Emergency response and notification systems: Crucial for improving hospital security
When violence or a life-threatening incident occurs, hospitals and other healthcare institutions are often in the crosshairs. Hospitals increasingly face a reality of workplace violence, attacks on patients, and threats to doctors and other support staff. And even if violence happens outside a hospital – such as an active shooter at a public place – the local hospital must be prepared to respond to an influx of injured victims.
When conflicts arise inside a hospital, there is an urgent need to lock the facility down quickly. Security professionals and their teams need access control options that allow lockdowns to occur at the touch of a button. Lockdown capabilities are an important aspect of safety and security for hospitals, doctor’s offices and medical facilities
The need for mass notification is also growing in the healthcare environment
Fire alarm public address system
The need for mass notification – another aspect of responding in an emergency – is also growing in the healthcare environment. Various systems can communicate through the fire alarm public address (PA) system to notify people in an emergency, or, alternately, to use email notification, text messaging, pagers, smart phones and/or personal computers (PCs). In lockdown situations, access control systems provide an emergency button with various triggers in the system – a hospital can lockdown specific units or the entire facility.
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Jim Stankevich, Global Manager – Healthcare Security, Johnson Controls/Tyco Security Products, points out that the safety of hospital staff, particularly nurses, cannot be overlooked. In the emergency room, 55 percent of nurses are assaulted in some way each year, which is a high percentage. The safety of nurses and all hospital staff deserves more attention.
Duress/emergency notification technology
Stankevich says one solution is to use duress/emergency notification technology: staff can carry and wear a ‘panic button” or have a two-key combination on their computer as an alarm trigger. When the staff member hits the panic button, a direct message can be sent to security, alerting security staff about the event and requiring a response.
There has been an increase in demand for the safety and security of patients, staff and visitors at healthcare institutions, as evidenced by the recent CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) Emergency Preparedness Rule. As of Nov. 17, 2017, healthcare institutions that participate in Medicare or Medicaid must demonstrate compliance with the rule.
Emergency preparedness systems
A major challenge in compliance to this rule is balancing patient safety with comfort
At its core, the rule seeks to establish national emergency preparedness requirements to ensure adequate planning for both natural and man-made disasters, and coordination with federal, state, tribal, regional and local emergency preparedness systems.
A major challenge in compliance to this rule is balancing patient safety with comfort. Institutions should consider two-way communication that enables leadership to disseminate targeted messages quickly and efficiently, while arming all employees with a tool that can alert the appropriate staff should an incident occur. Solutions like this enable swift communication of issues without disturbing patients and visitors unless necessary.
Effective response to emergencies
“Fortunately, hospitals and their security departments are generally well equipped to respond to most emergency situations”, said John M. White, president/CEO of Protection Management, a consultant who works with hospitals to address their security needs. During the Ebola scare in 2014, however, hospitals had to re-examine their plans to ensure they were prepared to meet the challenges specific to rare and deadly disease.
“Hospitals are prepared for most things, but Ebola seemed to have caught the whole world off guard, so people responded in different ways,” says White, who previously was security director of two multi-campus medical facilities before becoming a consultant.
Hospitals made adjustments to their emergency programs to determine how best to handle Ebola patients"
He adds, “Hospitals made adjustments to their emergency programs to determine how best to handle Ebola patients and to protect other patients and staff. It was a new threat that healthcare organisations had not specifically addressed.” A particular concern was the possibility of an infected person walking into an emergency room and infecting other people and/or requiring facility decontamination.
One role the hospital security department plays in such an emergency is to control access to the facility and to control visitors’ movements once they are inside the facility, says White. If the Ebola scare had progressed to the point that a hospital would need to screen patients, security would be positioned at the front entrance to help with that screening and, if necessary, to direct patients to a specific area for quarantine.
Security might also need to wear protective equipment to handle a patient who is resistant to treatment, for example. There are often interactions between security personnel and the general public, a scenario that becomes more complicated if Ebola or a similar infection is likely.
In general, security would be tasked with maintaining order and keeping people where they need to be, freeing up the medical professionals to do their jobs more efficiently, says White. To prepare for the impact of the Ebola scare, hospitals addressed various training and equipment needs and adjusted their disaster/emergency response plans.
Read parts two and three of our heathcare mini series here and here.