Radio Call Box System Bolsters Safety at Children’s Hospital
While it can be helpful to see how other facilities are handling similar situations, there is nothing quite like your own experiences to guide you. In the year 2000, Children’s Hospital had installed 13 Ritron call boxes in their patient parking garage. This structure included two call boxes per floor – one on the east wing and one on the west, with a single call box on the top floor.
These have performed flawlessly for the past 13 years – but were in the process of being updated to comply with the new narrowband initiative. Since he was very pleased with their performance, replacing them with the newer, narrowband version of the same product was a no-brainer for Chief Bohanan.
When selecting call boxes for the employee garage, Bohanan figured it was going to be difficult improving on what he already had, so he opted for a similar system for the employee garage.
How the System Works
The Ritron call box is a specially designed two-way radio transceiver (which allows the user to talk back to the security officer) with designed-in, application specific features. The call box is rugged, weather-proof and includes an internal vandal-proof antenna. Although the radio can be powered by alkaline batteries, the Children’s call boxes are externally powered – each is powered by a 50-amp Astron power supply. Installation time for each call box was approximately an hour/call box.
Metro Communications, a full service radio communications dealer in Knoxville, designed, sold and installed the call box systems. The Ritron radio call box has some Metro Communications-installed options specifically tailored for the Children’s Hospital installation.
“We install a blue strobe light and a key switch with every call box, we use the built-in DTMF encode feature of the call box to send a unique DTMF code (location ID) for each call box” explains Metro Communications Vice President Jimmy Hayes. “Then we install a DTMF decode board into each of the Motorola HT1250 portable radios that the security officers use.”
When the push-to-talk button on the call box is pressed, the DTMF signal is sent by the call box, and decoded by the portable radio – indicating the location and floor of the originating callbox. Concurrently, the blue strobe light begins to flash – and continues to do so until the security officers arrive on scene with the proper key to turn off the strobe.
The system is very similar to the one already in place in the patient parking garage. A single call box is installed in the center of each floor, near the stairs and elevator. A total of 8 call boxes are in-service in the employee garage. The call boxes communicate campus-wide, utilizing the 40-watt repeater and 50-foot antenna mounted on the hospital’s roof.
Safety Has Never Been So Cost Effective
Because it significantly speeds response time, Ritron Call boxes provide an extremely effective security measure for Children’s Hospital of Knoxville. Sending the distress signal to all radio-equipped security officers and allowing the closest one to respond means that fewer officers are needed – there is no need for a “dispatch officer” manning a desk and waiting for calls to come in. In addition, because the repeater provides excellent coverage across the campus, officers are able to more confidently perform patrol duties knowing they are still accessible from anywhere and able to respond quickly when called. This effective use of manpower further streamlines their costs.
From an ongoing maintenance standpoint, there are no recurring costs for the call box system, this is in contrast to telephone-based security systems which charge monthly or quarterly fees.
Regardless of cost, the system would not be considered a success if it did not work – and since 2000 the Ritron system has proven its worth. Officials estimate that the patient garage generates about two calls a week – everything from suspicious characters, feeling unsafe, to locked keys in car, dead vehicle batteries, and more. Whether it is a major emergency or a minor inconvenience, Bohanan and everyone who use the Children’s Hospital parking facilities can rest assured that help is just a push-button away.
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