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  • Mark Hanley

The Man Down - Alarm Receiving Centre Dilemma


In this post we explore difficulties for the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) when a lone worker is not responsive.

The Alarm Receiving Centre Solution

When it comes to safeguarding the wellbeing of lone workers in an organisation, the motivations for a head of health and safety can be numerous. Compliance is an important driver for health and safety, since organisations need to carry out risk assessments for various roles and demonstrate a duty of care to their employees. Often, it’s done for peace of mind, both for the lone worker who knows that they’re being looked after, and for the person in charge of their safety. Occasionally, although not that often in our experience, organisations realise that the higher the level of protection, the better the overall productivity becomes.

Whatever the motivation, many heads of health and safety will take the traditional safeguarding route, which is to equip their lone workers with a device connected to an alarm receiving centre, or ARC. It's pretty simple, and traditional ARC providers are keen to promote this simple message. The device may have an alarm button that the lone worker can press or it may have sensors that detect when the lone worker is ‘man down’ – a collapse, a fall, perhaps physical violence – and transmit the alarm to the ARC on their behalf. Perhaps the ARC already processes fire and intruder alarms for the organisation and adding lone worker devices to the list is a cost effective solution. Job done.

ARCs are staffed monitoring and alert-management facilities catering to both residential and commercial customers. As such they are a relatively high fixed cost that the organisation must pay, rather like insurance, regardless of the level of action that the ARC is called upon to provide. In most cases this is a decent solution for the organisation, especially if it can consolidate all of its protection with the ARC. But when it comes to critical and time-critical events, the ARC response can be seriously limiting.

Man Down and Unresponsive

It helps to share a scenario with you to make this point. Let’s say lone workers are carrying out their daily job scattered over a certain part of the country. The ARC could be located anywhere, anywhere in the world perhaps, but more than likely a good few miles from the lone workers. Perhaps hundreds of miles. At some point, one of the lone workers gets into difficulties, becomes incapacitated, and their device sets off the man down alarm.

The ARC receives the man down alarm. The person in the ARC calls the lone worker straight away to check in on them. The lone worker, however, is unconscious and can’t answer the call, never mind explain their circumstances. Radio silence. What does the ARC do? It has no information – apart from a man down alarm activation – to work from. It can’t call the emergency services because it hasn’t established if the person is actually in trouble and what the nature of their incapacity is.

The only resource is for the ARC to call its main contact at the organisation and explain the situation. That's if they can get through to the person they need to reach. What if the contact person is not immediately available? Perhaps the ARC knows the GPS location of the stricken lone worker, and the GPS locations of the nearest other workers, and can alert them – if it knows their numbers. Otherwise, it needs to instruct the organisation to make those calls.

How much time might have elapsed in this scenario, and how much closer is the man down to receiving help?

Software, Automation and the Hybrid Compromise

Let’s now run this scenario again in an organisation which has invested in a software-based protection solution, rather than an ARC-based solution.

When the man down alarm is activated, the system automatically sends out an alert to the named list of responders in the organisation. The alert can be transmitted over a number of different communication protocols – data, wifi data, SMS, voice call – and is delivered to the responders’ device, phone and computer screen if necessary. The responders then respond according to their agreed procedures. All this is done in a matter of seconds, which enables the organisation – which has a much better handle on where its other staff are, and where the nearest emergency services are, than the ARC – to respond instantly and effectively to reach the incapacitated worker.

The more advanced systems can operate according to rules which the organisation specifies, including holding the times and shifts for specific lone workers and responders. For example, depending on whose alarm is activated, and at what time, this determines which responders the system alerts who are on duty at the time. For certain times of the day like normal ‘out of hours’, the organisation can elect to have the alarm sent to their ARC that they use for other alarm processing. In this sense the flexibility of an automated systems allows the organisation to operate a hybrid solution – part automated and part traditional – to suit its own working practices.

Sometimes it may seem easier to offload the wellbeing of your lone workers to a traditional ARC for all monitoring and alert management, but this is often an expensive and slower option, just when you need to act quickly and decisively.

Contact us to talk through your man down – ARC dilemma.


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