How the Threat of Active Assailants Impacts Hospital Security

By Lowers & Associates,

The tragic recent school shootings have shined a bright light on the threats that exist in our society, particularly within settings where mass casualties are possible. Hospitals have long been a target for workplace violence, and a place where people go for help. Emergency rooms are a particularly vulnerable target, which leaves hospitals with dual challenges of preparing to treat victims of a mass shooting in their communities and protecting their own environments from the same threat.

A 2012 Annals of Emergency Medicine study found 154 hospital shootings occurred from 2000 to 2011 across 40 states. Roughly 30% of those incidents occurred in emergency departments.

These numbers point to the fact that while active assailant incidents are relatively rare, they are nonetheless “predictable” in the sense that hospital administrators must know the threat exists and actively work to manage it. Across all facets of society, those responsible for protecting people can no longer simply ignore the threat of active assailants.

So, how should hospital security evolve to address the threat of workplace violence and active assailants? The answer is multi-faceted and detail-laden, but here are four high-level components:

1. Prioritize training and management that is specific to the threat of active assailants.

A recent study found that 69% of organizations view an active shooter incident as a potential top threat, but 79% feel their organizations are not fully prepared for this type of event. Active assailant events in a hospital environment are particularly unique and challenging. The International Association of Emergency Medical Services Chiefs (IAEMSC) published an in-depth document designed to help healthcare professionals address the threat. While the publication acknowledges there is no single method to respond to an incident, prior planning can help staff make the right decisions to achieve the goal of maximizing lives saved.

This is where it is worth bringing in experienced outside help to provide training and incident response planning specific to the threat of active assailants in your unique hospital or clinic environment.

2. Maintain a strong security presence.

An effective hospital security program is an ever-present one, highlighted by access control with robust training protocols and an always-active security approach. Access control is perhaps the strongest component of a healthcare security system and the greatest contributor to minimizing the risk of violence within a facility. In any healthcare environment, it is critical to limit access to only those patients, staff, and visitors with appropriate security clearance for the level of access they are seeking. This holds true for access to medications, newborns, patient rooms, patient data, and patients themselves.

For an always-active presence, hospitals should combine tangible security measures (e.g. patrols and presence at lobbies and other key entry points and recording cameras) with intangible practices (e.g. tight security protocols including badge for access control and a consistent check-in and check-out process). Implementing effective security protocols also must take into consideration the importance of training and background checks. For a safer hospital environment, staff must be appropriately screened and trained to execute all necessary security measures.

3. Keep security highly visible.

To design the visibility of your security system, look at it from the eyes of your patients. By adopting a patient-centered approach, you can better appreciate what a patient needs to feel secure when they are in a vulnerable position. For patients to feel secure, it helps to have visible security measures in place. These include physical signage, such as signs that explain security protocols, or visible cameras or security officers. These send the message that the hospital is there and ready to act to protect the safety of its patients.

4. Ensure prompt and complete response to all security incidents.

In a secure healthcare environment, no issue is too big or small. When a door lock breaks, it should be promptly fixed. Ignoring even small details can open the floodgates to bigger details being ignored as people begin to think no one is really paying attention.

This attention to detail should be applied to all hospital security practices, as every issue involving the safety of patients, visitors, and staff should be taken seriously. In response, this will permeate a culture of security, attentiveness, responsibility, and responsiveness across the entire healthcare security team.

A third-party risk management provider can be helpful to perform a thorough assessment of the above factors and to make a prioritized list of recommendations. They can even help you find and implement the right solutions. If you are in a situation where you don’t have the resources to take your security to the next level, or to address the specific threats of active assailants, then considering an external support partner may be the right next step.

Learn more about Lowers & Associates’ security and safety risk mitigation solutions for healthcare.

5 Methods to Manage Today’s Healthcare Security Environment [SlideShare]

By Lowers & Associates,

Healthcare security professionals today are directly impacted by the reality of a rapidly changing environment. The security function, as with many others, is being asked to do more with less, while addressing a frightening range of new and increasing threats.

How can you more effectively manage today’s healthcare security environment? Our latest SlideShare presentation outlines five methods: … Continue reading

What the Future Holds for the Healthcare Security Practitioner [SlideShare]

By Lowers & Associates,

The healthcare security practitioner is confronted by an alarming level of violence from a wide range of threats. Many people do not understand that healthcare and social service workers are victims of violent attacks at many times the rate of other private sector workers. OSHA bulletin 3148-06R reports some Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on the issue:

  • Between 2011 and 2013, workplace assaults ranged from 23,540 to 25,630 annually.
  • 70% to 74% of these assaults occurred in healthcare and social service settings.
  • For healthcare workers, assaults were 10-11% of injuries causing days off work, compared with just 3% of injuries to all private sector employees.

… Continue reading

  Category: Healthcare Security
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[Infographic] Your Hospital Security Program – A 3-Pronged Approach

By Lowers & Associates,

Violent crime is on the rise in healthcare institutions, up 40% over two years, according to a recent NY Times article. In fact, OSHA reports serious workplace violence is up to four times more likely in healthcare environments than in private industry.

Public institutions, hospitals, and medical facilities are subject to all of the same risks and threats as other public environments, and sometimes even more. People entering healthcare facilities are injured, sick, or otherwise compromised enough to require care. Loved ones accompanying them are also generally under stress or carrying concern. This combination of circumstances creates a perfect storm for irritability, tension, and even hostility, something that falls on the hospital security program to predict, prevent, monitor, and manage when something happens.

The weight is on hospital security systems to find and use effective best practices to reduce threats and resolve issues with minimal disruption or harm, preferably maximizing prevention.

In our latest infographic we examine three primary components of healthcare security’s best practices designed to meet today’s tough requirements: a strong presence, complete visibility, and a prompt, thorough response.

… Continue reading

How Your Healthcare Security Program Can Benefit from a Third Party Perspective

By Lowers & Associates,

An effective and successful healthcare security program requires many different layers of support. Aside from program design, management, and daily staffing, there is also a strategic risk management layer to ensure your program’s direction addresses the most important security risks facing your organization.

With limited resources already stretched, many hospitals and healthcare institutions find value in having an external perspective, particularly when it comes to the functions demanding high levels of expertise and specialization. A fresh outlook can uncover hidden flaws in your program that otherwise may only be discovered in hindsight after a costly loss. Inviting a third party to help with a risk assessment, an audit, and/or various program implementations can create savings and allow you to focus in key areas so the entire program can remain healthy. … Continue reading