Is Your Hospital’s Communications System Ready for the Next Big Emergency?

Emergency managers should be utilizing the communication technologies that have advanced dramatically in recent years.

Security professionals considering upgrading their emergency communications system are often plagued by the daunting task of developing and implementing the system across their institution’s campuses. For hospitals, this can be an especially intimidating endeavor.

Luckily for security professionals, the benefits of an effective emergency communications system far outweigh the challenges of creating one. A robust emergency communications system can keep a hospital prepared for any emergency and allow emergency managers to make the best, most informed decisions in real time.

Compare that to a more dated system and the advantages are clear. Older communications systems typically require emergency managers to go through several layers of security personnel to get updates. For those managers, it can feel like they’re playing the telephone game from school, where children pass a message along a line through dozens of whispers. The outcome is usually a comically large difference between what the first student said and what the last student heard. The problem is that emergency managers can’t afford to let their messages get scrambled during the critical moments of emergency responses.

Understand the Hospital Environment
Establishing an efficient communications system can be a challenge for any institution, but hospitals have several characteristics that emergency managers need to consider. For one, construction specifications and certain hospital equipment can diminish cell phone reception in parts of healthcare facilities. This can make it impractical to use a communications system that relies solely on reaching staff members through their cell phones.

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Hospital officials must also be mindful of the information they’re broadcasting across channels.

“[Hospitals] have a huge non-workforce population, like clients, visitors and family members,” says the Director of Corporate Security for the Carolinas Healthcare System Bryan Warren. “They can hear and react to any overhead announcements in unpredictable ways.”

Joe Martino, the Coordinator of Corporate Security and Emergency Management at Northwell Health, explains another common obstacle. “Hospitals are often built in different stages and added to with wings or other expansions,” he says. “Nothing is built from scratch for us, so there’s no put-together approach to any of it. That makes things difficult when you’ve got to give the location of an incident or when you’re evacuating patient populations.”

About the Author


Zach Winn is a journalist living in the Boston area. He was previously a reporter for Wicked Local and graduated from Keene State College in 2014, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minoring in political science.

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