Do you know what your estate’s security protocol is in a medical emergency?
Homes situated within gated residential estates are an ever-increasingly popular option across South Africa. There are, however, some emergency situations when heavily guarded access points to these communities can be more of a hindrance than a help.
Last month a concerned citizen posted on social media about an incident she perceived as security guards refusing access to emergency medical services to the popular Equestria Estate, in the east of Pretoria.
According to the poster the guards at the main entrance to the gated community refused entry to the ambulance. Eventually a resident gave access to the ambulance using her own tag. However, says the poster, she saw the same ambulance, 20 minutes later, struggling to gain access at the internal complex access gate. The security guards posted at this gate were reportedly refusing access once more, making it difficult for the emergency respondents to reach their patient.
Equestria Estate, however, denies that access was denied to the emergency services, stating that the correct emergency procedures were followed. *See Equestria Estate’s full statement below.
Shalen Ramduth, director: business development and support services at emergency medical services provider Netcare 911, says that emergency medical teams do sometimes experience delays at the gates of a residential complex, gated community or business parks when security guards insist on being provided with full credentials before they will grant them access.
“While these kinds of tight security procedures are quite understandable and have been put in place to protect residents, time is always of the essence in emergency situations and holdups of this nature can potentially have serious consequences for the patient,” he notes.
“Netcare 911 consequently strongly recommends that homeowners’ associations and bodies corporate consider and review their access controls to cater for the possibility of such emergency situations,” advises Ramduth. “Estates, complexes, gated communities and office parks should put a comprehensive set of protocols in place to enable legitimate emergency services providers easy access in the event of a medical emergency.”
Ramduth says that some of the better-known emergency service providers, such as Netcare 911, are unlikely to be prevented or delayed in accessing secured premises.
“A few years ago, however, I personally experienced this kind of situation. It was extremely frustrating for us as the emergency team, particularly as we knew that a resident of an estate had depended on our urgent assistance for severe chest pain.
“The guards nevertheless insisted that we first prove our identity and tried to contact the homeowner to obtain permission for us to enter. They argued that they were ‘only doing their job’, which of course was the case, but their actions potentially placed a patient at risk.”
Ramduth says that once your gated community or complex has established a set of access protocols for emergency services providers, it must take care to effectively relate these protocols to their security company.
“Security staff must be properly trained to know when it is necessary to grant access to an emergency services provider,” he says. “If guards have concerns about the legitimacy of an ambulance or emergency vehicle, one of them could be asked to accompany the vehicle, rather than delay it at the entrance to an estate.
“Security staff should always be adequately trained and be provided with a comprehensive list of emergency contact numbers. They can also be informed that the Netcare 911 national emergency operations centre number can be contacted at any time on 082 911 in the event of a medical emergency.”
Is there anything the caller or patient themselves can do to enable a quicker paramedic response time? Ramduth says that, if possible, the caller should contact their security company or gate security personnel in order to facilitate immediate access for an ambulance or other emergency response vehicle.
He recommends that residents of residential estates with a medical emergency who require assistance do as follows when calling their emergency medical services provider:
- Give your name and the telephone number you are calling from to the call taker.
- Provide a brief description of the emergency and circumstances.
- Be sure to provide the correct address or location of the incident to assist paramedics to get to the scene.
- Contact, or get someone else to contact, your security company to ensure paramedics are able to access your complex easily.
- Stay on the line with the call centre operator and listen carefully to their questions and guidance.
“With a bit of advance planning by both the individual and the community, potential delays can be avoided and the best possible outcomes achieved for patients in an emergency situation,” concludes Ramduth.
Statement from Equestria Estate
The Equestria Estate management team conducted a thorough investigation into the matter and would like to use this opportunity to share the findings of their investigation in response to the abovementioned Facebook post.
On Tuesday 21 November 2017 a SAPS vehicle arrived at the Libertas gate of Equestria Estate requesting access to a unit in Langeberg. The attending security officer followed procedure and notified his supervisor that SAPS were at the gate. The security officer then tried to phone the unit in question, but the call went to voice mail and SAPS was informed accordingly.
The SAPS officer then informed the security officer that they received a call about a medical emergency at the unit. The security officer then contacted his supervisor again, who then granted the police access. In accordance with Equestria Estate security procedures the estate security supervisor immediately proceeded to the unit and was the first respondent on the scene. SAPS arrived at the unit shortly after.
The SAPS informed the security supervisor that an ambulance was also on the way. The security supervisor then immediately informed the personnel at the gate to expect an ambulance and call him when they arrived at the gate to grant access, in accordance with estate procedure.
The ambulance arrived at Libertas gate at 17:33:07. A security officer directed the ambulance to the resident’s entrance lane to avoid the backed-up traffic in the visitor’s lane. The security supervisor was phoned for access at 17:33:45 and an access code was issued for the ambulance to gain entry. The ambulance was not refused access as was alleged.
As reported, a resident of the estate used her access tag to open the boom for the ambulance just before the access code was given to the ambulance driver. This action was in contravention of estate procedure and resulted in the ambulance not being able to enter the Langeberg complex internal gate. Our evidence shows that the ambulance did not wait at the internal complex gate for 20 minutes as was alleged.
The Equestria Estate HOA confirm that procedures are in place for all emergency services, thus assuring the health and safety of all our residents in the estate. The investigations into this matter show that our security officers did follow all estate procedures with regard to granting access for emergency vehicles. We are however still relieved to report that the whole incident was a false alarm and in the end no medical emergency had transpired.