HSC plans to make personal alarms a standard practice for staff and volunteers

Health Sciences Centre (HSC) is handing out personal alarm devices in bulk to staff and volunteers, and plans to make it a standard practice in a proactive approach to safety at the facility.

Also known as ‘screamers,’ the small plastic devices emit a loud, alarm-like noise when a metal pin is removed to alert nearby people and security that someone needs help.

Staff and volunteers are advised to throw the noisemaker away from them, in hopes that any would-be-attacker might try to stop the noise or be distracted, potentially giving them a few seconds to get away.

Interim COO Ronan Segrave said while management hasn’t yet heard of a staff member having to use the device in an emergency capacity the alarms provide different kinds of security.

“They may never have to use it, but it is a sort of psychological level of comfort knowing that if they ever did have to use it, it’s there.”

HSC officials told CTV News they will continue to give them out going forward, so that anyone volunteering or working at the hospital will receive a personal alarm along with their identification badge.

Segrave said the personal alarms are just one of many proactive steps the hospital is taking to adapt to a changing environment, including the prevalence of meth in Winnipeg.

“There are issues around patients, not just meth, but other forms of narcotics addiction where their behavior can be a bit unpredictable,” said Segrave. “And we have had some incidents this year. We’ve had to respond to that.”

Segrave pointed to other measures including heightened security presence, security cameras in all public areas of the hospital and panic buttons in the parkades, while saying there were weekly meetings to look at any preventative measures that could be taken to ensure staff and patients feel safe at the facility.

7,000 personal alarms have gone to staff and volunteers since they began handing them out in November, and 3,000 are on order to be handed out in January.