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Code Amber: Infant security is everyone's job

Code amber: be alert! Prevent infant and child abduction

One of the less-visible components of patient safety at YNHH is the Infant/Child Security Committee, which meets regularly to address the issue of infant abduction. While not a crime of epidemic proportions, the abduction of infants and children from healthcare facilities is clearly a subject of concern.

"The best defense against infant and child abductions is a well-planned strategy of prevention," said Sherilyn Petit, assistant patient service manager, Maternity and Well Newborn unit, and committee chair. "This includes physical barriers, electronic aids, and education of personnel and parents, as well as constant vigilance."

The hospital has an Infant/Child Security policy and numerous measures in place to ensure the safety of infants and children. These include staff regularly checking identification bracelets on babies' and children's ankles and wrists and on the mother and father or other authorized adults. ID bracelets are an important identifier. In addition, the hospital has electronic monitoring systems and security cameras, locked unit and nursery doors and special hospital IDs with unique identifiers for all staff members authorized to handle infants and children.

"Infant/child security is outstanding at YNHH. We have infant abduction-prevention strategies in place, and we conduct drills and train employees on abduction prevention and precautions," said Petit. "But we can always do more, so we're enlisting the support of all employees in keeping our babies and children safe."

While all clinical employees receive special HealthStream training, the committee is encouraging everyone in the hospital to watch for potential infant/child abductions.

"An abduction is a sentinel event," said David D'Agostino, Protective Services supervisor and committee member. "The Joint Commission, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and FBI all get involved. The most important step is we can take is preventing these events."

"Nationally, infant/child abductions have decreased since 2001, largely due to increased awareness and safety precautions," added Petit. "But staff in all areas of the hospital should be aware that abductors can leave hospitals with infants or children in backpacks, duffel bags, wrapped in linens, even in paper or plastic bags."

She encourages anyone who witnesses suspicious activity that looks like a possible abduction to call 1-5-5 and request a Code Amber (Amber Alert is the national child abduction alert system.) Staff may also call Protective Services, 203.688.2500 (YSC) or 203.789.3800 (SRC), to report any suspicious behavior or activity.