THE MAGAZINE

A Healthy Access Upgrade

By Teresa Anderson

Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago attempts to balance the goal of fostering an open, welcoming atmosphere with the need to provide a secure environment for its 9,000 employees and the many patients and visitors who use its 900-bed facility. Barney McGrane, director of security services, kept these factors in mind as he began researching options for upgrading the access control system.

The existing setup was a 95-panel C-CURE 800 access control system, which controlled both internal and external doors as well as providing access to the patient elevators. Manufactured by Software House, it had been reliable but the hospital was outgrowing its capabilities both in terms of the number of doors it could handle and the amount of information it could provide for analysis.

Whatever new system McGrane chose needed to be compatible with other aspects of the hospital’s access controls that could still be used, such as the special access control devices in the hospital’s neo­natal intensive care unit (NICU).

Those had been specially designed by local lock integrators Glavin Security Specialists, and the hospital did not want to have that redone. Working with the specialists when it was originally designed, McGrane had the NICU divided so that each bed space was a self-contained pod. With the space divided, the infants in the unit were protected from excessive light and sound from the hospital in general. To protect the security of the patients, each pod was secured by an access control unit. However, the access control had to be specially designed too, to make sure that the area was as quiet as possible.

The door does not beep when the access control unit is activated and even the door strikes were selected to be quieter than standard issue door strikes. If access control at a door is breached, an alarm sounds in the control room but there is no audible alarm in the NICU. Similarly, if a general alarm goes off in the hospital, it does not sound or flash in the NICU pods.

The new system also needed to be expandable and able to handle more information. The old system had a main server and the server communicated directly with the panels. “If the server died, you were in trouble,” explains McGrane. Also, the panels could only handle a small amount of data. “You could only put so many records on the panels,” he says. “We knew we were coming to the end of an era.”

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