Battery-powered Locks Keep Medications Safe at Utah’s Unified Fire Authority

Established in 2003, the Unified Fire Authority provides five cities in Salt Lake County, Utah with fire and paramedic service. A main office oversees the 22 stations in the Authority, each with two crews of firefighters and paramedics, explains Michael Bohling, captain of the Salt Lake County, Utah Unified Fire Authority and a 20-year veteran with the service.

The paramedics must carry and, where necessary, administer narcotic medications, but restocking presented a problem. The Authority had to find a way to secure its supply of the medications in accordance with government regulations after delivery from the central office to the 21 affiliated fire stations.

The small stations might not be overseen by authorized personnel if both fire and paramedic crews were out on calls. The result was added expense and wasted hours for redelivery to the far-flung stations: in fact, delivery and redelivery to the stations under these conditions became essentially a full-time job, Bohling notes.

Implementing the solution

The solution was suggested by Dave Vawdrey system integrator with Pro Security Products of Sandy, Utah. As implemented, each station is now provided with a small, secure drug box/safe fitted with a battery-powered iLocker lock. A large dedicated safe in the central UFA administration office has been outfitted with an online, hard-wired system. This state-of-the-art electronic access control system is supplied by Salto Systems Inc., with U.S. headquarters in Atlanta, GA.

The battery-powered iLockers are an excellent solution, says Capt. Mike Bohling. Authorized delivery personnel and paramedics use their Salto system cards to access the safes, and the captain makes programming changes as needed and receives the required audits at his main office; he can also change lock programming from the main office, using the Salto software over UFA’s network. In most cases monthly medication level restocking is adequate, resulting in a great savings of time and manpower.

Each station has three shifts of two medics each, so ultimately about 225 paramedics have access to the safes. Each rig signs out a small supply of the necessary controlled medications that is always with them when they go on a call to a house, a traffic accident, etc.

The Salto system gives the Authority a secure and consistent way to keep good track of its products.

“We know who enters the safe, when they open it and when they close it, so we have exact documentation of everybody who goes into and out of the safe to add to the documentation of medication given to patients. We find the software intuitive and easy to use,” Bohling said.

There also is a large Salto-protected safe at administration headquarters where the bulk of the medications are stored for distribution as needed.

The Salto System is now being expanded from just the narcotics safes to the station entry systems. Three new stations have been fitted with Salto entry systems and responsible personnel in the department have been issued an access card.

The work is funded with municipal revenues, and as the program is expanded the UFA will proceed to upgrade entry to the remaining 19 stations.

“Since we’ve had the safes in place we have not had a discrepancy with our medications,” Bohling said.

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