Security and Life Safety Systerms are a necessity in the healthcare industry.

The datacom and telephone infrastructure market is changing. For more than two decades, we have seen a shift in the healthcare industry from traditional telecommunications service providers to electrical contractors (ECs) for cabling and other services and systems.

In the U.S. hospital market, the EC remains absolutely dominant for the installation and maintenance of power and related control systems. However, many are expanding their services to include low-voltage and fiber optic cabling, and the EC that offers integrated building systems services becomes a competitive alternative to the datacom and telephone contractor.

Properly located video surveillance cameras can extend the range of the security staff and provide valuable incident information. Since electronic security is a means for increasing the productivity of existing security personnel, it has an excellent return on investment for facilities managers and building owners. But that’s not the only benefit.

The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that hospital workers are more than four times more likely to be assaulted on the job than workers in other private-sector industries. According to FBI statistics, doctors, nurses and aides who deal with psychiatric patients; members of emergency medical response teams; and hospital employees working in admissions, emergency rooms and crisis or acute care units experience the largest number of Type 2 assaults, defined as violence directed at employees by users of an organization’s services.

These statistics support the need for electronic security solutions to help reduce assaults in the workplace, a solution that systems integrators and security contractors wish to provide. Emergency rooms are often the site of the most egregious violence. Gang activity that begins on the streets can continue into the emergency room, where injured gang members seek medical treatment. Cameras should be mounted to view the main entrance, waiting room and non-treatment areas within the examination/treatment space.

Video surveillance cameras should view all hospital entries, where people may look for other ways to gain entry into the emergency room to continue their dispute with a patient. Priority areas that also deserve monitoring include the admissions desk, elevator banks and the pharmacy. With its cache of controlled substances, the pharmacy mandates cameras at the dispensing desk, within the pharmacists’ work areas and at the receiving docks, where the drugs arrive and enter the hospital.

Video surveillance cameras also should be placed outside the nursery, psychiatric and geriatric wards to prevent newborns from being kidnapped or those suffering from mental disorders from wandering off.

Nearly all hospitals operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week; employees and visitors are coming and going at all times. A parking garage offers an attacker many places to hide in wait. This is another area for deployment of video surveillance.

Public monitors placed at main visitor entry points will put anyone entering the hospital on notice that they are under video surveillance. This will help the cameras serve as a further deterrent to criminal activity.

All video should be transmitted to a central security station where it will be recorded for investigative purposes in case of an assault, theft or other crime. And it is important that hospital security staff (or computer analytics) be assigned to monitor the live video in order to immediately respond with staff members or local law enforcement in case of an emergency situation.

Any full security system for a hospital should include access control, intrusion detection, lighting control and emergency phones. The placement of alarm points, such as sensors on doors and windows, in addition to the surveillance cameras should be carefully thought through to ensure that they monitor all critical areas.

Mass notification is another important piece of a security system that should not be overlooked.

Installing and maintaining these critical systems can make the electrical contractor who provides integrated building systems services a vital member of the hospital team. In these unpredictable times, contractors should focus on the most stable markets: government, education and medical. The medical sector is still growing, and with an influx of federal dollars provided through the economic stimulus, it will continue.

BISBEE is with Communication Planning Corp., a telecom and datacom design/build firm. He provides a free monthly summary of industry news on www.wireville.com.