally to keep people in,” said decision-maker Alexander Kozmon, Lieutenant, Connecticut Valley Hospital. “Generally the focus is to keep people out.”
Connecticut Valley Hospital is a sprawling campus. A change in mission led to a change in security strategy.
Back in 1995, the hospital experienced a “shift in population” that caused it to look at shifting from keyed access to electronic access control.
“We started taking in court committed patients,” Kozmon explained. “That was what started it. The system we have actually started with a few doors on one floor of one building. And as the system was implemented and the benefits of a more secure environment were realized, the transition to electronic security grew as a natural evolution.”
The hospital chose PCSC, Torrance, Calif. as its hardware vendor.
Over the years, there have been many additions, including most recently a multi-use building in 2004.
“The building houses three separate areas: executive staff, department-wide meeting and conference centers and an open treatment mall with physical therapy, rehab, a barber shop and gift shops,” Kozmon said.
This new building marked a departure in focus from just keeping people in, to after-hours security that would keep people out, he added.
The contract for service of the system was originally with another company and has been put out to bid over the years. In 2005, a new company, HSM Electronic Protection Services, Inc., Lisle, Ill., won the contract.
Access controls first started as a limited number of doors as the facility started its transformation from keys to cards.
“It’s a large and comprehensive security network, and they have 270 card readers and multiple buildings and controls, all networked back to a main control center,” said Richard Weiss of HSM.
“One of the things they were looking for in a vendor was service responsiveness,” Weiss said. “If something goes down, they have to post one of their police officers at the door until their security vendor can get out there and fix it. They were looking for immediate response.
“HSM has taken a unique approach in meeting this challenge. First, we set up CVH campus police with our eDataManager service. eDataManager is a real-time data management tool that allows CVH to place service requests 24 hours a day via the Internet. Second, we issued our technicians Blackberry Nextels, which allow them to receive service requests in email format. The calls are also tracked in our 24-hour call center for follow up and resolution.”
The security command center is the heart of the operation.
“Organizationally right now, the hospital is looking to maintain the current system and enhance it as our needs grow,” Kozmon said.
One such enhancement is an upcoming switch to a new software program.
With HSM’s guidance, the hospital selected PCSC’s LiNC-PLUS Enterprise Security Management System.
“One of the most unique features about LiNC-PLUS is that it is completely open designable software from a user interface perspective,” said Robert Bayer of PCSC.
“It allows the end-user, as well as the security provider, the ability to have the system look and feel like a software system that they could design from scratch. They can place pictures where they want, maps where they want. They have the ability to modify colors and shapes of icons and really make it a solution to the specific needs of each facility,” he added.
“We are going from a stand-alone multi-database system to a network access control database, integrating alarm monitoring, photo ID and call-for-aid alarms,” Kozmon said.
“The software will tremendously increase our ability to be responsive and effective,” he added. “We will have 10 workstations instead of one monitoring alarms.”
One of the biggest benefits Kozmon sees is the ability to dedicate one person just to manage alarms.
“Right now my telecommunications staff multi-tasks between routine emergency and system monitoring. Our volume is so large and the alarms are so great, they are not able to effectively manage that.”
Kozmon would like to assign someone to do some studies on use, so they can possibly change the programming to reduce alarms, as well as respond more effectively to the genuine alarms that come in.
HSM, as the integrator, has added numerous technologies and is working with the end-user on upgrades through panels, readers and cameras.
The photo ID integration is another benefit. “We will, through that, really get a more streamlined, customer friendly process for not only addressing problems people have with key cards and access levels, but also getting new employees processed through.
“The software upgrade will really revolutionize how we do business here with regards to security and access control. We’ve been waiting years for this to come.”
Another plus to the upgrade, Weiss added, is a clean database. “They have probably had thousands of card holders over the years and a lot of old data,” he says. “It is sometimes difficult for system managers to keep up with data changes. While doing the software upgrade, we’re going to clean up the database as well.”
Kozmon anticipates that the software upgrade will be online by mid-March, with all databases functioning by the beginning of April.
A software package from PCSC aims at improving the door access control as well as anticipated further growth at Connecticut Valley.
The hospital and HSM are also working on another planned upgrade to the system that will have big results.
“They have a lot of cameras,” Weiss said. “HSM is working on integrating the camera system with the access control system so the security staff will get views of the camera on screen whenever someone swipes a card or there is an alarm at a particular door.
“HSM’s goal is to bring the cameras, panic buttons and access points together into the PCSC head-end, creating a truly integrated system. Eventually we would like to create a graphical user interface with various floor maps of the buildings throughout the campus. This will provide the security staff or campus police more detail needed to provide a more exact location of any issue.”
Kozmon plans upgrading the security video hardware to better facilitate this enhancement.
“We have something now circa 1995. We are waiting on a bid award to upgrade the pan-tilt-zoom system as well as video recording. We are transitioning to a DVR.”
Kozmon adds that this whole process has taught him an important lesson:
“We’ve learned that going into any project, it’s never finite. It always grows and evolves. Now whenever we specify something we spec it with an open ending. We will continue to evolve, whether it’s due to our needs, social changes or industry changes. We went into this very closed and that’s what we got. Soon after, we realized it’s a continually evolving machine. We can’t ever look at it with such a defined perspective.”
Side bar: Hot Packages
Ranging from burglar alarm and intrusion to access control, ID and security video, ready-made application software dominates. In the early days of computing, any software that manufacturers didn’t provide as part of the computer had to be custom-built to order. In the 1980s, a new class of independent software vendors started to pre-build integrated software designed to fulfill a whole range of business functions, and these offerings became known as packaged software. The term today typically refers to upscale enterprise software suites, rather than the shrink-wrapped packages sold through retail outlets. Packaged software, although ready-made, rarely comes ready-to-run. It typically requires work by end-user or integrator staff to set it up for the specific needs of each individual business. This was an improvement on the previous generation of custom-built software thanks to dedication to standards, protocols and links to other systems.
by Karyn Hodgson