Safe returns: how to protect the protectors
Children, Family and Community Service (CFCS) within Catholic Social Services (CSS) steps up their safety with SafetyAware for workers in the community
A Community Worker is always on the go. In a typical day, they might support a client in cleaning their home, take a youth shopping, and drive a child to a family visitation. Their focus is on improving people’s lives and giving vulnerable people hope for the future.
CFCS is forefront in the community of this work. Based in Edmonton, CFCS serves Edmonton and area their employees support families and individuals throughout this broad region, and as they do, they’re usually working alone.
A hallmark of their job is uncertainty. They might enter a home where addictions or mental health issues destabilize behavior. They might be reaching out to elders who’ve been victims of abuse. They might be working with a caregiver who has been assigned care for a relative’s child, with potential family conflict as a result, or they may be supporting women and children who’ve fled domestic violence.
The challenge for CSS is to protect these workers when they’re in vulnerable situations. Yet as a non-profit with limited resources, CSS is also vulnerable. They need a solution that provides the most value for budget – with also the safest returns.
The problem: where were their workers?
In the past, a worker would check in only at the beginning and end of their day. If something happened during a shift, it would be hours before anyone knew something was wrong. Employees also recorded emergency information on paper, which meant that confidential information such as license plate numbers, home phone numbers, and emergency contacts was unsecured.
Lone worker legislation required that employees stay in touch more frequently, so CSS adopted a safety check-in app. The app, on every worker’s smartphone, prompted workers to respond at scheduled times throughout the day.
The switch to digital reduced the paper trail, but the process still had problems. If a worker missed a check-in or forgot to sign out at the end of their shift, the system sent an alarm to their supervisor.
When this happened, the supervisor had little insight into the location or condition of the worker they were supposed to investigate. Most missed check-ins were false alarms, but supervisors would spend a great deal of time trying to find people – time that’s particularly scarce in a non-profit.
“There were lots of calls,” says Crystal Huculak, Program Manager with Children, Family and Community Service. “If someone forgot to enter their status, then whoever was on shift needed to track them down as well as do their own work.”
The solution: real-time data and real people provide an extra set of eyes
CSS moved to the SafetyAware platform in February 2018. For the 125 people being protected, the system is simple to use. They check in throughout the day with an app on their phone. The app also lets them signal if they are entering a hazard area—such as a potentially dangerous client’s home—and it can automate their check-in if they’re driving and can’t reach their phone.
Most importantly, the solution goes beyond an app. First, the app is paired with response center software that collects data about the worker’s location and condition—such as a hazard. Supervisors can use this software to quickly check GPS if someone seems to disappear.
“Usually it’s not a safety alert if someone fails to check in,” Crystal explains. “Knowing the person’s location helps us determine the level of risk.”
Second, an external emergency response center also monitors the software. If someone doesn’t check in, response center staff investigate the issue before alerting supervisors. If they find that there is indeed a problem, they follow an escalation plan tailored to each person.
Now, staff can check in as frequently as necessary, and a digital system protects confidentiality. And having real people in a third-party emergency response center takes the burden off CSS staff to chase down errors.
“We didn’t have the resources before for two-hour check-ins,” says Crystal. “This is a step up in our safety – someone is always there.”
To support clients at all times, CSS has round-the-clock staff. This is no problem for SafetyAware, which is also on 24/7/365. Since the app is on a smartphone, it’s also simple for a worker to use. One person took youth on a weekend camping trip to Jasper National Park, and they had the security of knowing they had SafetyAware support if anything happened.
“Aware360 has been very responsive and willing to help whenever we need it,” says Crystal. “It’s great service.”