People tagging, Ian Eeles looks at protecting vulnerable people.

12 August 2011

People tagging has been viewed with a degree of scepticism over the years. For this fourth and final article in our series on tagging, we have asked Ian Eeles, MD of EAS Distributors to discuss people tagging systems and how they work. We have also asked him to describe the settings in which people tagging is both useful and appropriate.

Usually viewed as an invasion of civil liberties and contributing to loss of freedom generally, tagging people is a concept most of us find hard to justify. However, a carefully installed system can help to protect people in many different settings, from wandering patients in care homes to public sector workers facing violence and aggression in Accident and Emergency hospital wards or DHSS offices. People tagging can also be used for access control within a building, granting or preventing access to zones or rooms for safety or confidentiality reasons. The tags also provide panic or personal attack alarm facilities bringing increased protection to vulnerable workers. In this article I will outline the type of systems used, the main considerations to be made when selecting a tagging system and expand on the benefits a tagging system can bring.

A people tagging system usually consists of mini RFID (radio frequency identification) tag transmitters in the form of wrist bands or pendants. Access zones are created within a building using “locators”, usually positioned above doorways, which in turn transmit signals to “receivers” or controllers wired to a central PC. The locators register a tag (person) passing which can activate an alarm or, in a care home setting, prevent a service user leaving the building unaccompanied, thus protecting them from harm. Alternately, the system may be used to maintain a live register of service user whereabouts so they can easily be found in an emergency or if a visitor arrives to see them. The tags usually include a panic alarm function which the wearer can activate to request emergency help if required.

The controllers offer a wide range of functionality, from sending an alert to a pager or mobile phone to an automatic email message. All time, date and location details are recorded, as well as the individuals name and role. A complete audit pathway documenting all activity can be provided for management purposes. Clearly, tag activations can be used as alarms, integrating with other site security systems to provide a highly comprehensive security solution.

When choosing a people tagging system, buyers should look for tags that use radio frequency technology because they require no line of site between tag and locator. This makes reading very reliable, unlike their infra red equivalents. The tags themselves need to be of good quality to ensure transmitter reliability, a factor which is often overlooked, but vitally important to life critical applications.

Tagging systems are usually easy to install, causing little or no disruption to a business or service. Regardless of the number of locators required to zone a building correctly, only the receivers will require a hard wired, network or PC connection. Planning building zones for maximum site effectiveness comes down to the correct understanding of site requirements. This is generally only limited by incorrect specification and rarely by system capability.

Tagging plays a big role in protecting vulnerable individuals with a tendency to wander. Care home service users are able to move freely within secure zones but not leave buildings without help, for example. This prevents people from becoming lost, stops unnecessary police notification and call out and saves care home providers time and stress. The panic alarm functionality in this type of setting can be used to warn of falls, injury or where carer assistance is required.

Personnel protection is vital and protecting staff is as important as protecting customers and service users. Employers have a “duty of care” to their employees. Staff members wearing a tag not only feel safer within challenging environments but are safer. When assistance or back up is required, one button press raises an alarm and provides details of their exact location.

People tagging is used in a wide range of settings and for a wide variety of reasons. The most common applications include heath care settings - especially care homes; local and national government offices and commercial settings, including clubs and stadia.

People tagging is designed to protect the interests of those wearing the tags. It is an unobtrusive means of knowing exactly where someone is at any given time, helping to protect staff, service users and customers alike. I believe it has a lot to offer many businesses and services where safety and care are a priority.

We hope you have found our series of articles on tagging useful and informative. We would like to thank Ian Eeles for the highly informative tagging articles he has written. Ian can be contacted at EAS Distributors if you would like further information.

EAS Distributors is one of the U.K’s leading and longest established tagging systems and tag distributors. The company offers support to installers wanting to add tagging to their portfolio of services and holds a complete range of tagging systems in stock. EAS also offers support and advice on integrated security systems and can supply the Cross Connect system.