Challenge to Health Care Security Providers

start rant …

Apologies in advance for the verbose !! Apologies also for a bit of SCREAMING. “This one is serious”, says the guy who’s loved one has spent 3 decades in health care facilities.

Just back from the GSX show which was amazing by the way. There were an abundance of health care security providers with some significant improvements to existing technologies (battery life, size, integration). All good. My perception, however, is that what is drastically under-represented in healthcare security are solutions to keep health care providers safe in the critical first few seconds of an incident. The conversations at GSX go like this. “Well in the event of an incident, the person activates this super cool device and security is alerted and promptly responds.”

So …. note to architects, electrical engineers, fellow consultants, health care authorities ….. In the vast majority of health care facilities in Canada …. THERE ARE NO SECURITY PERSONNEL! NONE! Health care providers have themselves for the first 5 seconds, each other for the next 5 minutes and only then the police. Even where there is security (large hospitals), they are extremely over-tasked and expecting a response in less than 1 minute is unreasonable.

The FACT is this: The only objective for a health care provider in the first 5 seconds of a security incident is to survive that first 5 seconds. No panic buttons, blue tooth RTLS, video analytics, nurse call …. none of it will do anything in what I submit is the most critical part of a security incident.

Following the first 5 seconds, the ONLY objective of a health care provider will be to survive and make it to 15 seconds without serious injury. Anyone having spent 15 seconds in a critical incident will agree that 15 seconds seems like a long long time. The only objective in the 5 to 15 second interval is to be able to survive for a minute. Some thought may go out to fellow worker and patient safety however for their safety, they need to be 100 percent focused on the threat.

I submit that it is only after this period that the fruit of all the advances in Healthcare Security I saw at GSX will begin to help … and to be fair, they will help greatly if implemented with sufficient staff and resources (subject of a later rant).

So as always it is easy to “raise issues” and I don’t believe in complaining unless there are solutions.

I am going to put that first 5 seconds of survival largely on the backs of the hospital designers (and us security consultants who work with them). Having a hospital room where a health care professional can work effectively while be in a tactically advantageous position is the single best step in allowing an effective escape. A lower bed is harder for a violent person to get out of than a higher bed. Having a site-line to the patient while viewing instruments or providing service is crucial. DON’T PUT THE PATIENT BETWEEN THE SERVICE PROVIDER AND THE DOOR … EVER.

The next time period is also going onto the backs of designers and security consultants. After the first 5 seconds, it is reasonable that fellow workers may be available to assist. THEY ARE NOT TRAINED TO PHYSICALLY HANDLE A VIOLENT PATIENT. What needs to happen is an effective “shelter in place” option.

A typical 1200 page request for tender document for a large healthcare facility “may” have less than 2 paragraphs that address this and I would submit that that is poor. There are dozens of pages describing the electronic systems that are required. Everything is neatly partitioned into a “Division”. The fact is that teams making submissions for health care facilities do not have a realistic understanding of what happens to those camera feeds, access control logs, alarm signals. Security is poorly represented in the existing divisions.

To let the architects and engineers off the hook a bit, their job is to win the project, build the project and then go onto the next project. Health authorities and the teams that prepare statements of requirements need to spend more time (read cost) on this aspect.  And to let the health authorities off the hook a bit, they are under crushing financial constraint.

It is my submission however that money spent on a CPTED front end (with the caveat of proper training) will pay dividends over the life of a facility.

… end rant.