30 Aug 2007

When you have over 2,500 employees, 70 separate premises and demanding security requirements, providing effective access control is a significant challenge.  And this is exactly the challenge that the East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EMAS) was recently facing.  Using products from Bewator's versatile Entro 5 range, however, specialist security installer, Presec Systems Ltd, was able to develop and implement a solution that is cost-effective, convenient and versatile.

EMAS has ambulance stations throughout Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire.  In the course of their duties, many of the trust's employees need to be able to gain access to several of these stations as well as to various secure facilities, such as drug stores, within the stations.  Like most similar organisations, EMAS had, for many years, used conventional keys and door-entry digilocks to achieve the required level of access control.

This approach was, however, far from satisfactory.  It was difficult to ensure that all employees had the correct keys to allow access to the premises they might need to enter, and it was also all too easy for the employees to forget access codes which, in order to maintain security, had to be changed regularly.  In addition, keys were sometimes lost and were often difficult to retrieve from those who had left the organisation.

With these shortcomings in mind, EMAS invited tenders for a more modern, flexible and convenient system.  At the conclusion of the tender process, Presec was awarded the contract to carry out the work.

"We formulated our solution around the Entro 5 range of entry control products from Bewator," said Presec's Managing Director, David Cook.  "In part, this was because the Entro 5 system is very scaleable - it can be configured to suit almost any size of installation, and it's easy to expand."

"Another important factor was that Entro 5 products are competitively priced," he continued.  "Finally, we knew that Bewator could show the EMAS team Entro 5 systems working very successfully on a number of reference sites with requirements similar to their own."

The first phase of the project, which is already fully operational, covers 35 of the EMAS sites.  At each site, control is provided over the entrance doors, the doors to the drug store and those to the key safe, with additional doors controlled at some locations.

Siemens Building Technologies Security Products proximity readers are used extensively on every site.  In most cases, these are standard mullion-mount types, but in exposed external locations anti-vandal units, also from the Entro range, are fitted.  The proximity readers are operated by Bewator passive encoded key-ring tags that are now carried by all EMAS employees.

The lightweight compact tags are virtually impossible to copy and, since they don't need to be brought into direct contact with the reader, they are fast and easy to use.  Further, since they use passive technology and have no batteries, their life is, for all practical purposes, unlimited.

The Entro 5 system at each of the sites is linked by a network connection to the EMAS headquarters in Nottingham.  This means that any reader at any site can be instantly programmed to allow or deny access to a particular tag.  The system therefore provides complete flexibility with regard to which employees are allowed access to particular ambulance stations and even to specific areas within those stations.

Equally important, the instant update facility means that tags which are retained by former employees or which are lost can immediately be removed from the system, ensuring that they can never be used to gain unauthorised access.

A further benefit of the networked configuration is that the head office installation automatically generates and stores a detailed log of who has opened and closed the controlled doors at each ambulance station, along with the precise times that these actions were carried out.

"The work Presec did on this project had challenges of its own," said David Cook. "For example, we had to accommodate many types of doors from a wide range of manufacturers and, for EMAS operational reasons, the installation at every one of the 35 sites had to go live at exactly the same time!  Fortunately, our own expertise and the superb support we received from Bewator made it possible for us to meet these challenges without difficulty."

So successful is the Entro 5 system proving at the first 35 EMAS sites that extra doors have already been added, and the expansion of the installation to cover further sites - up to a possible maximum of 70 - is also a possibility.

"With the Bewator installation supplied by Presec, our employees have fast, easy access to all of the areas they need to enter, which can make a big difference in an emergency situation," said Chris Newton of EMAS. "No longer do they have to worry about losing keys or forgetting codes."

"And," he continued, "the new installation not only puts our managers completely in control of who can go where, it also provides them with totally tracability of who has been where and when.  In short, the system is providing us with everything we want and we're very happy with it!"