Effective protection

Hospital buildings can face a number of threats, one of which is the risk of intruders. Naturally, hospitals see a large number of people through their doors every day and it can be difficult to monitor the intentions of each individual.

Hospitals can be considered attractive to thieves because they are home to expensive equipment and machinery, along with an abundance of different medications. To add to this, they are also rife with confidential patient data; if this kind of information falls into the wrong hands, the consequences could be detrimental to both the patient and the reputation of the hospital. Therefore, it is essential that effective security measures are implemented to minimise the risk of such threats.

CCTV: keeping a watchful eye
In terms of hospital security, CCTV is particularly effective. Such security can stem beyond the four walls of the hospital – cameras can also be strategically installed around the hospital perimeter, particularly around car parking areas. Many of those who visit a hospital tend to stay there for a long period of time, particularly if their loved ones are undergoing extensive treatments. Therefore, thieves may see these unattended vehicles as easy targets. CCTV can deter thieves from damaging or stealing this property and maintaining a safe environment for those passing through.

As previously mentioned, hospitals may be attractive to thieves due to the kinds of medication that are kept on site. While these kinds of supplies are usually kept in secured areas, experienced thieves may still be able to breach the security in place. By placing CCTV cameras around these high-risk areas, hospital staff can be reassured that these vital resources do not go missing.

One particular element of CCTV that is being increasingly employed is Video Content Analysis (VCA), the name given to the automatic analysis of CCTV images, which is then used to create meaningful information regarding the content. For example, VCA can be used to automatically detect an intruder, or to count the number of people entering or leaving an area – beneficial for keeping track of how many people have entered or left an emergency room during a given period of time.

If the area that needs protecting is particularly extensive – such as the multiple floors and rooms of a hospital building – then multiple screens are often required to be monitored at once. VCA can offer solutions to make this monitoring process as efficient as possible, particularly during the night when less staff may be on duty. Advances in technology mean that this process can be streamlined through the employment of either motion sensors for the CCTV – where the cameras only start rolling when movement is detected – or by using fence-mounted vibration detectors that trigger an alert in the security control room.            

Naturally, a hospital environment is often very busy with only small periods of quietness within the day, therefore some areas will need closely monitoring at all times. However, other areas may not need such close supervision and this type of detection can be time effective, ensuring that footage is picked up when movement is detected but avoiding the hassle of closely watching an empty hallway.

Another element of CCTV that can prove invaluable for the health sector is BS8418, the British Standard for remotely monitored, detector-activated CCTV systems. When deployed, BS8418 compliant solutions consist of cameras and detectors placed strategically around a site, linked together by specialised transmission equipment to a Remote Video Response Centre (RVRC). Here, operators can visually confirm what is happening, call up on-screen plans of the hospital and even issue verbal warnings to intruders via on-site speakers. If necessary, the RVRC operators can also alert the police who, as the incident is confirmed visually and is associated with a URN (Unique Reference Number), should provide a rapid response. The ability to provide a prompt response when incidents occur is a priceless feature within the health sector, allowing situations to be managed effectively and for hospital staff to continue their own vital tasks without being called away.

The benefits of integration
While CCTV is an extremely effective tool on its own, it can be even more effective when integrated with other systems. The developments in technology and the scope of CCTV systems mean that they are being used in a range of applications that stem beyond their traditional uses.

One such application is that of detection and visual verification of smoke and fire. CCTV can be utilised in this sense to protect hospitals from the dangers that a fire would inflict on the large amounts of people occupying the building, and the unwelcome damage to vital equipment that would no doubt transpire. Despite its hugely beneficial use, a BSIA survey has shown that disappointingly, few organisations are taking advantage of these capabilities.

While fire and smoke would cause a huge disruption to any organisation, within a hospital setting it would be even more destructive. 

Obviously, a large percentage of a hospital’s population is people with illnesses, and if exposed to smoke, their condition could be rapidly worsened. This is not to mention the explosive nature of some of the chemicals kept on site, which, if exposed to fire, could cause a magnitude of damage. If a fire were to occur, patients would also need to be evacuated extremely quickly and reallocated to a safe environment, and hospital staff may not have the time, resources or manpower to achieve this. CCTV can help to minimise these risks.

Although still effective, traditional fire alarms cannot always guarantee the immediate identification and response to fire incidents, especially when large premises, like hospital buildings, are involved. In fact, according to some statistics released in 2010, 75 per cent of the fires that happened in 2008 occurred when fire detectors were in place but did not operate due to the fact that the fire in question had not reached the detectors. VCA can offer a solution to this concern.

Unlike conventional smoke detectors, which react only once the smoke reaches the device. VCA systems can actually identify smoke at any distance, as long as it is within the cameras’ visual reach. This fast detection of smoke and fire is absolutely essential in ensuring speedy emergency service response and evacuation. The fire service have become increasingly reliant upon visual verification when responding to emergency calls, so CCTV can also help to ensure a fast response time. Another benefit of this type of visual verification means that it can take place at a distance, without compromising the safety of individuals. Moreover, once the emergency response has been guaranteed, CCTV systems can prove invaluable in guiding the fire service to the location of the fire without putting lives at risk.

Access control solutions
CCTV systems can also integrate well with access control software. As expected, in a hospital environment there are many areas that can only be accessed by authorised personnel, and if breached by an intruder, could have potentially damaging consequences. Often these areas are controlled through access control systems, such as swipe cards or fingerprint readers, and when coupled with CCTV systems, can provide very efficient and usable solutions for staff and visitors.

One major benefit of this is pre and post‑event video recordings initiated by the access control. Video recordings can be linked with event information, which makes searching for a particular event on the recording much more efficient. For example, if an intruder has entered the building and attempted to breach an access controlled area by forcing a door, operators can search for ‘Door forced – laboratory 4’ allowing them to easily look at images of the intruder and react accordingly.

This kind of integration can also be beneficial in terms of human resource management. CCTV can be combined with Time and Attendance systems to detect the occurrence of ‘buddy‑clocking’ – when employees are clocking each other on and off work – thus making sure that everyone is working their appropriate hours and no one is treated unfairly.

BSIA members have had direct experience in securing the health sector. For example, Derbyshire Mental Health Service NHS Trust had been experiencing difficulties with repeat offences such as theft, robbery and motor vehicle burglaries at its sites and called upon a BSIA member to install an access control and CCTV solution.

The BSIA member subsequently installed CCTV systems across a network of 11 Derbyshire NHS sites, which all linked back to a monitoring station. A variety of 37 CCTV units, infrared detectors and tannoy solutions were installed across the 11 sites, along with 17 access control installations, 24 proximity readers, break glass and infrared detectors.

Each member of Derbyshire NHS staff was also issued with an access key. Upon using the key, the action is bookmarked along with the footage from the nearest CCTV unit. This means that if an access card is stolen, and an intruder gains access fraudulently, CCTV footage of when and where the incident took place can be brought up on the integrated recording timeline. This is achieved almost instantaneously without having to sort through hours of footage. In addition, if one of the break-glass detectors or infrared alarms is activated, the incident is also logged on the CCTV footage for operators to examine immediately.

Since the installation of this extensive integrated security solution, crime rates across Derbyshire Mental Health Services NHS Trust have been said to have reduced to zero.

The most important factor to consider when sourcing a security system is that you choose from a trusted supplier. BSIA members offer a reputable service, are committed to best practice and have been inspected to quality European and British standards.

Further information