Rush to Security

Rush to Security

Medical center simplifies with wireless, electronic locks

Rush to Security Medical center simplifies with wireless, electronic locks

When Rush University Medical Center incorporated wireless electronic locks throughout its new 375-bed-tower hospital building, it made installation easier and more cost-effective while providing greater flexibility to meet future security needs.

Rush is a not-for-profit, academic medical center that includes Rush University Medical Center, Rush University, Rush Oak Park Hospital and Rush Health. This medical center encompasses a 664-bed hospital that serves adults and children, and includes the new 14-story-tower hospital building, the largest new construction healthcare project in the world to earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification.

As part of its master plan, Rush wanted an access control system that could be expanded to meet its needs over the next ten years, not only for the tower but also across its other 25 buildings. Additional important criteria were flexibility, dependability and straight-forward, diagnostic evaluation that could be handled by the hospital’s technical engineering team.

To meet these needs, the hospital selected a system built around wireless, electronic locks with integrated readers. This combination of locks and readers provide online, real-time access control and are uniquely designed with easily changeable reader modules so they can be upgraded in the future without changing the entire lock. They combine all the required hardware components into one integrated design that incorporates the electrified lock, credential reader, request-to-exit switch, door position switch, tamper guard and more.

Moving into Wireless Access Control

Rush’s interest in wireless, electronic security began several years ago with a central kitchen project that required a large amount of wiring to install electronic security.

Mike Craig, the medical center engineering electric/electronic manager, said that they tested a wireless lock at the time and decided to use wireless access control wherever possible because of cost savings and convenience. The tower project provided an opportunity to achieve greater savings by incorporating wireless security on a larger scale.

“Once we install a panel to interface with our security system, we can handle up to 16 locks on that floor without installing pipe and pulling wires,” Craig said.

“We save the cost of these materials and the time it takes to put them in place.”

The wireless system provides greater flexibility in changing or adding locks in the future. The initial installation began with more than 500 locks, and the system will soon encompass more than 900 locks. Craig said that he currently has the locks in about half of the complex.

“Anytime we have a new capital project, whether they’re doing an entire floor or suite, we put a wireless lock on areas, like the electrical closets and the janitor closets, where we have issues with access and key control.”

The electronic locks are requested by users for convenience and better control.

“Our legal department just requested four of the locks, because they wanted to do away with keys,” said Craig.

In some cases, the wireless locks are used to separate public areas from restricted areas, such as private offices or cross corridors between buildings. While keys may be used on the offices or suites within these areas, access to the actual areas is controlled by card readers.

Upgrading the Key System

Along with its expansion of electronic security, Rush is upgrading its key system. Mechanical keys are used in many applications throughout the hospital, for overrides on the electronic locks and in areas where the number of users is small and does not change often. The previous system had been expanded to more than 8,000 cylinders, going far beyond the capabilities of the initial plan. There were seven or eight different keyways, and it was becoming impossible to know who had all the keys and masters.

To regain key control and simplify management of an ever-expanding system, the hospital worked with Allegion to develop a new key control plan, using a patent-protected family of keyways. The patent-protected, undercut design offers protection through 2029 while delivering a higher level of security, since it cannot be duplicated without authorization.

“The cores and the keys aren’t going to anybody else,” Craig said. “I was looking for something that someone couldn’t go down to the local hardware store and have a key cut.”

An Expandable System

Rush is working with an Allegion consultant to develop a system that will be expandable for at least the next 10 years, without creating another master. To keep track of the new keys, the hospital will use a key management software system that manages key distribution and is expandable to meet future needs.

“We’re working through the Annex building and doing some of the smaller buildings first to get them coordinated before we go forward,” Craig said. “I think it will be about a two-year process to complete the conversion.”

Other hardware solutions include automatic door operators, exit devices, door closers, hospital latches and hold-opens, and hinges. More than 90 of the automatic door operators will be installed to replace previously-installed products. These operators are now being tested on doors leading to and from operating room areas where they help prevent the spread of infectious diseases, but eventually, they will be used throughout the buildings.

All of these solutions are being incorporated into a revised and updated product specification guide that Rush uses to help unify door and security hardware throughout its facilities. Standardizing makes it easier for the hospital’s staff to stock parts and perform maintenance when needed. Craig noted that products included in these standards are evaluated based on expected life, service needs, parts availability and other factors, as well as cost.

“We always have new architects and project managers, so this helps us keep things consistent with what we already have.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Security Today.

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