Bathroom sensors installed at 3 VIRL branches to detect medical emergencies

Bathroom sensors installed at 3 VIRL branches to detect medical emergencies
A file photo of one of the Brave sensors in the Comox Valley Nursing Centre in Courtenay.

Three branches of the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) will have sensors installed in bathrooms to detect medical emergencies.

This installation comes six months after the sensors were installed in the Nanaimo Harbourfront branch, which is considered an at-risk branch.

Island Health is giving VIRL $50,000 as part of its Resilience & Safety Grants to install the sensors at the Courtenay, Campbell River and Port Hardy branches.

A joint news release from Island Health and VIRL says this is in part to monitor for toxic drug poisonings in bathrooms.

“Complex problems such as the toxic drug crisis require innovative approaches. I applaud Vancouver Island Regional Library for pursuing this project,” says Leah Hollins, Island Health board chair. “Island Health is honoured to support Brave Branches and other projects to build resiliency and foster safer communities.”

The release says these sensors, made by Brave Technology Co-Op, were raised by staff in North Vancouver Island and brought to the attention of Jason McConnell, VIRL’s divisional manager of health and safety.

RELATED: Goodbye, late fees: Vancouver Island Regional Library officially eliminates overdue book fines

McConnell says extra pressure has been put on libraries and staff in the midst of the ongoing public health emergency due to the toxic drug crisis.

“We’re seeing upticks in the types of hazards and risks that we’re being exposed to. We’re seeing more frequent events,” he says.

The sensors work by monitoring how long a person has been inside the washroom and whether they are moving. If the person inside hasn’t moved for a certain amount of time, a text is sent to designated responders then staff go to check on the person.

Emily Mathews, VIRL’s assistant director for experience and engagement, says staff at the Harborfront branch have positive feedback about the sensors.

“It has made staff monitoring of our public washrooms much simpler, safer and more effective since we can rely on automatic alerts instead of tracking entries and exits, which is much more difficult,” Mathews says.

“Washrooms in public libraries are some of the few, if not the only, public facilities left in many cities and towns that are freely accessible to all who need them, and there continues to be increasing pressure on their use. The sensors are helping to make those spaces not only easier to manage for staff but also safer for patrons.”

Island Health also has these sensors installed at some of its sites and the health authority says between August and December 2023, the sensors resulted in 407 washroom checks. In all but five incidents, the occupant responded they were OK. Five “significant events” occurred and staff responded to a patient in distress.

RELATED: Sensor-equipped washrooms that detect overdoses unveiled by Island Health

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!