Call for Help
With more than 420,000 annual visits from patients from four states, Seattle Children's Hospital serves the largest region of any children's hospital in the United States.
The organization, made up of a research arm, a foundation, and the hospital, strives to provide robust security while making its stakeholders feel welcome and cared for.
"As a security team, our goal is really to ensure the mission of our hospital, which is to treat patients and find cures for diseases," says Dylan Hayes, CPP, manager of the physical security program at Seattle Children's. "We do that by interfacing with our families and our patients…we're a customer-service oriented team."
A security officer staffs the emergency department around the clock, and officers also operate a security operations center for the entire hospital that is open from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Visitor management is important to Seattle Children's, and the security team screens everyone who walks through the door to ensure that they have a purpose to their visit. Visitor identification is processed by a database that checks for sexual offenses and other criminal records.
"We have security teams at five different entrances during the day that greet people as they come in, find out where they are going, give them directions, and make sure that they are badged to do so," Hayes says. In addition to the daily pass, family members and loved ones who make frequent patient visits are given weekly passes.
Seattle Children's trains its employees on active shooter protocols, and has lockdown procedures in place in the event of an emergency.
"Our entrances are actually equipped to scan a badge that will lock that specific entrance, or a different badge can lock down all the entrances at the hospital," he says. "We're using a lot of security technologies these days to improve our business operations."
One of those technologies is a call tower intercom model from Vingtor-Stentofon by Zenitel, which allows anyone in distress to contact the hospital's security desk with the push of a button. In addition to contacting the security desk via a speakerphone, a flashing light is activated on the top of the tower.
The hospital uses call tower boxes from Talkaphone and Code Blue, which used to work over a standard telephone line. Zenitel works over an IP network, and integrates with the organization's access control system, OnGuard by Lenel.
Seattle Children's originally installed the towers in 2012, and it upgraded to a newer model of the intercom technology, called Turbine Intercoms, in May 2017. There are approximately 55 towers located around the hospital grounds, mainly situated in parking lots and other outside public areas.
"We've upgraded about a third of our phones and we're in the process of upgrading the rest of them," Hayes says, noting that the Turbine model provides a clearer connection from the tower to the emergency operator. "With the older equipment the clarity is not there—you can't make out what's going on," he says. "The Turbine stations really allow for clear communication when you're in critical situations."
As far as incident types, "anything goes with these towers," Hayes says. When security receives a call, it assesses the situation and decides how to respond, usually either deploying a security officer or contacting law enforcement. Hayes adds that it's rare that police have to get involved.
"People report their cars have been damaged, or we've had reports of fires in the garage," he says. "There are so many great uses of those towers, it's just open-ended."
The integration with Lenel allows any cameras in the area to pan, zoom, and tilt toward the call tower's location, allowing security to view the scene live via monitors. Lenel also displays a map in the alarm monitoring screen that shows which tower and where the incident occurred.
Hayes says he welcomes the opportunity to improve business operations via security technology, and he was delighted when the hospital's emergency department wanted to collaborate with security by responding to any medical incidents from the call towers.
"If somebody pushes one of those buttons, our plan is to send out a security person with a respiratory therapist and an emergency department nurse if they need medical care," Hayes says.
Recently, for example, a woman fell down a flight of stairs and was injured. "The emergency call station was activated and a hospital response team, including security, responded," Hayes explains. Security brought a wheelchair and assisted the woman to the emergency room for follow-up care.
"When our emergency operations team comes to us and says, 'We want to use your technology to better serve our people,' that's a great thing to hear," he notes. "We do have an expectation to provide care because we are a hospital."
Another benefit of the Vingtor-Stentofon network is the ability to push prerecorded audio messages over the security team's two-way radios, alerting officers to any alarms such as panic buttons or door-forced-open alerts.
"When we're out in the field, we don't have that ability to do extensive alarm monitoring, and we didn't have a way to quickly get a message to our security team in an automated fashion," he says. "So, we set up Stentofon to be configured with our Motorola MOTOTRBO radio system."
Because alarm locations are preset in Lenel, the prerecorded message that goes out indicates the type of alert and where it occurred. The responding officer alerts the rest of the team that the situation is being handled.
"We could have alerts go to a pager, but then there's a two-minute delay," he says. "If we have it go to the radio, then it's instantaneous."
Hayes adds that the many uses of the call towers, along with the radio and alarm integration, have all helped improve the security team's ability to respond to incidents rapidly and effectively.
"Having that crystal-clear communication is so important to be able to deploy the right emergency response team," he says.
For more information: Kelly Lake, [email protected], https://www.zenitel.com, 800.654.3140