Chicago-area hospital uses wireless anti-theft system to help prevent infant abductions

Red Hawk Fire & Security Manages Project with Jensen Hughes Consulting Engineers and STANLEY Healthcare

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), each year in the United States an average of four newborn babies are abducted from their hospital cribs in both urban and rural communities.

The largest fully integrated health care delivery system in Illinois has been at the forefront of preventing these incidents at its facilities and was among the first in the nation to employ an infant security system using electronic ‘anti-theft’ tags originally developed for the retail industry.

With advances in Wi-Fi technology and wireless security systems, hospital administrators recognized the need to update its existing infant security system, expand it to include pediatrics and standardize it across all eleven of its Illinois hospitals. All of the facilities vary widely in size, age and type of construction, so the complex, four year-long upgrade required the participation of various internal disciplines as well as the guidance and expertise of security system innovators, installations and service professionals.    

Engineering firm Jensen Hughes was selected to oversee the endeavor. They began by collecting interviews and survey data from each hospital location, then bringing in competing security providers to demonstrate products and services. Those presentations were followed by a detailed questionnaire asking hospital stakeholders to score the various system proposals.  

The hospital chose the STANLEY Healthcare Hugs® Wi-Fi Infant Protection solution because of the system’s ability to track the infant or child tags on the hospital premises using Wi-Fi technology. An evolution of its very popular, highly reputable and reliable Hugs system, the new solution uses standard Wi-Fi access points and is compatible with multiple wireless local area network (WLAN) architectures. To accommodate this potentially lifesaving system, hospital staff needed to validate its wireless network prior to installation to make it more robust and to ramp up signal strength helping reduce gaps in the Wi-Fi network.

Another accomplishment was preserving the scope of the large-scale project while maintaining health and life safety requirements at the working hospitals during all phases of construction.

For the demolition and construction, the hospital needed a turnkey solution from a company with a local presence able to respond swiftly while managing each project. Based on a proven record of successful experience with this and other large hospitals, STANLEY Healthcare and Jensen Hughes recommended Red Hawk Fire & Security to provide project management for removal of the old system wiring and panels, installation and integration of the new system as well as maintenance. Red Hawk was also responsible for coordinating the numerous building contractors at each of the hospitals.

An important part of the project required implementing and monitoring rigorous best practices to ensure no dust or debris from the demolition or renovation would enter working areas of the hospital. Abiding by stringent infection control procedures to ensure patient safety meant sealing off construction work zones with physical barriers and isolating them from the rest of the hospital with keypad controlled, locked doors.

“Red Hawk also installed and monitored a negative air system to draw air contaminants into the work zone and away from patient areas using HEPA filters to capture any tiny particles; conducted planned and surprise inspections to make sure all construction crews adhered to procedures that included taking multiple steps to remove dust and debris from their hands, gloves, tools and clothing before leaving the work zone,” said Bill Sako of Jensen Hughes.

The construction safety measures had to be a continuous and stable part of the transition to the new system as workers removed ceiling tiles and aging wires and replaced them with the new wireless system. 

The first new systems were brought on line in 2015 with the Hugs Wi-Fi solution helping guard against infant abduction and mother/infant mismatch. For one of the nation’s largest health care providers, addressing the topic of infant safety has been a complex and ambitious process made more manageable by its collaborative internal team approach as well as professional expertise by partners like security integrators Red Hawk Fire & Security, engineering firm Jensen Hughes and sophisticated new technologies such as the STANLEY Healthcare Hugs Wi-Fi solution.

Although infant abductions do not take place with great frequency, they do represent one of the concerns hospital administrators, risk managers and security directors face today as they exercise their responsibility for guiding the public trust at their facilities as well as patient safety and staff awareness.


A beautiful baby photographed one day after birth