Today, the California Department of State Hospitals shared our story about the power of technology to deliver a safer work environment during a roundtable discussion at Cisco Live!

During the session, I discussed the unique security challenges our organization faces in balancing its charters to provide hope and support to adults with serious mental illness working toward achieving personal recovery, while also committing to providing a safe, secure, violence-free environment for patients, staff, visitors, and the community.

After the tragic murder of a nurse by a patient in 2010 at Napa State Hospital, DSH understood its security procedure needed an overhaul, and in response to concerns from staff, created the Safety Now Coalition to address the safety needs of its facilities.

The Coalition included California citizens, state hospital employees, stakeholders and IT staff. The members worked together over the course of months to collect feedback from staff to learn which areas of the hospital and which types of security concerns were most pressing to develop a real-time emergency alert system.

As a result, we implemented a radio frequency identification (RFID)-based solution across the Napa State Hospital campus, powered by Cisco Unified Wireless Network. The solution is a unique hybrid alarm system, Personal Duress Alarm System (PDAS), relying on RFID tags and in-house designed breakable lanyards.

Each employee at the hospital is equipped with a personal alarm and is able to use the Wi-Fi ID tag in a duress situation to trigger alerts and call for help. The alarm signals emergency responders of the exact location of the incident, and at the same time sends a text alert to staff within that immediate zone on their own PDAS with the location and last name of the employee who triggered the alarm.

“In my observation and personal experience in pulling my alarm tag, due to an incident on my unit, the response time has significantly decreased because of the PDAS’s capability to identify an exact location of the person who has triggered the system,” said Beverly Lynn, MS, Rehabilitation Therapist at Napa State Hospital. “You know exactly where you need to be in an emergency situation. It is my hope that the PDAS system will be aligned with other technical systems available in the industry to maintain its relevance and to continue to improve the method of tracking personnel that work in high risk environments.”

On a daily basis the PDAS systems enables quick responses to incidents across campus. Since the deployment, the Napa State Hospital estimates it experiences approximately 100 alarms each day for incidents ranging from escalated verbal altercations, physical altercations, and even small accidental incidents. Regardless of the incident, any employee in distress receives aid almost instantly thanks to the immediacy of the alert system. The hospital is able to closely track the success and response times for each alarm to continually improve its procedures.

Since the Napa State Hospital deployment, an additional two hospitals; Metropolitan and Patton State Hospitals installed the security system. Later this year, DSH will complete another implementation in the remaining two hospitals, Coalinga and Atascadero Hospitals.

We enjoyed the opportunity to participate and tell our story today at #CLUS

For more information on the events happening at Cisco Live, please visit www.ciscolive.com.


Jamie Mangrum

CIO at California Department of State Hospitals