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Healthcare:  Employee, Patient and Visitor Safety during Lockdown Events

by Bobby Salerno on March 20, 2019

There are many reasons a healthcare facility may need to trigger a lockdown event: power failure, weather related events, fire, active aggressor or other disturbances.  A healthcare lockdown event has an established procedure for controlling access into and out of a defined facility. As part of the procedures, communication protocols are established, and detailed zones are defined in order to execute a comprehensive lockdown plan depending on the event. 

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Preparedness of a facility to handle these events is critical to its operations. The goal is to help keep occupants safe and minimize the amount of chaos created. Information among staff, authorities and patients is crucial. As a healthcare security integrator or consultant, you must be aware of the complexities of the environment, from the size, scale and scope of these facilities to ensure that each area is adequately equipped to respond to a lockdown event. 

Some questions to address:

  • Are there multiple methods to communicate with employees, patients and visitors so they understand what they need to do in order to stay safe?
  • Are there displays boards that help direct hearing impaired to areas of refuge or evacuation?
  • Is paging intelligible and had a level that it is audible above alarms and voices?
  • Has zoning been established and adequately tested?
  • Can the facility play multiple messages simultaneously to various zones?

For more information, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has an extensive resource library that addresses area of refuge and sheltering in healthcare environments: https://asprtracie.hhs.gov/technical-resources/57/healthcare-facility-evacuation-sheltering/56 

Additionally, the FBI has provided guidelines and protocols for Active Shooter situations in Healthcare environments: https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/active_shooter_planning_and_response_in_a_healthcare_setting.pdf 

Code compliance in healthcare facilities is not optional. Specifically focusing on communications, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 72: Fire Alarm and Signaling code, Chapter 24, addresses the requirement for reach and intelligibility. All messages must be clearly understood and actionable. Does your current solution meet the requirements? This is true for both audible and visual communications. An emergency communications system must quickly inform and instruct people of the threat(s) and direct them to safety. Modern mass notification solutions, such as Lencore’s n.FORM™ system, integrates audio, zoned paging, digital signage, social media platforms, email, strobe lights, and text messaging. Since failure is not an option, the more points of communication, the better, but only if they are absolutely synced and working together cohesively. n.FORM™ meets the UL 2572 standard for mass notification systems delivering the highest quality for reach, clarity, redundancy and reporting. This standard allows n.FORM to interface with a Fire Alarm Control Unit and the system leverages LON technology to allow simple integration with other third party devices.

With the unpredictability of human action, weather and other quick onset type events, there is little to no warning. Furthermore, events such as an active shooter or hostage situation have the potential to be dynamic and can last several hours. It is critical for the mass notification system to have the flexibility to convey messages in a real-time manner. No matter what type of lockdown event needs to occur within a healthcare environment the mass notification system should be prepared and coordinated to handle the communication effort.

 For more information please visit www.lencore.com/Products/nFORM-Mass-Notification

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