Mass General Extends Parking Security
June, 2006Massachusetts General Hospital, located in Boston, operates four parking garages from within its main campus to accommodate the traffic that comes standard with more than a million ambulatory and emergency visitors each year.
When officials within the hospital's Police and Security Department decided it was time to extend the security operation's reach over the parking facilities, they chose to install versatile emergency phone units and integrated them with closed-circuit surveillance equipment to gain full audio and visual capability from within their security command center.
The hospital is the largest in New England. Managing its campuses and the four parking facilities requires a security force of about 150 licensed officers patrolling the parking garages 24/7 by a combination of motor vehicle, foot and bike patrols.
The department also has a division consisting of a dozen personnel that are responsible for all of the technology it uses, including emergency phone systems.
Robert Leahy, Systems and Technology Manager within the hospital's Police and Security Department, stated: "We began installing emergency phones back in 1999. We installed a number of them in the front garages here at the hospital and expanded to the garage that we occupy in the Charlestown Navy Yard. Most recently, we did our final installation here at another garage we built on the main campus."
Overall, about 55 emergency phone systems have been installed throughout the four facilities. One is a 9.5-foot-tall emergency tower at the entrance of one of the garages, and the others are units wall-mounted throughout the decks of the garages. The systems are designed to immediately connect distress users, with the touch of a button, to the hospital's security force while automatically transmitting their location to the dispatcher. When activated, a constantly lighted blue light/strobe mounted on top of the unit immediately starts flashing, alerting officials and others to the area in which assistance is need.
According to Leahy, the systems were necessary to extend the department's communication between the parking facilities and its security operation. "Not everyone carries cellphones, and there's not always a phone present," said Leahy, "but with the phones integrated with the CCTV system, they are able to communicate, to observe and to see what's going on in the event that someone needs assistance."
To Leahy, the emergency phones provide critical support to the security force. "They allow us to respond if [an officer] doesn't happen to be in the garage at a particular time. ... We have it set up in such a way that, if an emergency is activated, the camera will zoom in on the call box itself, and we'll be able to manipulate the camera to see what's going on. Once activated, we maintain constant communication with the person requesting the assistance, whatever that may be, and we're able to respond and to give that assurance that somebody is present, somebody is there, since the communication goes both ways."
Fortunately, there have not been any serious incidents where the emergency phones were activated. They are primarily used by people who forget where they're parked. "There's a lot more on their minds when they come to a hospital setting than parking on this particular level in this particular garage." Leahy said. "The boxes are labeled 'press for assistance,' and we're able to give them the assistance they need."
For the future, the hospital is looking to expand its emergency communication capabilities into its numerous offsite parking lots, where issues of obtaining power and communication lines prevented installations in the past. Leahy said the hospital's Police and Security Department was considering solar-powered emergency towers and cellular interface to overcome those obstacles.
The Emergency Phone equipment at Mass General was
provided by Talk-a-Phone.