Providers spend countless hours evaluating and installing myriad resident security devices. But how should they make best use of this equipment after buying it? While most of these sophisticated devices do fairly well monitoring themselves, diligence is required to protect them from damage and loss. Experts explain here how to maintain and get the most out of the systems.

1. Determine essential tasks and their frequency.

The kinds of testing and their frequency varies by device. All experts agree that alert-based resident security systems should be tested when “stressed.” It’s really the only way to know if they’re going to perform when it matters.

Jerry Wilmink, chief business officer for CarePredict Inc., advocates routine testing at the end of every facility shift. Snafus or malfunctions should be reported immediately to the manufacturer. Wilmink also recommends monthly care team meetings to discuss test results and any anomalies. Not only is it a great way to get feedback, but it is also a way to “identify training opportunities that can be just as critical as equipment function,” he says.

HD Supply product consultant Dan Wicker supports “risk-based maintenance schedules” as an efficient way to test those security systems. He says he believes it’s the “only logical way to ensure the proper operation is to assess each building and each product based on age and operation.”

Paul Larson, vice president, new product development at RF Technologies, asserts the frequency of checks always will be variable: Wander management  needs monthly nine-point checks for hub systems at each monitored door and weekly checks of resident devices; nurse call systems require annual exams; and fall monitors must be inspected weekly.

2. Know the not-so-obvious tasks.

Owner-operators may be surprised to learn some of the less obvious necessary tasks, such as checking with the people using them most. Says Wicker, “You’d be surprised by how many people on community staff have excellent awareness. Make sure they know who to contact when they notice something.”

Software updates are often overlooked, adds Steve Elder, director of communications for STANLEY Healthcare. The best way to ensure that this happens is to have a maintenance program. “These are mission-critical safety systems and deserve this attention,” he says.

An easy fix to resident security fatigue? Integration, says Danielle Myers, general manager of Status Solutions. “By integrating any disparate alarms, staff can then monitor their system and all associated devices from one central place.”

3. Address the most common problems.

Often, challenges begin the day that the equipment is installed, Wicker says.

“Many problems start and continue due to improper setup. Wander guarding, cameras, recorders, nurse call — all have firmware that provides internal operating instructions,” he explains. “Make sure you update your equipment and software is current annually.”

Laura Wasson, director of healthcare for Tech Electronics, believes good training can ward off most problems, or at least most of the common ones. “If users aren’t properly trained, they don’t know how to use the technology, read the reports, handle the alerts and alarms, or manage the system,” she says.

One may be surprised to learn a dead battery is the most common problem with these devices. If the “low battery” warning is ignored, big trouble results. Larson advises operators to perform regular en masse battery replacements on all devices to head off such problems.

While most resident security devices are rock-solid long-term performers, environmental factors can affect even the best, says Elder.

4. Exploit the device’s passive-active features.

Many resident security systems employ sophisticated passive safety features like self-checks and self-monitoring. While it’s wise not to rely too heavily on them, it can save needless checks and staff time.

Consider nurse call systems that rely on radio frequency rather than unreliable Wi-Fi networks, which things like storms can typically take down, says Harriet Ullman, senior living segment marketing manager for Philips Home Monitoring. Also consider automatic fall-detection systems in personal-alert pendants that don’t rely on staff to observe them in real time.

Wilmink advocates continuous self-monitoring features — in tandem with real world testing — as an essential component of many resident security systems. Such features perform self tests and alert designated staff when a malfunction is detected.

5. Protect the protectors.

Even some industry veterans might be surprised to learn that their expensive security investments need their own security from tampering, theft and calamity.

Designate reception staff to take charge of device inventory, Wicker recommends.

Some devices, like nurse call systems, set off alarms if a call cord is yanked from its socket, while software or servers can be shut down or disconnected, adds Larson. Further, Myers suggests devices be encased in alarm-activated, tamper-proof cases.

Mistakes to avoid

Neglecting to set regular testing intervals. Miss just one cycle and bad things could happen.

Ignoring many devices’ self-monitoring and testing features, which can save staff time.

Overlooking the most obvious potential problems, such as dead batteries and missing software updates.