How a Soup Kitchen Uses Its New Security System to Mitigate Staffing Shortage
The new comprehensive solution combines video surveillance and access control to improve coverage of MBT’s interior and exterior spaces on a platform that is easily accessed and operated by staff.
LYNN, Mass. — My Brother’s Table (MBT) has replaced its analog surveillance cameras with a new state-of-the-art security solution — enhancing safety and efficiency at the facility and alleviating the workload of its lean staff.
Located here, MBT was founded in 1982 and is the largest soup kitchen on the North Shore, providing more than 80,000 free meals each month to those in need. Since its founding, MBT has served more than 5 million meals, and is staffed by two full-time employees and a handful of volunteers. In addition to its work serving meals to the hungry, MBT also supports an onsite clinic to address health concerns.
“Being so understaffed, we rely heavily on our new technology to keep our volunteers, service providers and patrons safe wherever they are in this huge facility,” says Dianne Hills, executive director of My Brother’s Table. “We can see what’s happening in all the different corners, control access to specific doors, and still create a welcoming atmosphere for our patrons. Having the new system for the holidays was especially appreciated because it helped us maintain a warm, open setting during the busiest, most important time of the year.”
MBT turned to K&M Communications, an integrated security solutions provider, when its analog cameras and intercoms stopped functioning. Part of this “rip-and-replace” project included installing new megapixel cameras, ensuring coverage where there had been none before.
To improve door security, old intercoms were replaced with new network video intercoms, which were linked to door controllers, allowing for remote activation. Additionally, keycard readers were installed at designated doors, enabling staff, volunteers and service providers to securely gain entry to the facility.
The new comprehensive solution combines video surveillance and access control, improving coverage of MBT’s interior spaces, parking lot, and surrounding streets on a platform that is easily accessed and operated by the staff.
This new, integrated system is designed for flexible operation, as staff can view the cameras, communicate with visitors from the video intercoms installed at door entries, and unlock doors all on a desktop or through a smartphone app.
According to Hills, these capabilities are particularly valuable as staff can program the guest door to remain locked during meal serving hours, when staff are unable to monitor entrances. At other times, volunteers at the reception desk can use the app’s intuitive, touch-based controls to communicate and screen people at the entrance, reminding them to wear masks or other protective gear before allowing them access.
Since COVID-19 forced MBT to switch from indoor dining to meals-to-go, the facility uses one of its new outdoor cameras to monitor the crowd lining up on the street. This enables them to take attendance in real-time, without sending a staff member outside, to see how many guests are still waiting outside to pick up meals.
With the socioeconomic challenges presented by the pandemic, it was essential for MBT to continue its service to the public — which averaged between 80,000 and 90,000 meals served each month during 2021.
“Food insecurity continues to be a problem for our community, whether it’s families unable to stretch their budget, people who are homeless or the elderly,” says Hills. “But thanks to generous public donations, selfless volunteers, and our new security technology, we’ve been able to provide a safe and secure place for them to turn.”
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