Call for Help
By Daniel Bewsh
An exhausted physician walks to her car late at night after a double shift. A medical assistant makes early morning bed checks in the psychiatric unit. An emergency room nurse calms the distraught family member of an accident victim. These are typical scenarios in the frenetic pace of life at a busy regional hospital, situations where hospital staff, a workforce on duty around the clock, every day of the year, may be at risk.
By Daniel Bewsh
For Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital, located on the Detroit River in Windsor,
Ont., hospital security was looking for a way to protect on-duty
personnel in all areas of the hospital. They wanted to give employees
the ability to immediately reach out to security in an emergency
situation, regardless of where they were located on the hospital
As the region’s premier tertiary acute care hospital, Hotel
Dieu Grace Hospital’s grounds house a variety of environments with
different security requirements — a busy emergency room, large
psychiatric and neurosurgical units, a renal dialysis program and
cardiac care center. The hospital’s four-acre campus, where more than
11,500 inpatients are cared for each year, is home to a mixture of
turn-of-the-century buildings and newly constructed facilities, five
surface parking lots and a large, six-story parking structure.
“With such a large facility, we needed one method that would
notify us instantly if a staff member needed help,” says Wally
Dowhayko, security manager for Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital.
The ability to signal an immediate “code white” to hospital
security staff was top priority to Dowhayko as he searched for a
solution that would provide real time security information in the event
of an incident. With a workforce of more than 1,800 staff members, 400
physicians and close to 750 volunteers, moving between different areas
of the hospital during shifts, monitoring the individual safety of
those working in the hospital would be extremely difficult to
implement. Dowhayko also wanted the solution to take advantage of the
hospital’s existing intrusion system and new video surveillance
infrastructure, which was installed two years ago.
With the help of systems integrator G4S Technology, Dowhayko
implemented a wireless help call system from Bosch Security Systems
that allows users to send an emergency signal to a central console
using a small pendant. Once the signal is received by the software, the
pendant transmits a signal every seven seconds, enabling the system to
track the location and direction of movement of the user on a map. The
console operator uses this constantly updated information to direct
security personnel to the scene.
A nurse confronted in the parking garage late at night could
press the panic button on her pendant to notify security of her
location; security staff would see video of her location from the
closest camera and be able to react immediately to the situation.
“We were successful in making the use of the pendant
mandatory for all employees of the hospital as part of our Occupational
Health and Safety Policy,” Dowhayko says. “Now, the system covers every
inch of the hospital and provides protection whether you’re in a
parking garage or other high-risk areas of the hospital.”
The location of regular hospital personnel is only tracked
after an alarm has been activated, but contract security officers, also
supplied by G4S, are outfitted with a unique pendant, known as a man
down transmitter. This transmitter constantly reports their location at
all times during their shifts.
Customized settings allow Dowhayko and security managers at
the hospital to program the system to alarm if security officers remain
in a horizontal position — indicating a potential injury or loss of
consciousness — for a predetermined length of time. For management,
this can also prove a useful tool for monitoring the activity of
security officers at any time during a particular shift.
Systems that offer emergency tracking or locating functions
are becoming increasingly important to overall building security. They
not only provide a more secure environment when used everyday, as at
the Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital, but they can also be invaluable during
catastrophic incident response, according to security consultant Derek
Humble, Manager, Incident Management Services for G4S Security
“The biggest problem faced in a catastrophic incident is
determining who was present at the time of the event,” Humble says.
During a full-scale evacuation or other disaster, having the capability
for trapped building occupants to transmit their locations would
provide life saving information during rescue operations.
Areas of a facility routinely accessed by the general public,
particularly an emergency room environment that has few restrictions on
who enters and when, amplifies the severity of the situation, Humble
says. Integration with other systems, such as access control and
surveillance, can create a complete picture for security staff, along
with first responders, during a crisis situation.
The integration of the wireless help call system with Hotel
Dieu Grace Hospital’s existing surveillance infrastructure — a mixture
of speed domes and fixed units from Bosch Security Systems, also
provided by G4S Technology — was imperative to the success of the
solution, Dowhayko says. Now the hospital’s 90 cameras are able to
provide video coverage of the location of an alarm, which is visible to
security staff through the central monitoring console.
Dowhayko is also considering additional uses for the help call
system to increase the hospital’s return on investment — utilizing the
system’s ability to track objects as an asset protection device. For
example, the system could be used by the hospital’s biomedical unit to
find the campus’ 300 infusion pumps when regular maintenance on the
devices is needed. Beds and wheelchairs used for patient transportation
are also being considered for the tracking feature.
“Being able to locate a piece of hospital equipment with a
simple computer query would be cost effective and allow staff to spend
more time servicing the equipment instead of searching for it,”
Tying the system’s tracking mechanism to critical equipment
could also help locate units in an emergency situation. Every minute
spent searching for the only available IV pump in the emergency surgery
unit wastes precious seconds of treatment time, Dowhayko says.
The ability to track assets can provide administrative
benefits as well. One major problem for any security system owner,
according to Humble, is safeguarding the security system’s master key.
Simply attaching a pendant to the key can alert security staff to its
whereabouts. This would prevent the administration from having to
replace a lost master key, which could cost thousands of dollars and
mean re-keying the entire system.
Being able to derive additional benefits from an existing
investment, particularly in the budget-conscious and capital-intensive
hospital setting, is crucial to the success of any project, Dowhayko
says. “We are constantly brainstorming innovative ideas to get the most
out of our equipment. It’s all about multitasking.”
Bewsh is with G4S Technology, the Canadian integrated systems division
of Group 4 Securicor. He is a 19-year veteran of the security industry.