Rush to Security
Medical center simplifies with wireless, electronic locks
- By Karen Keating
- Apr 01, 2014
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.