System to protect COs goes live in Pa. facility
Duress system is part of an $839,000 overhaul of several security systems at the jail
By Howard Frank
STROUDSBURG, Pa. — Man-down is up.
The Monroe County Correctional Facility officer's duress system is about to go live, after months of false starts caused by failed equipment and resistance from corrections officers.
The new security system, designed to help protect correctional workers who are in trouble or incapacitated, will become fully operational before the end of the year, Warden Donna Asure said.
It was originally expected to be fully operational in February, but has been functioning fitfully since early summer.
The duress system is part of an $839,000 overhaul of several security systems at the jail. But it hasn't been easy. Some equipment didn't work, and other expensive electronics became paperweights after electrical surges.
The jail contracted for the enhanced security system through Pinnacle Integrated Systems Inc., doing business as P2 ABC Controls from Exton.
The goal was to install a fully integrated touch-screen management and control system to replace existing systems at the jail. The plan included security doors, frames, detention doors and locks, security monitoring, a closed-circuit video system with 60 days of storage and a card-access control system.
"The project was first finished over the first days in February," Asure said. "Everything was fully functional. Even when the installers came back in June, it was still fully functional."
But a few weeks later, Asure said they began hearing "a lot of beeping" from the duress units. And they couldn't track officers from central command when the system was in the critical "man-down" mode.
The officer duress system can be triggered in three ways. A user can press a button or pull on a string to activate a signal to central command, a secure monitoring station in the jail at the apex of the institution's large housing wings.
The third is a man-down trigger, a mercury switch that signals when the device wearer is in a horizontal position, as could happen if they've been knocked unconscious. Sensors in the housing units give the control center an idea of where an officer is.
The jail tried unsuccessfully to troubleshoot the problem itself. Asure called P2 back to the jail in September to address the problems.
"They found it was not functioning on its man-down system and took 10 malfunctioning units with them. It still wasn't a security risk," Asure said. "At that point we were not deploying (the man-down system) since the officers had a man-down system button on their radios."
Two weeks later, P2 determined 10 of the 50 units it deployed had faulty mercury switches. The company decided to replace all 50 units, which arrived at the jail at the end of October.
P2 also provided a seven-minute training video to address concerns over a lack of training some correction officers expressed.
"At that same time, the computer that runs the entire duress system went down," Asure said. "It got fried. We have no idea why. We were having a lot of electrical surges at the time."
The units were replaced and reprogrammed two weeks ago and are ready to go.
"We are ready to roll out. All officers have been trained and know how to use that unit except those who are out on leave. That includes every department, including medical, treatment and kitchen staff," Asure said.