Work alone - but never be alone

November 1, 2006
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In today’s technology-laden world, the need for workers to immediately respond to problems or complex issues is in greater demand than ever. This often means people are putting in longer or varied work shifts outside of normal business hours. It also means that, often times, people are working alone.

“Lone workers” are those linemen, maintenance and security personnel, cable repair technicians, and anyone else who works unaccompanied, who are often on their job site before sunrise and after sunset. They travel to secluded areas or monitor isolated facilities, with limited or no communication with the rest of the world. They can also be those who put in overtime at the office trying to get all their work done, mostly alone in the office at night and walking to their vehicles alone.

Put yourself in a lone worker’s position. If you were all alone and an emergency arose, what would you do? What if you were unable to use your mobile phone to summon help, or couldn’t drive to the nearest town to find assistance? Depending on the severity of the situation, you may be incapable of getting help on your own. In a time of crisis, what would your “lone worker” plan be?

Lone worker personal safety systems, for use in fixed (such as an office building) or mobile applications, incorporate wireless “man-down” alarms and the use of high-performance spread spectrum radio signaling to provide assistance in emergency situations. When a lone worker needs assistance, a personal alarm worn by the worker transmits a distress call, and help is on its way.

Fixed locations

With such personal safety systems, workers at fixed locations, such as industrial plants or office buildings, can summon help by pressing an emergency “call for help” button. If a worker becomes incapacitated and is motionless for a preset time (typically 30-90 seconds), a motion sensing “man-down” alarm automatically transmits a distress signal.

For fixed applications, most personal alarms worn by the worker transmit a “call for help” signal to a base receiver, usually located in a security or supervisor’s office. This signal can travel up to a half-mile away, or further if using optional ancillary equipment. In some systems, this “call for help” can also activate an automatic telephone dialer, which, in turn, sends a distress call to notify a designated person on-call or supervisor as directed.

Mobile locations

For mobile applications, a wireless emergency signaling system receives the key information, relays it to a satellite or cell tower, and transmits the worker’s ID and precise location to a chosen central control office dispatcher. With a wireless emergency signaling system, a transceiver acquires the spread spectrum data signal from the distress alarm. The data is then relayed to a satellite or cellular communication device, which forwards the signal to an appropriate central monitoring location. A central monitoring facility then contacts authorities and safety personnel, and help is on its way.

Monitoring software can also simultaneously send a message to emergency officers via pager, cell phone or e-mail. Personal monitoring systems are a direct communication link between workers and dispatch, which can mean the difference between life and death.

Personal distress alarms

Personal distress alarms can be used in conjunction with the lone worker system. Most personal distress alarms are pager-sized transceiving devices that provide emergency signaling and monitoring. Standard features typically include audible, visual and vibrating alert modes. The units can show the name, ID number or location for an emergency distress signal received, and most are capable of text messaging. Most devices provide emergency-alert and call-back response between other units and a base receiver.

Intrinsically safe models used for lone workers are small, wireless, emergency one-way signaling devices that provide a loud audible alarm and transmit an emergency call-for-help signal. Alarms may be manually activated at any time by pressing the panic button located on most devices. Some devices may also be automatically activated due to lack of motion when there is no movement for a preset time.

Whether you are a victim of an assault, having the onset of a heart attack, or experiencing any other emergency situation, you can be assured that help is on its way.

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