Temperature Checks Just First Step In Making Facilities Safer

Thermal imaging is becoming an increasingly popular way to combat the spread of COVID-19, but it can fall short if it’s not made part of a fuller solution.

By Amy Jeffs

The pandemic has changed safety protocol for organizations across almost all industries. Whether it’s healthcare, education, hospitality, or commerce, you have experienced increased safety measures to continue business while keeping both employees and the public protected — many of which can be implemented with the use of technology. For example, thermal imaging is becoming increasingly popular as a way to minimize the chances of an infected individual entering a facility and spreading the virus.

thermal imaging
(Credit: Getty Images/pixinoo)

Thermal imaging is used to detect elevated temperatures without needing direct contact between two individuals. For instance, many facilities have set-up thermal imaging kiosks at their entrances. At these kiosks, anyone who would like to enter must first stand in front of the thermal imaging camera which will automatically scan them. If it detects a normal reading, the individual can then be granted entrance into the building. This kiosk can also be utilized as a communication portal. A programmed tablet would allow individuals to answer screening questions, enter their information, and even speak directly with a staff member via an intercom, all while practicing social distancing. This comprehensive approach lessens the chance of an individual entering the building and spreading the virus.

Integrating Thermal Imaging With Automated Alerting

Despite thermal imaging being a good tool to help streamline this process, it can fall short if it’s not made part of a fuller solution. Thermal imaging technology should be integrated with a platform that makes it interoperable and allows for automated alerting. When thermal imaging is used as a siloed system, a log of thermal detections is created, but that information doesn’t actually do anything unless manually pulled up and analyzed.

Instead, when thermal imaging is combined with an automated alerting platform, a facility’s staff members can receive detailed alerts directly to their devices, whether a cell phone, pager, radio, desktop, etc. For example, if an elevated temperature is detected an employee can be alerted that this person needs to go under additional screening, be isolated, or not allowed entrance. When this information is put directly into staff’s hands rather than into a report, action can be taken immediately.

Thermal imaging is a great preventative measure, but it doesn’t guarantee there won’t be infections inside of the facility. However, the information that thermal imaging and other technologies provide can still be used to track where the infection has been throughout your facility, via contact tracing. When individuals sign in to the building it’s important to request and record the right information. That information should include, but is not limited to, who the individual is, their contact information, time of arrival, who they are there to see or what they are there to do, their temperature, and their screening answers. If an infection is discovered within the facility, this information can then be used to help track who the infected individual had contact with and if any visitors were at risk of having spread or contracted the virus.

Enhancing Safety Protocol With The Addition Of Facial Recognition

Additional technologies, such as facial recognition, can be used to further enhance and help automate this process. Many facilities have the same individuals entering the premises on a regular basis, from employees to delivery workers, and they should be saved into the system to create an ongoing log of their time at the facility. With facial recognition, their screening and identification can be automated. Much like the thermal imaging kiosk, a facial recognition component can be added. This means that anyone can be saved into the system to be automatically recognized and identified upon their arrival. This individual then has a log of their thermal readings, their screenings, the time they arrived on site, and more. Facial recognition can also be used inside of the facility to further improve the ability to perform contact tracing. This means individuals can be traced throughout the building and properly notified if they came into contact with a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

With thermal imaging, a communication portal, and facial recognition all integrated into the same automated alerting platform, facilities create a more holistic safety solution. However, facilities are already equipped with numerous technologies that can also be monitored with an automated alerting platform. For example, camera systems, environmental monitoring sensors, door access control, and much more can all be tied into the same platform as well. When all of these systems are working separately it can be easy to miss an important piece of information. When monitored all in one place, staff members can then receive important alerts regarding all of their safety and security systems from a single source. Whether an elevated temperature is detected, a freezer’s temperature begins to rise, or a door is left opened, a staff member can be automatically alerted and armed with the information they need to do something about it.

Additional Technologies To Enhance COVID-19 Protocols

Facilities can ensure they cover as much ground as possible by using their technology in new ways and incorporating them into their overall COVID-19 safety plan. For example, a facility can use their door access control system as a way to ensure that only approved individuals have access to the building or even certain areas within the building. This can help ensure that no one who isn’t granted permission can access these spaces and potentially spread or even contract COVID-19. This can be extremely important in places such as senior living communities, hotels, and hospitals or medical facilities. When camera systems are tied into the same platform, they can also be used to enhance door access control. When a visitor arrives at the facility and requests access, a live video feed can be automatically sent to a staff member’s phone or desktop showing exactly who the person is. The staff member can then decide to grant access or not all from their device without ever needing to interact with the individual face-to-face.

Another important step to enhancing COVID-19 safety protocols is to decrease the chances of unnecessary disruptions that result in slowed operations. Facilities can improve workflow and efficiencies by decreasing the need for staff to monitor things such as fridges, freezers, HVAC systems, and doors manually. Instead, with environmental monitoring sensors, all of these systems can be monitored continuously and automatically. When a change is detected, a staff member can receive an alert so they can intervene before a more serious situation occurs. This can help avoid numerous unwanted events, such as additional people being called on site or staff members being pulled away from important tasks.

As facilities continue to operate during the pandemic it’s important they take advantage of the safety and security measures available to them, but to also enhance what they already have to reach their safety plan’s full potential. Whether adding thermal imaging, facial recognition, or re-purposing their existing technology, it’s important to understand how it will fit into the larger safety solution and not just work as an individual system. With this more holistic approach, facilities can provide their employees and visitors with the safest environment and experience possible.

thermal imagingAmy Jeffs currently serves as Vice President of Status Solutions, and has held various positions within the mission-based organization for the past 13 years. Her primary duties include assisting Status Solutions’ Founder and President with developing and implementing the company’s overall go-to-market strategy. Her past experience includes 20+ years of technology business and marketing at start-ups up to Fortune 500 companies.

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