Technology and Training To Prevent Infant Abduction
In March of 2008, a woman followed a maintenance worker through a secured door and onto a maternity floor of Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford, Florida. She changed into scrubs in an empty room and took a newborn from his mother on the pretext that the child needed an examination. She was not wearing hospital identification nor did hospital personnel stop her at any point. The woman, 37 year-old Jennifer Latham, hid the one-day-old boy in a tote bag and left the hospital. Fortunately she was apprehended about an hour later and the child was returned unharmed. She was recently sentenced to 30 years in prison.
State agencies investigated and found several key security issues:
- There was no protocol telling employees to check behind them when passing through secured doors. The abductor had followed a maintenance worker onto the unit.
- No one reported the presence of a suspicious person, although at least one person had seen the woman changing clothes.
- Neither the unit alarm nor the door locks worked properly.
- There was confusion among hospital personnel immediately following the abduction.
- The hospital was fined $10,000 for having lax security and implemented several changes in security policy.
This case highlights the intersection between technology and training. Although the infant was wearing a security band Latham still managed to leave the ward and escape because of improper training of hospital staff and non-functioning alarms and door locks. Security policy was also lacking, as she was able to simply follow another worker onto the floor and freely move about without being identified.
Technology can protect your facility if properly installed and updated. But it will not stop an abduction if security and healthcare staff aren't given the proper training and information. It’s also critical that a firm and non-compromising security policy be in place before it’s needed and surprise drills are conducted periodically. Awareness of the common traits and behaviors of infant abductors should also be a key part of staff training.
Accutech recently announced a new benefit for healthcare facilities and is now providing security consulting services to assess readiness in case of an attempted infant abduction. The Florida abduction was resolved by law enforcement when it might have been avoided by effective abduction prevention technology, proper security measures and thoroughly trained staff. Accutech is happy to discuss your facility’s abduction measures and how they might be improved to prevent a potential tragedy.
Please join us at the AWHONN 2012 Annual Convention in Washington D.C. June 23-27. Accutech will be at Booth #216 with the latest news and technology in infant and pediatric protection systems. We look forward to seeing you!
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