Infant Security Basics

ID badges, training, video surveillance, access control and tagging systems can help to prevent a newborn baby from being abducted from your hospital.

Don’t Cause Code Confusion: Keep It Pink

It doesn’t end there. A whole-house infant abduction drill is required at least annually. The recommended code to activate the hospital emergency response to an infant abduction (or suspected abduction) is code pink. When this code is announced, there are specific actions of specific staff to control various access points and perform searches. 

This code, announced overhead, alerts all staff to watch for an infant being openly carried or signs of possible concealment (in back packs, bags, etc.). This code can be used to include pediatric patients, as well as a newborn, but generally carries an age identifier and/or abduction location (e.g. code pink 2 on 3 north).

While there may be various codes in different facilities for an abduction, the term code amber, or any similarity to the law enforcement term Amber Alert, should definitely not be used.

Also, the term code pink should not be used to activate a search, or an advisement, relative to a missing child who is not believed to have been abducted. The search for this individual would be handled by security and staff, much like they would search for an eloped patient, not an abducted newborn.

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Video, Access Control, Tags Provide More Security

There are basic physical security requirements for the newborn unit. In brief they are: video imaging of all ingress/egress points, including elevators; locked, self-closing and alarmed stairwell doors; and controlled access to the unit, such as a staffed reception point during regular hours, and locked at other times, or even a locked unit 24/7. Staff access to locked units is generally via card access, while visitors and others must be granted access on an individual basis.

Although there is no mandated requirement for an electronic infant system, they are being installed with increasing frequency. These systems can be very effective, but staff must be committed to the procedure, tasks and protocols required in the utilization of this type of monitoring. Abductions continue to occur even when tagging systems have been a component of the infant protection system.

Newborn Security is A High Priority for Joint Commission

While the instances of hospital infant abductions by strangers are statistically small, it creates an unbelievable nightmare for everyone involved. The protection of newborns and children is a high priority for all hospitals. It explains in part why the effort and budget in this regard exceeds that of any other specific security risk in the general healthcare environment.

Hospitals are continuing to reduce the risk of infant/child abductions and have virtually stopped the clock on this type of crime – but there is still a way to go. Ask any Joint Commission accreditation surveyor for an example of their concern relative to healthcare security. Don’t be surprised if they say “infant protection.”

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