THE MAGAZINE

Hershey Hits Security Sweet Spot

By John Wagley
 
For Hershey Entertainment and Resorts, keeping visitors safe and secure in a low-key way is important. One way to do that is to track incidents so that problems can be addressed quickly.
 
Hershey has used incident-tracking software for years to help with that objective, but the systems weren’t centralized among the company’s five theme parks and campgrounds. As the software neared the end of its useful life, an opportunity arose to address that lack of connectivity.
 
Charles Gouldner, Hershey’s IT analyst, wanted a solution that could help connect the different areas so that they could share information, such as data about a problem patron who must be banned.
 
With a small group of security colleagues, Gouldner began researching new systems. Main attributes sought included ease of use, affordability, and vendor reputation.
 
A few vendors came to Hershey to give presentations. iTrak, from iView Systems, started to emerge as a favorite, Gouldner says. It seemed to fit the main search criteria best, he says. Gouldner says he was also impressed with its expandability via modules.
 
The iView system offers 14 add-on modules focusing on particular security and risk management areas. Hershey recently added the Lost and Found module, for example. By centralizing data on lost and found items, the system helps officers respond immediately to inquiries, Gouldner says. Items can be located in the system through a range of characteristics, such as date lost, type of item, and color.
 
Once Hershey decided to go with iTrak, it downloaded the software from iView’s Web site and initiated staff training. The software was installed in about a dozen computers in a company computer lab. Two iView employees spent a week at Hershey to help with training.
 
The hands-on training sessions helped teach security staff to use the product. But Gouldner says that he was also struck by how quickly many employees, “including some who had never used software like this,” picked iTrak up.
 
Ease of use may be one of iTrak’s best characteristics, he says. One reason is the intuitive interface, which includes rows of tabs across the screen. These tabs represent incident categories and subcategories, such as a theft, unruly behavior, or a slip or fall. The software also allows users to scan and insert various forms of media, such as photos, or paper documents, like witness statements.
 
It’s also simple to add and edit incident information, he says. After logging in, security managers can “click a tab, write some information, and close and save.” Built-in word processing tools include an automatic spell checker.
 
The system’s integrated notification system has also been “extensively used.” Specified groups of security staff can receive e-mail alerts summarizing incident data that has been entered into the central system. Alerts can be sent out at regular intervals or when certain security or safety information is entered.
 
This feature has been particularly helpful when a person has had to be banned from the park, Gouldner says. A description of the person and the incident, along with photographs and other media, can be instantly transmitted to all facilities. Officers can be notified “right as an incident is occurring.”
 
The system’s notifications are highly configurable; tweaking the feature, in fact, has probably been the most time-consuming element of system adoption, says Gouldner.
 
The system can also generate reports containing statistics and trends, which can provide insight, for example, into at-risk areas. Some areas may be accident-prone. In others, visitors may lose valuables or other belongings at a higher rate. The thorough reports help security directors explain a safety situation or trend to company executives.
 
The system has an “extremely detailed” audit log that is helpful in multiple ways, Gouldner says. It can help clarify discrepancies or confusion about incidents. Keeping detailed logs can also help protect the company should an incident become part of litigation. Collecting incident, trend, and other data from numerous park sites simultaneously also helps with regulatory reporting.
 
Gouldner says the system’s search functionality is currently “robust.” But he says one minor improvement for their environment when searching through incident reports would be if officers could search by Hershey property. In many ways, officers have learned to get around this limitation by using other search criteria, Gouldner says. But, he says, Hershey has spoken to iView, which is “taking [the change] under consideration” and will speak to their software developers.

The system has been effective. Says Gouldner: “We knew we made the right choice from the time we lit it up.”

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