Queen of Peace
Hospital strengthens staff security with expanded enterprise mobile duress system
- By Eric Banghart
- Nov 01, 2013
A study by the Emergency Nurses Association
conducted in 2011 indicated that 55 percent of
emergency nurses reported an experience with
verbal abuse or physical violence within the
week prior to being questioned for the study.
Another 25 percent of nurses reported being
the victims of frequent physical violence in the
previous three years.
Avera Queen of Peace Hospital, located in Mitchell, S.D., a member
of the Avera Healthcare System, consists of a large family of hospitals,
clinics, long-term care facilities and home health/hospice agencies in
eastern South Dakota and neighboring states. This 120-bed hospital
employs roughly 620 staff members and is dedicated to providing
quality healthcare services to the rural communities of southeastern
Based on industry studies similar to the one mentioned here, this
hospital places a high degree of importance on employee safety and
has expanded its mobile duress system to create a safer workplace environment
for its healthcare professionals.
The Future Plan
Located in Louisville, Colo., Inovonics makes people protection systems
and high-performance wireless sensor networks for commercial
and life-safety applications. For the past 15 years, Avera Queen of
Peace Hospital has used the Inovonics’ Vision Plus security panel and
accompanying Inovonics life-safety, wireless infrastructure.
For the first generation Vision Plus installation, the locations of the
mobile duress alarms were “registered” into the system so that a staff
member could sign out a pendant assigned to a specific area in the
hospital where he or she would be located during their shift. If a duress call went out, the corresponding location would be tied to the pendant’s registered location, even if the employee was located in a different
area. The original system was implemented over a small portion of
the hospital, and alarm alerts were delivered to a central monitoring
station, allowing coverage of about 75,000 square feet of the hospital.
“When we installed the Vision Plus system, it worked very well,” said
Glen Vilhauer, operations supervisor at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital.
“The system was incredibly reliable and met our needs, until some staff
members voiced concern about increasing security problems on the
hospital campus. They were uneasy that the old system only worked in
the specific area that the pendant was programmed for.”
With limited coverage, many areas of the hospital were left vulnerable.
For example, a panic button programmed only for the ICU protected
staff members in that area. In the event that an incident occurred
en route to the ICU or in the waiting room, the pendant would prompt
security to the ICU rather than to the location where the incident actually
occurred. Eventually, the hospital realized that it needed a new
system that would cover the entire hospital and surrounding grounds.
The ideal solution would provide location capability that corresponded
to a staff member’s whereabouts as they moved in and around the facility,
which they do naturally as part of their daily responsibilities.
“Once these concerns were vocalized, we began to look for a comprehensive
solution that not only could apply to the entire hospital, but
could offer location capabilities in every corner of the building,” Vilhauer
said. “Because of our success with the existing system, we looked
to Inovonics, and they had just the solution that could meet those needs.”
The Next Generation
Radius, a second-generation Enterprise Mobile Duress System
(EMDS) that leverages a life-safety, wireless infrastructure and duress
pendants to locate a mobile person when and where they need help has
been the ideal solution.
Providing the pinpointed location for the person in distress, Radius
quickly notifies responders of the location, making Radius’ EMD location
capabilities the type of system Vilhauer needed. The system, however,
is not based on GPS technology, which is known to be inadequate
in indoor environments, but relies on a secure wireless network and
server to process location information from panic buttons, monitor
other information from the Inovonics wireless network and coordinate
notification of the pertinent information.
If a panic button were to be activated at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital,
the signal would automatically be transmitted to Radius, which would
then process and locate the position of the event, immediately alert the
appropriate response team and direct them to where help is needed.
The Radius Server
In order to ensure complete protection for hospital employees, Radius
needed to cover approximately 300,000 square feet of the facility. The
equipment included a Radius server with a voice card, two voice ports,
a radio interface, 36 repeaters, 20 panic buttons and 10 universal transmitters.
The server was installed directly onto Avera Queen of Peace’s
network with one voice port connected to the radio interface and the
second voice port connected to its phone system, which also interfaces
to voice pagers and the VoIP system.
Multiple repeaters were installed on each story of the building to
ensure location accuracy; however, Vilhauer stressed the importance
of being thorough when placing the repeaters in appropriate locations.
Therefore, prior to the actual installation, Inovonics assisted Vilhauer
in conducting a site survey using a demonstrator repeater and panic
buttons that allowed Vilhauer and his team to map out the coverage
areas and determine where each repeater should be located to ensure
optimal coverage. This part of the installation helped to guarantee that
when a panic button is pushed, the right location is identified.
Mobile panic buttons were assigned to staff members along with
fixed, universal transmitters installed in walk-in cooling units with
fixed panic buttons. Additionally, fixed panic buttons were located in
the pharmacy, at the nuclear accelerator and in the emergency room.
These panic buttons ensure reliable data transmission to a range of
hospital staff and timely response during emergency situations.
If a nurse experiences problems without help nearby, he or she simply
pushes the button, and security and plant operations are instantly
paged with a code name that identifies the emergency. Radius sends
the same code to the Avera Queen of Peace emergency hotline,
prompting attendants to page security and plant operations. A voice
message is sent across two-way radios to 24-hour security, plant operations
and the admitting staff.
Radius also allows the hospital to expand the coverage of the duress
system beyond the main hospital building to outlying clinics and parking
“This means our staff reaps the benefits of Radius beyond the walls
of the hospital building,” Vilhauer said. “It’s comforting to know that if
one of our staff members was forced outside of the building, we could
still determine their location. We were extremely impressed to see the
system performing in ways that have exceeded our expectations and
Since implementing the Radius EMDS, Avera Queen of Peace Hospital
has been extremely pleased with the results. The most critical benefit is
the hospital’s ability to locate pendants anywhere on the hospital campus,
even outside of the building. This is a 75 percent increase in coverage
from the original installation. According to Vilhauer, the staff,
especially those who work overnight, now feel more at ease knowing
that the pendants can determine their location anywhere in the hospital,
instead of only in designated areas.
“We were pleasantly surprised that Radius provides coverage outside
of the hospital as well as in remote areas at our facility,” Vilhauer
said. “While our first priority is for our staff to be safe and feel comfortable
with our security system, perhaps one of the most exciting
benefits since implementing Radius has been the
additional value we are realizing from the system.
Not only have we addressed the safety concerns of
our staff, we have also improved operating functions
throughout the facility.”
This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Security Today.