How to Bridge the Gap Between Healthcare Security and Law Enforcement

Paul Baratta

 

Robert “Mickey” Watson, CHPA, CHEP, Operational Consultant / Risk Specialist, Skynet Integrations LLCThis post is also written by guest author, Robert “Mickey” Watson, CHPA, CHEP, Operational Consultant / Risk Specialist at Skynet Integrations LLC. Read more about Mickey at the bottom of this page.

What is the role of law enforcement professionals in healthcare settings? In the case of a violent incident at a healthcare facility, law enforcement professionals are critical in responding to and handling situations where staff or patients are at risk. They can also provide tactical advice for hospitals to better secure the campus to ensure staff is prepared for potential threats.

However, hospitals can also see a host of other benefits by building strong relationships with local law enforcement. These can impact not only responses to incidents but also strategies and practices put in place to detect and prevent incidents from happening. How can hospital staff begin to form these relationships, and how exactly can they benefit the facility?

An increased need for more focus on hospital safety

Ensuring patients are safe in hospitals is a priority for healthcare professionals, but when it comes to staff safety, there’s a lot of ground to make up. While the healthcare industry accounts for just 13 percent of the US workforce, it sees 66 percent of all workplace assaults, according to a study published on Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey.

One of the more feasible ways to create a safer hospital environment for all is to build relationships with local law enforcement. By partnering with law enforcement agencies, I believe hospitals could potentially increase incident response times and minimize the effects of violent incidents. While building relationships with law enforcement takes time, it’s easy to create lasting bonds with just a few simple procedures.

The 3 factors that influence hospital security

As a general rule, the most important element that drives hospital security is the combination of people, processes and technology. Ensuring that each of these are in place and working symbiotically with one another is paramount to the success of any security system.

In an industry as crucial as healthcare, this is especially important, and law enforcement plays a large role in this formula. Making sure your hospital has the personnel in place to foster a secure environment while also having access to trained law enforcement professionals who are better equipped to help in more serious situations is perhaps the most crucial aspect of hospital security.

Additionally, the importance of building processes that make staff and patients best prepared—like evacuation drills, notification and alert procedures, crowd and traffic control, and many more—cannot be overlooked. For all of these processes and people to work and remain connected efficiently, hospitals must take advantage of technological resources to get the most accurate and precise data. Integrating law enforcement into each step of this journey will make incident response times more efficient and allow the proper authorities to have accurate information going into the situation. Together, people, processes and technology allow hospital security and law enforcement to better protect, detect and react to threats.

Building bonds with law enforcement agencies

If building a strong relationship with local law enforcement is the goal, how do we achieve it? The first step is to reach out and put an initial plan in place to identify potential threats and how to best counteract them. For many hospitals, this means conducting a risk analysis of the hospital campus, identifying critical areas and putting preventative measures in place to avoid risk in these areas. Who better to involve than law enforcement? Often, police and other responders have a strong background in this area and are well equipped to assist when given the proper resources, such as building plans and other tools to identify risks. Furthermore, law enforcement officials are often quite willing to assist in this way. This can be a launching off point for building a lasting relationship – if first responders see that you’re actively taking steps to make the facility safer and involve them in the process, it will be much easier to coordinate with them going forward for drills or other collaborative endeavors.

While working with law enforcement to conduct these types of analyses certainly has value, it’s equally important to actively participate in these measures and become a member of the team. The more you can network and build bonds with law enforcement and participate in their safety analyses, the more you will become a trusted partner in hospital security. When conducting security and risk analyses, include the areas surrounding the hospital campus for a more comprehensive examination of potential threats, risks or strategies. The hospital doesn’t exist in a bubble, so be sure to include the surrounding area in addition to the hospital.

We’ve covered how people can strengthen the bond with law enforcement, so how about processes? Establishing comprehensive security plans, strategies and drills for hospital staff to respond to threats or incidents ensures that everyone involved is as prepared as possible. Preparation is vital to mitigating threats, and if your hospital has a plan in place to deal with violent incidents before they escalate, then staff can handle such situations faster and more efficiently. Processes for visualizing incidents is one of the most important aspects of any network security system. Having reliable video and audio that can be integrated with additional security applications, such as access control, can greatly improve response times and allow security staff or law enforcement to prepare for potential situations. Taking advantage of the latest advances in network security can have a lasting impact on hospital security, both in the short term and in the long run.

Processes to improve preparedness can be a difference maker in the case of a violent incident, but implementing processes to enhance communication between hospital administrators and law enforcement is crucial. As a situation unfolds, maintaining communication with authorities can be a game-changer, providing up-to-the-minute information on where a threat is located and the appropriate action to take. Accomplishing this means that along with educating hospital staff and establishing procedures for communication, implementing the technology to make it possible remains one of the most vital steps in the process.

Finally, how can hospitals take advantage of technology to enhance safety and continue to drive relationships with law enforcement? With cutting-edge network surveillance technology, hospitals can monitor patient status in unprecedented ways. Network camera analytics allow security systems to detect incidents faster and with more accuracy than ever before, helping to eliminate false alarms and allowing staff to administer more precise care to patients. This technology can also be used to monitor for potential violent incidents, using analytics like acoustic monitoring, aggressive behavior detection and facial recognition to identify incidents sooner and allow hospital and security staff to respond faster. Network video solutions can be the eyes and ears in an industry that can be severely understaffed at times and can be an ally when mitigating threats.

A lasting impact on hospital safety

Together, the three factors of people, processes and technology allow hospital staff to create lasting relationships with law enforcement to help protect, detect and react to a range of threats in the healthcare industry. Partnering with law enforcement is one of the most crucial steps that any healthcare facility can take to enhance their security strategies and practices. By using them as a resource, you can conduct drills and exercises to get hospital staff on the same page in case of an emergency or violent incident. Reaching out to law enforcement can also have an impact on post-incident practices, as staff will be more educated on care and transport of injured, giving detailed statements and reports and other recovery tactics.

Preparation is the key to success when developing security strategies in any industry, a notion which is especially true in healthcare. Creating a safer hospital for your staff and patients has never been easier with the combination of people, processes and technology along with a successful partnership with law enforcement officials.

 

To begin your journey to a smarter, safer hospital, watch our webinar on bridging the gap between healthcare security and law enforcement.

Mickey Watson is currently the Operational Consultant / Risk Specialist for Skynet Integrations, a Tampa, Florida based Security Integrator, assisting clients in conducting Proactive Risk Assessments of target areas for upgrades and new technology.

Prior to this role, Mickey worked for 40 years in emergency management and law enforcement and healthcare security, serving as the Director of Public Safety/Emergency Management for the Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, Chief of Hospital Police and Director of Emergency Management for the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and a municipal law enforcement officer in Lenoir and Boone, NC.