Improving Campus Safety

Improving Campus Safety

New York medical facility replaces analog system

Covering an entire city block, one of the busiest medical facilities in New York City has more than 600 beds and thousands of doctors, patients, staff and visitors every day. An outdated analog and DVR surveillance system would have been very expensive to maintain and upgrade when it came time to expand, so the hospital security management team at Apollo International designed and installed a new digital security system that improved operational efficiency, reliability and evidence sharing.

“The biggest issue we had with our previous system was video storage,” said Jack Hendrickson, assistant director of security at Apollo International. “Our storage capabilities—due to our legacy systems— were weak, with constant problems. The hospital required a centralized system with full redundancy and failover, which Milestone delivers with high reliability, ease of use and increased storage capacity. We now provide even greater security for the patients and staff. Our connection with the police department has also improved since we can quickly export video evidence when requested.”

Outdated Systems

The hospital’s security system had become outdated. Housing all of its DVRs and servers was becoming more of an issue as time went on. With DVRs stored in closets that were not thermally managed, issues with the uptime and maintenance ensued. Excessive heat contributed to failures and the loss of archived video on a daily basis. Hours were spent attempting to access, search and reboot the systems. The surveillance systems for the hospital’s satellite offices were not centralized, so monitoring and retrieving their video was another challenge.

A completely centralized, hierarchal system incorporated through Milestone Federated Architecture with the open platform XProtect Corporate video management software was implemented for the hospital and its affiliated medical buildings. Virsig LLC supplied the servers as well as the 315 Sony, Mobotix and Axis network cameras; encoders from Vivotek connected the legacy analog cameras still in use to the network. A server with a storage capacity of 36 terabytes allows the hospital’s security team to save nearly two months of video footage, unlike the previous system’s two-week capacity. Multiple recording servers with failover and redundancy ensure instant backup and seamless operation should a server fail.

The architecture makes it possible for every camera view linked in the medical facility and surrounding buildings to be easily viewed from a central location or via the Milestone Mobile client. When a video export is required, XProtect Corporate allows Apollo’s team to provide one extended file, rather than numerous camera angles on multiple drives.

A City Healthcare Hub

Located in Manhattan, this medical facility, with more than 600 beds, is a busy healthcare hub. It occupies one entire city block with 11 buildings representing various medical specialties. Thousands of people—patients, medical staff, facility personnel and visitors—are kept safe and secure on a day-to-day basis through the 24/7 physical and digital surveillance presence of security contractor Apollo International.

Previously, closets were stuffed with the hospital’s old DVRs, so physical storage of the hardware became a big issue as equipment continuously overheated in the non-climate-controlled spaces. The servers and DVRs failed regularly, sometimes many times a day. Gaining access to them was difficult due to the small spaces.

“We spent a lot of time rebooting and in some areas couldn’t even reach the equipment,” Hendrickson said. “Out of necessity and time, we sometimes just unplugged the DVRs to restart them. There were constant problems with the DVRs and not a day went by where a piece of the system didn’t need to be fixed.”

The Open Platform Provides More Choice, Flexibility and Value

The hospital required a new, centralized system to provide a reliable surveillance solution, able to share video with management through one data center. XProtect Corporate was deployed by Virsig LLC to keep surveillance constant throughout the facilities. Glenn Taylor, executive director of Virsig, presented Hendrickson and his team with numerous options, including some very structured systems, but the conversation always returned to the value of the open platform.

“The hospital went from everything being very proprietary to being able to select the best cameras for each particular setting,” Taylor said. “The open platform allowed us to use encoders that extend the life of analog cameras for less than $100 per port. From the moment the system was deployed, they have been able to leverage their existing architecture, using other technologies that tie into the open platform.”

Remote and Mobile Capabilities

Hendrickson says that the ability to access the Milestone system remotely and on mobile devices is particularly important for an organization in the healthcare industry. In the case of a medical emergency— a triage situation, for example, or a contamination—Hendrickson says that the priority for all personnel in the impacted building would be helping people get to where they need to be as quickly as possible.

“When emergencies occur our officers are out assisting people rather than monitoring video views,” he says. “That puts us at risk for losing situational awareness, which is critical to emergency management. With the ability to watch multiple camera views from a remote location, however, our colleagues who are not in the building that’s impacted can keep an eye on things like triage, a decontamination situation or an active shooter. Based on what they see at various points in a building they can communicate to us how to best approach the situation. They can also communicate directly with law enforcement agencies.”

Integration with Infant Protection System

Another benefit delivered by the open platform technology that is important in a medical setting is the ability to integrate with an Infant Protection System, or IPS. Hendrickson selected Hugs by TPC Systems, a solution that leverages RFID capabilities to lock doors and send alerts through the Milestone network when a child wearing an RFID-enabled wristband approaches designated barrier points.

“In addition to locking the doors and sending an alert, the Milestone system also automatically gives us a view of the camera that’s closest to the area where the child with the RFID tag is,” Hendrickson said. “This is another benefit that integrates with pretty much any program.”

Ease of Use for the Security Team

The hospital employs about 70 staff members for security purposes. With numerous buildings to patrol and monitor, keeping them connected was one of the main concerns for the upgraded surveillance system. A big selling point was the architecture, which connects multiple, individual XProtect systems into unified distributed sites, ensuring unlimited scalability and ultimate operational flexibility. The federated architecture allows the system to be configured according to the hospital’s reach, which includes many satellite offices with a central hub for surveillance management and overview.

“Everyone from lower level security to management is able to set up views and change what they need to be effective during their shifts,” Hendrickson said. “Training sessions for the interface seemed to be as fast as possible. Everyone picked up the software from the moment of deployment.”

Mobile client also has been implemented for administrators in Apollo International and the medical facility. If there is an emergency situation or event, mobile devices can quickly connect with any camera in the VMS and view it from any location with an Internet connection.

“There is no replacement for our hardworking staff, but this software is one heck of a tool,” Hendrickson said. “Since installing the VMS, we have gone years without a blackout.”

Sharing Evidence: Quick and Simple

“The Milestone solution is simply more efficient in all aspects of our security responsibilities. I can sit in front of the monitors, get an alert and immediately check the playback to make sure the hospital is safe,” continues Hendrickson. “Milestone allows us to be more in tune with our buildings and the people in it on a consistent basis.”

At times, the New York Police Department also relies on video from external and internal cameras throughout the facility. With a storage capacity of 36 terabytes, archived time can reach up to three months, compared to the maximum two weeks the old system provided. When a video export is required, XProtect Corporate allows Apollo’s team to present the investigating parties one evidence-grade extended file with built-in viewer, rather than numerous camera angles on multiple drives.

“When we export video for the police, DA or our own security teams, the player is directly on it,” Hendrickson said. “There is no need for an additional download, so everything is quick and simple. Having the high-definition feeds has helped us improve our already great relationships with local law enforcement agencies. The first response from anyone in an agency is ‘Wow!’ We’re all proud and impressed with our abilities.”

Easy Scalability

According to Hendrickson, the ease with which the software solution can be expanded makes it an attractive option for the healthcare sector, where hospitals and clinics are usually organized into large and often complex networks. The hospital he works for, for example, is part of a healthcare system comprised of 17 other hospitals. Hendrickson said he expects the solutions to be deployed in other facilities over the course of the next decade as budgets permit. In the meantime, he’s adding cameras to this facility.

“I can expand our deployment without additional licensing,” he says. “That is one of the many things that sold me on the corporate version of Milestone XProtect, and the value of that investment is proven every time I add to our system.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Security Today.

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