Ambulance company boosts security and reduces costs with key management
- By Fernando Pires
- Feb 01, 2017
Based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Bell Ambulance
Company has been in operation since 1977,
growing into the largest provider of ambulance
services in the state. The company responds
to around 75,000 calls per year and provides a
range of services.
To accommodate its vast fleet of ambulances, the company operates
9 remote stations throughout the greater Milwaukee area.
Each of these stations is a hive of activity, with ambulances coming
and going 24/7, responding to calls around the city. Given the
geographical area Bell Ambulance serves, vehicles often return to
a different station from where they were dispatched—making the
tracking and managing of keys a major challenge.
Another main issue for Bell Ambulance was accountability.
Video surveillance and access control systems are installed at each
of its stations, but some are located in high-crime areas of Milwaukee.
While the company had deployed a great deal of security
measures externally, anyone who managed to breach that security
would have free access to keys, which were stored on hooks out in
the open. Ambulance drivers based at these stations usually are
on the road, leaving stations unoccupied most of the time. This
further underscored the need for a way to distribute keys securely
without having a person responsible for that task.
The cost of lost keys had also become a pain point for Bell
Ambulance. Whereas in the past, replacing a key may have been
relatively inexpensive, the secure key fobs used with today’s newer
ignition technologies are much more costly, around $300 each. In
addition to this cost, when a key goes missing the ambulance’s
ignition system must also be reprogrammed to prevent someone
from starting and potentially stealing the vehicle.
All of these factors created greater concern for key management,
making it clear that the company needed a better solution
for securing keys at all of its locations. Bell Ambulance worked
with Hoffman Security Solutions to compare products from a
number of manufacturers to find the best solution for their needs,
but to Bell, it seemed that the perfect solution hadn’t yet been
invented. This was indeed the case – sort of.
Having established a strong relationship with Morse Watchmans,
Nick Hoffman, co-owner of Hoffman Security Solutions,
knew the company was developing a new solution that would be
perfect for Bell Ambulance.
“Their biggest hurdle was finding a system that would be flexible
and scalable for the capacity of their fleet across all of their
stations throughout Milwaukee, but while some of the products
we looked at were close, none were quite right,” Hoffman said.
“KeyWatcher Touch, which was in the first stage of beta testing
at the time, opened the door to make this application feasible and
provide exactly what they were looking for.”
Not surprisingly, flexibility was a key feature that made Key-
Watcher Touch the right choice. Keys were rotating constantly
throughout the system from location to location. Because the Key-
Anywhere feature of KeyWatcher Touch addressed this, Hoffman
knew he’d found exactly what Bell Ambulance needed. After an
extensive and exhaustive process of qualifying KeyWatcher Touch,
Bell Ambulance was so confident the solution was perfect for meeting their goals that they were willing to wait and pull the trigger
once the solution hit the market. As a result, Bell ended up being
one of the earliest adopters of KeyWatcher Touch.
“We were willing to be the first to implement KeyWatcher
Touch when it came out and it’s worked out very well,” said Jason
Becker, senior systems administrator for Bell Ambulance. “We’ve
had the system for about five years and as we’ve outgrown the
initial system size, we’ve been able to add stations very easily.
“We really like the KeyAnywhere feature and the automatic
reporting and transaction gathering functions. Not having to go
out to each of the nine locations to collect reports and other information
is a major benefit,” Becker said.
Two of these latest cabinets are equipped with the new secondgeneration
CPU, which will be slowly phased into the remaining
seven cabinets moving forward. Hoffman recommended the
upgrade based on the growing size of Bell Ambulance’s systems,
particularly in its busy maintenance department. With all of the
company’s ambulances going in and out of the shop for repairs,
oil changes, new tires and other services in a relatively short time,
the volume and speed of transactions was going beyond the capabilities
of KeyWatcher Touch’s first-generation processor.
“Now the system is lightning fast—about four or five times
faster than before,” he said.
Because the KeyWatcher Touch system is networked and sends
data in real time, Bell Ambulance has been able to integrate it with
additional networked systems for more complete reporting.
Networking the systems this way helps Bell Ambulance monitor
the safe driving profile of each of their drivers. As each driver
checks in and out, they place a road safety fob into a reader in the
ambulance, which logs driving habits to ensure safety. The fobs
are stored in the KeyWatcher cabinets along with keys, and the
system is programmed to prevent a driver from clocking out until
both are returned.
“When they go to check out, KeyWatcher Touch pulls up the
key use report and will let the employee know that they need
to return the key or safety fob to the cabinet,” Becker says. “By
making sure keys and fobs remain on the premises, KeyWatcher
Touch has had a huge impact on reducing and even eliminating
the problems and high costs we were having with lost keys.”
“Bell Ambulance is at the cutting edge of
fleet management. They’ve created a cool integration
that ties their time and attendance
system and road safety fobs into the key management
system,” Hoffman said.
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of Security Today.