Published in: Security Magazine, March 2012 issue.
Integration of multifaceted security systems can be a serious challenge. Using cameras, call boxes, mass notification systems, and access control readers together is a difficult but increasingly common goal. Many products on the market provide partially integrated solutions, but with some limitations and added complexities.
Like many locations around the country, Parkland Hospital in Dallas wanted to find a solution that integrated well with existing security systems as well as future installations. Additionally, it wanted to find a system that could cover access control, mass notification and basic emergency communication.
Dan Birbeck, a lieutenant with the Dallas County Hospital District Police Department, is the liaison for the Parkland Hospital replacement team installing Parkland's new access gates, mass notification system, and security features. He was charged with finding the best integration option for Parkland.
"Parkland is adding a 2-million-square-foot hospital replacement," Birbeck said. "It is the largest hospital replacement in the country. Extensive research was done to find the best emergency communication solution for the replacement. We researched a lot of different companies to find the one that integrated best with all of our systems."
We've experienced a ton of improved efficiencies and response times due to the installation. Our customer service response has improved dramatically. They integrate with all of our other systems, and without them, it would be hard for us to manage what we do. It makes our job and having contact with the public that much easier.
Dallas County Hospital District Police Department
“Talkaphone covered all fronts and was the best fit for everything we offer. My department even received direct training from the company. We learned how to integrate all of the Talkaphone systems with the systems we already had. “
"I think that Talkaphone adds to the overall safety of the campus. We've experienced a ton of improved efficiencies and response times due to the installation. Our customer service response has improved dramatically. They integrate with all of our other systems, and without them, it would be hard for us to manage what we do. It makes our job and having contact with the public that much easier."
Parkland employs nearly 9,500 people in its nine community-oriented primary care clinics along with a multitude of school-based clinics and offsite business locations. Parkland's original facility is slightly more than 1 million square feet and is connected through its children's hospital and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. The connection to surrounding facilities required a tightly integrated security system covering the entire campus. The first piece of Parkland's safety and security puzzle was installing Talkaphone call boxes and emergency towers along with access control readers in various locations indoors and in parking lots, Birbeck said.
Controlling Access, Flow
"We have several different locations where we utilize the access card readers," Birbeck said. "We have them in various parts of our hospital, parking structures and open lots. They allow us to control access to specific locations, as well as the flow of traffic in and out of our facilities."
To further improve the department's response time and security management. Birbeck wanted to integrate card readers with Talkaphone call boxes and security cameras.
"Our access card readers are integrated with the Talkaphone units and camera systems," Birbeck said. "Once the access card reader is activated, we verify the user's information on our camera system. If everything checks out, then the system, or our dispatch center, grant access to the individual. The units are additionally set up to provide a map for the dispatcher, indicating the location of the unit that's been activated."
Birbeck noted that nearly 10,000 people use the access control readers at Parkland every day.
"A few of our older parking garages didn't have the Talkaphones with the access card readers at the security gates," he said. "A lot of times, at those locations, we would experience a problem or holdup that created a car jam. Adding the phones with the card readers to those locations has allowed us to immediately identify if there is a problem at one of the gates. Before, when the Talkaphones were not installed, it would take us a while to provide assistance and get traffic moving again through the lots."
The next piece of Parkland's safety and security puzzle was integrating the tremendous number of Sky Point cameras with the rest of the hospital's security systems. Birbeck specifically wanted the Sky Point cameras to directly interact with the Talkaphone call boxes and emergency towers. He also wanted the cameras to provide a clear record of a situation before and after activation of a Talkaphone unit.
The integration of the Talkaphone towers with the camera and access card readers allows security to use all the systems together at once. For example, when a Talkaphone unit is activated, the Sky Point cameras lock onto the area where the call box is located. The same thing applies to the access card readers.
The units immediately connect to a 911 dispatcher who can see what is happening at the location through the view of the Sky Point cameras. The cameras give a clear record of what was happening before, during and after an activation.
The Sky Point cameras are located both separately from the call boxes and directly on top of the emergency towers. Talkaphone offers the WEBS Radius Towers that have an extension arm to mount the cameras. Parkland has implemented this option on several emergency towers around its campus. Not only do the cameras help out during emergencies, but their mere presence helps to deter crime. Birbeck said the addition of call boxes and towers greatly adds to the overall effect of crime prevention.
Merging Mass Notification
The last piece of Parkland's safety and security puzzle was integrating a mass notification solution to the rest of its security systems. Talkaphone's WEBS towers and WEBS Contact mass notification software gave Parkland "the tools to both manage and broadcast our messages," Birbeck said. "Talkaphone's WEBS Contact and WEBS towers allow us to broadcast prerecorded messages inside and outside our facilities. The software allows us to contact everyone at the same time or contact separate areas of the campus individually."
Many campuses around the country use their safety and security systems only occasionally each year. Parkland uses its system every hour of every day, and the majority of call box and emergency tower activations and usage comes directly from visitors. Birbeck has seen this firsthand.
"Our visitors and patients directly use the Talkaphones more than we do," he said. "We get calls for emergencies, parking issues, and information requests. They are frequently used to request medical assistance near our emergency room parking garages.
Visitors also use them to report suspicious activity, in which case we're able to dispatch officers out to the location. In the planning stages for the new additions to Parkland, the main question we would always here be, 'Will Parkland still have the blue light phones? They were pleased to hear that we were expanding the Talkaphones to our new facilities for their safety.”
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