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On the safe side

Charlestown's multifaceted security makes personal safety top priority

Created date

July 23rd, 2013
The gatehouse at Charlestown

Do you feel safe coming home to an empty house after dark? Do you worry about the security of your house while you're away on vacation? What would you do if you had a medical emergency and couldn't get to the phone? Residents of Charlestown rest easy thanks to a multifaceted security system that makes their personal safety a top priority. Going far beyond protection from muggers, vandals, and burglars, Charlestown features round-the-clock monitoring for fires, emergency situations, home safety assistance, as well as a detailed preparedness plan in the event of a natural disaster like a hurricane or earthquake.

At the ready

Retired Baltimore City Police Sergeant Victor DiPaola is the senior facilities manager who oversees all security procedures at Charlestown. "We take the safety and security of our residents seriously and have a wealth of resources in place to handle any kind of health or personal safety issue you might face," says DiPaola. Some of the safety features at Charlestown include trained personnel who work the gated entrance and keep the campus secure 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; round-the-clock security cameras; emergency pull cords inside each apartment, as well as a sentry latch on the front door of every home; and a reverse 911 system known as Swiftreach, which provides emergency information to all residents and key personnel by phone.

"It's such a relief knowing we have all these wonderful security features in place here," says Frances Wode, who lives at Charlestown. "My kids don't have to worry about me living alone because they know that there are people here trained to handle any kind of emergency." DiPaola says the combination of access to a variety of resources and convenience makes facing a health emergency at Charlestown easier and safer than if you were alone in your house.

Pediatric nurse Bobbi Poulton currently works part time as a school nurse at Mother Seton Academy in Baltimore City. Bobbi moved to Charlestown seven years ago and regularly sings the praises of the community s security team. "I know most of the men and women in our security department by name because they are all so friendly," says Bobbi. "They are great, caring, people. The fact that Charlestown has a comprehensive security system in place gives me an added peace of mind. I never have to worry about property crimes like someone breaking into my car. Here I can load my car the day before I'm ready to travel and don't have to worry. If I fell or had an emergency, I know someone would be right there in a matter of minutes to help me. Plus, if I would ever need to go to the hospital, the doctors here can shoot over my medical records electronically, and they have all my medical history right there. It's a wonderful system. As a medical professional, I would want my family living here," she says.

Team effort

"It's a little daunting if you think about being responsible for ensuring that roughly 1,900 residents and 1,200 staff are living and working in a safe environment," says Charlestown Executive Director Clara Parker. "But we have a wonderful operational structure dedicated to that effort. Charlestown employs 29 security officers trained and certified in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and automated external defibrillator (AED) by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross. Fourteen of those officers are certified emergency medical technicians, two are retired county fire department personnel, and six are actively affiliated with local volunteer fire departments. We provide ongoing and routine training for these essential personnel to keep them up to date and current on all industry standards and best practices as it relates to safety and security," says Parker.

Disciplined focus

Being staffed to effectively respond to an event is only part of the equation. Charlestown also has a disciplined focus on crime prevention and emergency preparedness. "In April, we successfully completed our annual emergency preparedness drill. This annual exercise allows us to practice our responsiveness and preparedness in the event a real emergency were to occur," says Parker. "A core team of staff dedicate the greater part of a day going through a series of events which may include inclement weather, loss of power, loss of HVAC, road closures, fires, and accidents. You name it, we've probably practiced how to respond, and through that practice we learn how to be better prepared."