Last month, a lone gunman shot and killed Dr. Michael Davidson at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. By all accounts, Davidson was an outstanding doctor, husband and father of three with a fourth child on the way. No one saw it coming.
Betsy Nabel, president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told reporters that the hospital will be reviewing its safety protocols. So in the interest of trying to reduce these incidents in the future, we thought we’d take the time to lay out best practice hospital security protocols based on our own research and experience.
There is a big argument between what risk managers want and what hospitals can realistically support, then throw in the mix that each hospital is going to have different challenges. So where do you begin? Let’s take a look (Note: these are excerpted from among 10 tips we provide in the free eBook, A Practical Guide to Non-Lethal Hospital Security).
#1 Start with a security assessment that extends well beyond your campus boundaries
When it comes to security, the first thing any hospital should do is hire a certified healthcare security professional to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment. This person will help you identify specific risks based on your facility’s design and patient populations. For example, a hospital setting whose primary delivery of care is for Alzheimer’s patients requires very different security measures than an emergency room that treats a population with a high occurrence of drug and alcohol abuse or mental health cases.
#2 Design your environment for high-risk populations
York, a member of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) Healthcare Facility Security Design Task Force, regularly works with organizations whose emergency departments might see 12 to 15 high-risk patients —those with mental health, drug and/or alcohol issues— at any one time. “Even if they have a room or area to care for these high-risk patients, they probably don’t have enough room,” York said.
Action: Download the IAHSS’ Security Design Guidelines for Healthcare Facilities eBook that explains in detail how to apply good design principles in order to create a safe environment and equip your facility for employee and patient security.
#3 Establish clear procedures for incident response
When it comes to incident response, there has to be a discipline around when security is being called and for what purpose. A call from the nursing staff to help control an argumentative patient who refuses to get back into bed requires a different security response than when a patient or visitor is physically abusive or aggressive towards the staff. It can be tricky to determine when a patient or visitor crosses that threshold.
Action: Establish distinct security alerts based on the situation. Create clear guidelines for the most common situations. Then regularly train staff, hold drills and reinforce sound security best practices.
#4 Determine whether to have an unarmed, intermediate or armed security environment
Understanding what type of crime is prevalent in your surroundings will play a big part in determining which types of weapons the hospital’s security personnel should carry. Armed security in healthcare facilities is trending downward and has been for a long time. New G8 research reveals that 28 percent of hospitals surveyed currently equip their security officers with guns, compared to the 57 percent who use non-lethal response tools such as pepper spray, 2-way communication systems, batons and stun guns. Meanwhile, 15 percent of security guards are unarmed.
Action: Choosing between an armed, unarmed and intermediate response can be a difficult choice. Download our Executive Brief to discover the risks associated with armed and unarmed responses and learn about the intermediate response.