Healthcare Security: PERS for the Commercial Sector is Spelled EMD

March 6, 2014
How Enterprise Mobile Duress can protect the healthcare environment

Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) have supported aging-in-place needs common among many seniors; however, these systems are designed with a residential environment in mind. When looking at a commercial setting, such as a hospital or other healthcare environment, a personal emergency becomes more complicated, involves staff and can often lead to immediate or highly volatile life-threatening situations.

In addition to the many traditional security measures that healthcare facilities have in place, there needs to be a commercial duress system in place that focuses entirely on people protection and is more robust than residential PERS. Unlike PERS, Enterprise Mobile Duress (EMD) systems are designed to cover large areas, protect a large number of users, provide location of the incident and have the ability to integrate with existing building security systems. EMD systems are designed not only to protect hospital staff who carry panic buttons, but can also play a critical role in routing responders as well as notifying all people within an area of danger.

The Need for EMD

An EMD system is ideal for commercial environments such as healthcare facilities, campuses or schools because it is easily integrated into an existing security network and can extend coverage into stairwells, walking paths, walking tunnels and even parking lots and parking garages — all places where conventional wireless, such as WiFi or Bluetooth, are generally unavailable.

In a study by the Emergency Nurses Association, 55 percent of emergency nurses report having experienced verbal abuse or physical violence in the last week alone, with 25 percent of nurses reporting being the victims of frequent physical violence in the last three years. While it is impossible to entirely eliminate the possibility of violence in the workplace, there are measures that can greatly reduce the risk. Of those measures, studies have found the use of panic buttons — a critical piece of an EMD system — to be the most effective. “Only one [environmental control measure] was significantly associated with lower odds of physical violence — the panic button/silent alarm,” according to the Institute for Emergency Nursing Research.

An EMD system monitors wireless-alerting panic buttons (pendants), provides notification when help is needed and directs responders to the location of the event — making it ideal for large-scale staff protection in hospitals, emergency rooms and behavioral wards. It provides healthcare employees with a tool to request assistance in the event of a workplace violence incident. At its core, it is comprised of a wireless alarm transmitter used to send an alarm in the case of an emergency, a wireless network to carry the alarm signal and an RF gateway to receive the alarm and disseminate it to responders.

Location, Notification and Wireless

Location, notification and industrial wireless are what separate an EMD solution from other technologies, such as PERS. Providing adequate security becomes exponentially more difficult when the inherent mobility of healthcare employees is considered and the nature of the customer base it serves.

This is why EMD must provide the location of the emergency event along with the alarm to ensure an appropriate response. Without location capability, a mobile duress alarm system is of little use in complex healthcare settings. Additionally, due to the nature of the emergency situations that face the healthcare industry today, it is not sufficient that an alarm be sent to only a central station or a single command center. Just as employees are inherently mobile in a healthcare setting, so are healthcare emergency responders.

Notification must also be flexible and adaptive. There must be a method of coordinating alarms so the correct alert is sent to the appropriate responder. And of course, nothing is more important than reliability. There are numerous kinds of wireless technologies, and most are not capable of operating reliably enough in demanding healthcare environments to support the life safety demands of an EMD application.

Case in Point

While EMD can be used for full campus coverage, it also can be successful in providing protection for specific areas or departments at a facility. In Denver, Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital’s nurses, physicians, security and other support staff in the Emergency Department (ED), Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Behavioral Health are routinely confronted with unstable, and sometimes violent, combative patients.

In order to ensure protection within those departments, it deployed an EMD system. The system consists of high-powered repeaters that form the network of coverage and panic buttons deployed to hospital staff throughout the ER, ICU and Behavioral Health departments. Associates and medical staff can wear a panic button around their neck or on a belt, or place it in a pocket or purse. Upon activation, the panic button transmits a unique, short and rapid high-priority alert message to the hospital’s dispatch station, where the event is assessed and the proper response is deployed. The system was designed so that it can easily be expanded to cover the entire 854,134 square feet of the hospital, should there be a future need.

Don Commare is VP of Marketing and Product Management for Inovonics, and helped drive the industry’s first Enterprise Mobile Duress (EMD) framework for workplace safety and people protection. To request more info about Inovonics, please visit