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Delaware County Correctional Center

Prison boosts security with
easy-to-maintain High Mast Lighting

The Delaware Correctional Center near Smyrna, Delaware, houses inmates of all types—from maximum to minimum security.

In 1987, the 1700-inmate, 28-building prison upgraded its security with a system that is virtually impenetrable. Following this change, the next logical step was to retrofit the lighting, according to Clint Lasana, Maintenance Superintendent II for the Center.

Previously, the one million-square-foot facility was illuminated by a low pressure sodium system with 180-watt lamps, installed nearly 25 years earlier. Poles were 20 feet high, with three fixtures mounted per pole. On some poles, one of the 180W LPS fixtures was replaced with a 400 watt HPS floodlight to boost light levels where needed.

"One of the problems with the low pressure sodium system was that we could not direct the light. What we had were bright pools of light directly beneath the fixtures, and dark areas in-between. Illumination levels ranged from 20 footcandles clear down to .2 footcandles between poles. The low pressure sodium units also provided poor vertical lighting and made it difficult for guards to see if someone was on the fence."

Another problem was the fixtures cast an orangish glow that tended to have a mellowing effect. Shadows would melt together, making it easy for inmates to hide. Most areas were too dark for security cameras to work effectively as well.When the system was retrofitted, a Holophane HMST® high mast system with 100 foot poles and 1,000-watt high pressure sodium lamps was installed.

Units are located along the prison perimeter, installed about 18 feet outside of the fence. The system is designed to cast light on the fence and inside the compound. For additional illumination, three high mast poles are installed in the middle of the rectangular-shaped compound.

"A factor we had to consider is the unique shape of the buildings. Most have a rectangular-shaped core with long tiers or halls that house the cells, creating an "H" or "T" pattern. The previous lighting system often created dark alleyways between buildings. Rooftops and large exercise yards were always dark.

Glare from the building-mounted fixtures also compounded viewing in many areas. With the new system, the fixtures are so high that we have eliminated these problems. In most instances, we’ve been able to turn off fixtures that were previously used to wash the building walls with light," Lasana explained.

A total of 13 poles were installed, with an average of eight fixtures mounted per pole. Some of the outer poles have up to 12 fixtures. Spacing varies, but averages 300 feet.

Holophane's Computer Aided Lighting Analysis (CALA) software was used to determine fixture placement and estimate illumination levels. The designed footcandle level is 5. Lasana said one of the challenges he faced in designing the lighting was to provide more intense illumination on the sallyports, or vehicle gates, one of which is located in the corner of the perimeter fence. Fixtures on two different poles are positioned to light this area.

Up to four quartz fixtures have been mounted per pole in case of a power fluctuation, to resupply the facility with instant light while awaiting the "hot restrike" of the HPS fixtures. These time off after approximately ten minutes. The prison has generators that power the lighting system instantly. While energy was a concern, Lasana indicated that it was second in importance to effective illumination for security and public safety.

"Because of the efficiency of the high mast system, we gained needed light without using more energy," he said.Poles were set with a helicopter. Fixtures and hardware were installed on the poles outside the compound, then the poles were air lifted over the fence. The task of setting 13 poles was completed in less than two hours.

The Correctional Center's present maintenance schedule calls for lighting fixtures to be group re-lamped every three years—although individual lamps will be replaced as they burn out.

The high mast system includes a self-contained winch and lowering device system, which the prison has made a standard of design for future installations.

"The lighting system is not only easier to maintain, but has significantly improved the security here at the prison," Lasana concluded. "Visibility is greater for both tower officers and roving patrols who watch the tops of roofs, the ground and roadways. The high pressure sodium lamps are more color corrected than the previous low sodium system and help eliminate shadows."

According to Lasana, approximately 18 additional high mast units will be installed when the Correctional Center undergoes a 600-bed expansion. Four of the units will be installed in the new compound, with the remainder installed on the prison perimeter.


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