Hershey, Pennsylvania, may initially have become known for chocolate, but it has evolved into one of the nation’s top tourist destinations; Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company seems to dominate the landscape with Hersheypark, Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey Lodge & Convention Center, the Hershey Country Club, the Chocolate Spa, the Hershey Hotel and more. With so many public places under one umbrella, Timothy E. Shellenberger, certified protection professional and corporate director of safety and security, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, has to have a handle on security tactics for tourist and hospitality venues.

“In the broadest terms, we plan extensively for natural disasters such as floods, fires, tornados, hurricanes,” Shellenberger said. “We recently had some lightning storms with torrential downpours that caused power at some locations to go off and on. We even lost power at Hersheypark in places and also at the hotel and corporate headquarters. No one was hurt, but these events will challenge you if you are not prepared.”

Shellenberger said security is a matter of give and take when you are in the business of working with the public. He also said guest satisfaction is one trend in terms of security at public places.

“We spend a great deal of time serving our guests, facilitating what makes them happy,” Shellenberger said. “You need to have a good blend of fun and enforcement, because people do expect happiness at a tourist destination along with a feeling of being safe.”

When asked about recent changes in security, Shellenberger said the company looks at the big picture and has a processed approach. “From one year to the next, our security plan is reviewed and changed accordingly. We did move to an elevated plan post-9/11 and stayed in that mode since then and have not backed off. We modify our plans with new ways of doing things and with new technology. However, there has been no specific incident, act or problem that has caused us to make any specific changes.”

The company also investigates new and emerging technologies on an ongoing basis. Shellenberger said Hersheypark uses both Internet protocol (IP) and wireless, especially where the company can find a good application on-site.

Community matters

Interestingly, the Hershey philosophy on security involves the surrounding community.

“Security for us is a blend with community support,” Shellenberger said. “In fact, some of our systems benefit the local police, things like some of the cameras we have that are mounted in high places. We work with the local police department and share resources, as a community, and see this strengthening in the future. We are at a point now where we all can share resources making our community stronger and safer by working together. It seems to be a logical step.”

Hershey uses a variety of different technologies and systems suited to its diverse range of public places, events and attractions. “Another area we are exploring is wireless key systems,” Shellenberger said. “They are more expensive in the short term, but they save money in the long run. With these new systems, I can add [and] delete access or open and close doors from my office.”

The convergence of technology also has made life easier for security professionals, such as Shellenberger. Items such as electronic door locks can be controlled by a by computer. Shellenberger’s favorite device is the pan-tilt-zoom camera. He said Hershey uses them throughout the facilities, and he is amazed at how the technology has progressed.

“We can tie them in with door alarms, window alarms, fence disturbance systems, and the cameras can then focus on specific areas and begin recording when there is a problem. In the past, they were fixed and not nearly as smart. They were stand-alone systems. Now they can be integrated with other systems.”
Hershey, like many companies, currently is in the process of integrating various systems.

“You need people capable of understanding the technology and the time and resources to train them. Technology that is good today may not even be relevant three years from now. We need to utilize technology that not only makes sense but also makes sense well into the future," Shellenberger said.

Other technology Shellenberger is evaluating includes cameras with facial feature recognition, retinal scanners and fingerprint devices. One reason Shellenberger and his team have begun to research some of these areas is the price of these technologies is beginning to come down to the point where they are more viable options.

“There is a lot of technology out there and a lot of question marks. We need to be smart in what we choose. We are not trying to catch the FBI’s top 10, but we do have an obligation to our guests to keep them safe. And we take that responsibility very seriously.."

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.