When Jerome Klue took over as director of public safety and chief of police for the Akron Children’s Hospital in 2017, his prime goal and responsibility was to create an expanded and more unified security plan for a growing regional healthcare provider. 

“I came here more than three years ago to make positive changes,” said the longtime law enforcement veteran. “It was my responsibility to see that our officers had the equipment, training and support required to respond to the different and increasing types of security events in our hospitals and related sites.”

Akron Children’s Hospital (ACH) has cared for children in northeast Ohio since 1890. It currently operates two hospitals, as well as general practice offices, urgent care and rehabilitation centers and other primary and specialty care locations throughout the region, handling more than 1 million total patient visits annually. 

The output from disparate security equipment installed throughout the system flows into the Public Safety Department’s central dispatch center on the main ACH campus. There, Klue’s staff of certified communication/dispatch technicians process the data to make intelligent decisions about alarm events.

“I’m proud of our advanced dispatch center,” Klue said. “It’s the hub of our total crisis communication management in all of the hospitals and remote buildings as it allows us to control the entire security system. We can see and respond to everything.”

Klue worked closely with his systems integrator, Sage Integration, to design a template security plan that would include access control, video surveillance, intrusion and emergency communication systems for the roughly 60 remote facilities.  

All buildings — including the two hospitals — have Kantech access control systems, American Dynamics surveillance cameras and DSC intrusion systems. The template also includes panic buttons mounted on all front desk and check-in areas, and wherever there is an exchange of funds and behavioral health units. Ramtel blue light telephone emergency communications systems are installed in all parking facilities and pedestrian walkways leading to the two hospitals. Calls generate a pop-up notification through the access control system and begin a live video stream from the site. 

Video is displayed on a Victor video wall in the dispatch center. If an alarm warrants a response, the dispatch team contacts local police and monitors the situation to provide updates as the officers approach. Trained police officers on the ACH public safety staff respond to incidents at the two hospitals. Currently, system integration is complete in 19 of more than 60 outbuildings.

The dispatch center receives input from more than 1,000 card readers. The access control system also enables the ACH public safety team to immediately lockdown both hospitals during emergency events, such as an active shooter. The system also integrates with a biometric reader from Iris ID to provide two-factor authentication of approved hospital staff entering a critical blood laboratory. 

Klue also pushed for metal detectors at emergency department entrances at both hospitals.

“We search every single person, bag and purse, so absolutely no one comes into either hospital with a weapon,” Klue said. “We’ve confiscated thousands of weapons between the two hospitals over the last two years. Having these metal detectors sends a positive message to our patients, staff and visitors of our commitment to their safety.”

Heightened security at the burn unit, pediatric and neonatal intensive care and post-anesthesia care units, and the hematology department requires employees to badge in and out of these areas. Nurses identify visitors using Aiphone intercoms before remotely unlocking the entry. Video from cameras directly over the intercoms is displayed on the nurses’ desk in each unit to show visitors and help the staff detect anyone attempting to piggyback into the unit with an approved visitor. 

Previously, both sites were open with numerous entries for employees and visitors. Today, each hospital has only three entries available for all. 

“With the COVID-19 restrictions, visitors must have a very specific reason to enter, so now there are fewer people in our hospitals,” Klue said. “Also, all visitors must complete an oral virus questionnaire and receive a sticker before entering. At peak times, we station officers at those entries, and everyone is reviewed.”

Recently, as ACH’s footprint has continued growing, the public safety department migrated from analog to IP-based security systems. An embedded member of Sage Integration now handles many of the system maintenance duties. 

“The size and complexity of just the access control and video systems grew so that it no longer warranted an ‘at request’ service structure,” said Sean Ailes, Sage project manager. “Our in-house technician, Kyle Meranto, resolves most issues immediately — often before they become a problem.” 

With Sage as the medical system’s prime integrator (since the first installed card reader in 1993) several other technicians have full knowledge of the system architecture, programming, client workforce and building layout, enabling them to provide informed backup if needed.

“This is one of the better services Sage provides us,” Klue said.  “Without the embedded tech, I’d have to locate someone who has the same expertise and understanding of our systems and that person would be difficult to find. If we need to replace a part, there’s never an extra service charge as the tech is already here and on our dime. He’ll just replace it and move on.”

Having an in-house Sage technician as part of the ACH security team largely eliminates service interruptions that might impact critical operations, said John Nemerofsky, chief operating officer, Sage. He said the embedded staff concept works well for virtually any enterprise organization with mission critical responsibilities. 

“It’s important to have someone on staff that knows the security system and is certified by the manufacturers to maintain and repair the equipment,” Nemerofsky said. “An in-house technician helps ensure systems are always up-to-date and functioning, so there is very minimal downtime.”

Since beginning his tenure, Klue said he’s pleased with the added security equipment and its integration with the larger system. His next project is a complete rewriting of the policies that will guide his department well into the future, including utilizing Lexipol and Police1 training to obtain state recognition as an Ohio Collaborative certified department.