06 November 2009
Active Guard monitoring takes healthcare security to new level
Described by the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) as an industry with “unique security concerns, the healthcare sector is constantly under pressure to create an environment that is both welcoming and safe.
No easy task considering the challenges. Aside from rising crime, a roving and disparate clientele puts the best security officers and systems to the test. To quote the IAHSS: “Healthcare institutions serve a wide range of patients, including people in altered mental states … and those under the influence of drugs or alcohol”.
In best case scenarios, the Association says the balance comes from providing ”invaluable—yet often invisible— support services (that range) from the most routine interactions with patients and staff to monitoring the security of waiting areas where distracted patients and visitors may be at risk of theft of their personal property.”
Expectations of security personnel within the healthcare sector are enormous. Depending on the nature and requirements of the particular facility, the IAHSS says security officers are expected to perform a myriad duties, from helping control access to products, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs and equipment to escorting visitors and staff in potentially dangerous areas, and inspecting walkways, parking areas, stairwells and the like. They are required to address safety violations, prevent fraud and theft, ensure rigorous security in infant and maternity units, assist in missing patient searches, and provide the presence required to enable secure financial transactions in the cashier’s office, food service areas, pharmacies and gift shops. Job descriptions also often run to handling disturbances and responding to staff calls for assistance as well as defusing tense and potentially dangerous situations, protecting employees from workplace violence, protecting stressed and vulnerable patients and visitors, and last but not least, observing and dealing with irregular conditions and activities.
Committed to ensuring the safety of all on these premises, the healthcare industry expects its security workforce to perform to the highest standards, yet points out Jack Edery, CEO of Elvey Security Technologies, there is no getting away from the human element. “No matter how rigorous the screening procedure of officers, some turn out to be untrustworthy. Bad ones do slip through the cracks, and good ones sometimes turn bad. Or the human element manifests in the form of criminal attacks on officers while they are on patrol, abuse from stressed patients and visitors and natural disasters. Some day this list could even include terrorism, although the IAHSS says this has, to date, not been a problem.”
The melding of man and technology
The answer to the need for enhanced security in the healthcare industry lies in the melding of man and technology, avers Edery, whose company distributes the globally acclaimed Active Guard Tour System. “Technology has evolved to the point where the watchers can be watched, thereby dramatically reducing opportunities to take short cuts during patrols or commit crime. It’s also there to aid officers in the course of their duty by providing a critical, real-time communication channel to headquarters.”
How it works
The latest in hi-end technology, the GSM-based patrol monitoring system allows security officers to communicate with headquarters in real-time via the touch of a button. “As the button is pressed so the data is transmitted back to the monitoring station via GPRS / SMS transmission,” explains Kenny Chiu, Marketing Manager of Elvey Security Technologies.
Key features of leading products include event registration using RF-ID leader and events memory, real-time event data transmission using GPRS or SMS, safe transmission thanks to DES algorithm encryption, two-way voice communication and a panic button. In addition, he says it is easily integrated with most Time and Attendance systems.
Using GPRS/SMS technology, it is possible to log security officers’ patrols while simultaneously enabling them to stay in touch with their monitoring stations, he continues. “By recording in real-time when an officer reaches each designated point on his patrol, the technology provides water-tight evidence for use in court or disciplinary hearings. It also calls to attention any failure to check in at the elected points on the route. If an officer finds himself in any sort of trouble, all he has to do is push the panic button. This will immediately alert the control room, not only to the fact that there is an emergency situation but also the exact location. As a result, intervention and assistance are dramatically enhanced, which is a great comfort, especially for people working alone.”
Another of the many benefits of the technology is that users cannot make calls to the control room, they can however by pressing the “call me” button, request the control room to call them. Says Edery: “Active Guard has two-way voice transmission via cellular GSM so the control room operator can call the officer person-to-person on receipt of a ‘call me’ signal. This feature is remarkable since it can be programmed to answer calls from designated phone numbers only and has enormous cost-saving implications.”
It’s also able to keep track of maintenance workers and contractors by allowing them to sign on and off the site or job.
Edery says the arrival of this technology has elevated healthcare facility security management to a new level. “Not only does it offer a very high level of security on the premises, but it also allows for full, real-time control over guards and premises. This, along with its low monitoring costs, reliability and ease of implementation, makes it a winner for the healthcare industry.”