When checking into a hospital, foremost in any patient’s mind is his or her own personal health and well-being. Placing trust in the hands of medical professionals, we hope for successful treatments and speedy recovery.

Often overlooked, however, are two things that can impact a patient as much as the best medical care: the fire safety and personal security systems that a host hospital deploys.

For the Integris Health System of Oklahoma, fire safety and personal security have always been issues of overriding importance, especially since the tragic Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing of 1995. One of Oklahoma’s largest private employers, locally owned, with over 9,000 working at its 14 facilities statewide, Integris is an extensive, nonsectarian, not-for-profit institution.

Oklahoma City is home to Integris’ flagship hospitals: Integris Baptist Medical Center (IBMC), on the north side; and Integris Southwest (ISMC) on the south side. Baptist Medical Center—Integris central headquarters—is a four-tower, 10-story, 560-bed medical center. Southwest Medical Center has 270 beds (and an additional 130 beds at the adjoining Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Center). Both campuses cut vast swaths of acreage, and along with such outsized physical proportions come huge responsibilities. This is especially true where fire safety and personal security are concerned.

Protection and detection

To protect thousands of employees and many thousands of patients in the course of the average year requires the best leading-edge technology and hardware, the most experienced and knowledgeable personnel and the most capable electrical contractors. Decades ago, Integris was fortunate to find a reliable partner able to meet such demanding criteria in Oklahoma Electrical Supply Co. (OESCO). Ever since, the Integris-OESCO relationship has continued to strengthen and prosper.

OESCO is the state’s oldest electrical contractor; it was founded 1909, just two years after Oklahoma attained statehood, and maintains state electrical contractor’s license number 1. For the last 25 of their 40-plus-year relationship, OESCO (www.oesco.com) staff has maintained a full-time, on-site presence at Integris Baptist Medical Center.

OESCO’s President Steve Young said his firm averages 600 to 700 work orders a year to various Integris facilities. “These include electrical, low-voltage and data/com work ... and the value of these jobs ranges from a few hundred dollars to millions,” said Young, a third-generation OESCO owner. From 2000 to 2003 there were roughly 2,200 Integris Health work orders performed by OESCO. An overwhelming majority of these were for projects large and small at Baptist MC and Southwest MC.

Extinguishing the threat of fire

The heart and soul of fire protection for both IBMC and ISMC is the Simplex 4100U Fire Detection and Alarm Platform. The Simplex Platform is a multidimensional customized layering of integrated heat and smoke detection apparatus, remote annunciators with LED displays (at nurse’s stations and security desks to identify the location and nature of fire threats), state-of-the-art sprinklers and digital strobe and horn alarms.

OESCO’s initial installation of a Simplex-Grinnell unit 30 years ago has been gradually and continuously replaced and upgraded over time. Such enhancements are made on an as-needed basis, but usually are carried out in sync with other structural changes (new walls, new ceilings or new floor configurations, for example) the hospital has scheduled.

In 2003, OESCO installed more than 180,000 feet of new cabling at Baptist Medical Center; and that was for the fire system alone.

According to Jim Trimberger, the Integris System-Wide Director of Environmental Health and Safety, the Simplex 4100 is specifically designed for larger institutional settings including hospitals and universities.

Trimberger noted that a fire in February 2002 at Baptist presented a potential crisis. However, the need for human intervention was circumvented in this case, as the fire was quickly contained on cue by well-positioned ceiling sprinklers. Despite minor damage sustained in the incident, fire was blocked from entering into the patient care environment, Trimberger said.

Keith McBroom is OESCO’s chief of operations both at IBMC and ISMC. He has been headquartered on-site for every one of the 25 years that OESCO’S presence has been full-time at IBMC.

McBroom’s philosophy is simple with respect to electrical contracting in a healthcare facility: “Every correctly executed splice can mean the saving of a life somewhere down the line,” he said.

In this instance, “down the line” means both “at some later date,” and “at the far end of this electrical connection.” At a pace of 700 work orders a year, OESCO has always had lots of splicing to get right at all the Integris locations. It is clear that they have consistently been up to the job.

“For bigger projects, there will normally be OESCO crews of eight to 10 workers,” McBroom said. “Whatever the work at hand is, there’s always careful coordination between the hospital planning staff, engineers, architects and OESCO.”

Cameras and doors

In addition to high-quality fire hazard protection, employees and patients at both facilities are buffered day and night from a host of non-fire dangers thanks to the careful planning of

Integris and OESCO.

A three-layered defensive shield involving closed-circuit television surveillance cameras, restricted access doors, and hidden panic/duress buttons keeps everyday routines safe and secure at IBMC and ISMC. Baptist has over 65 cameras on its campus while Southwest has more than 40.

Trimberger explained that these arrays, both internal and external, include strategically positioned cameras with full pan, tilt and zoom capabilities. Trimberger said emphatically that closed circuit cameras are absolutely essential in any hospital: “Especially in high-risk, high-security areas, which can be summed up as ‘wherever there are drugs, babies, or money,’” he says.

Trimberger qualified this axiom, noting that hospital “hot zones” are plentiful, but that pharmacies, obstetrics and pediatrics and accounting offices are always major priorities.

While areas made visible by CCTV cameras are extensive, there are limitations. “The use of these cameras for safety and security has to be balanced against every patient’s right to privacy. There are no security cameras deployed inside patient rooms at all.”

Restricted access doors have been in place for years at the Integris Oklahoma City hospitals. With technology systems provided by SecureNet and installed by OESCO crews, such heavy-duty security doors are programmed to open only when activated by keypunch code pads or magnetic stripe or other access control cards. These doors are essential to safety and security; they strictly regulate who can pass a threshold into a restricted area and who cannot.

Backing up the defense-oriented cameras and doors are OESCO-deployed panic/duress buttons. Well-known staples of the banking, law enforcement and casino industries, these buttons are hidden from the views of patients and unauthorized medical center personnel. If a security threshold has been breached by any intruder posing a threat to safety, a nurse or security staffer can press the panic button to activate it. This action will notify other security staff locations in the hospital to provide assistance.

Relationship builders

OESCO President Steve Young said the equipment his firm has installed over the years at Baptist and Southwest “may not be glamorous or breathtaking.” Yet, as he quickly points out, fire safety, personal security and intrusion protection systems provisioned by OESCO are at work quietly behind the scenes, every minute of every day at Oklahoma City Integris hospitals.

Just as these system components offer physical security to the patients and employees of the medical centers, OESCO’s full time presence at both campuses has brought, and continues to bring Integris administrators and supervisors peace of mind and security on the job every day. EC