Think Nothing Happens at Hospitals? Guess Again.

As this edition of CampusSafety goes to print, hospital safety and security issuesare making headlines around the nation.

Here’s a brief summary of recent events that haveoccurred as of press time:


  • Feb. 18: Shooting at MedCentral/Mansfield Hospital inMansfield, Ohio, one person injured

  • Feb. 21: One of two suspected gunman apprehended in theparking lot of Willis-Knighton Hospital in Shreveport, La.
  • Feb. 27: Shooting at Truman Medical Center in Kansas City,Mo., one security officer injured

  • Feb. 28: Shooting at East Texas Medical Center in Tyler,Texas, one employee and one bystander injured

  • March 1: Tornado demolishes Sumter Regional Hospital inAmericus, Ga., killing two people (another tornado from that same stormsystem struck Enterprise High School in Enterprise, Ala., killing eightstudents)

All of these incidents demonstrate the need for up-to-datesafety and security at healthcare campuses. Fortunately, many hospitalsare getting the message. A good number have already made the upgradesor are in the process of doing so.

With the Sumter Regional Hospital tornado disaster, officialscredit regular emergency drills for the quick and safe evacuation ofpatients and staff. Although two people died during the storm and thethree-story facility, along with its newly opened Sumter HealthPlex,were completely destroyed, the hospital’s disaster plans andprocedures prevented further tragedy.

The question remains, however, as to how the thousands ofpeople in this rural community will access emergency medical care inthe immediate future. Prior to the storm, Sumter Regional Hospital wasthe only major medical facility in the area, along with nearbydoctors’ offices, which were also destroyed. This disasterhighlights the need for a good business continuity strategy.

Plans, however, aren’t the only aspects of hospitalsafety and security that are proving helpful. With the Truman MedicalCenter shooting, video of the suspects is being used by authorities intheir investigation. Additionally, access control and metal detectioncan do wonders to prevent many weapons assaults, especially inemergency rooms.

Like the school and university campuses that experienced adisturbing spate of shooting incidents last fall, healthcare facilitiesmay want to reexamine their policies when it comes to arming officers.At the very least, bulletproof vests should be issued. An example ofwhat can happen when an officer is not wearing the proper attireoccurred this past Halloween. A guard who was not wearing body armorwas fatally shot as he was patrolling the parking lot at Halls HighSchool in Knoxville, Tenn. It would be a shame for a healthcaresecurity guard to suffer the same fate.

There is a wide variety of technological, apparel and weaponssolutions that can be of tremendous help in preventing and respondingto shootings and other incidents. But as I’ve said before,the best equipment can only go so far. Recruiting and retainingwell-qualified officers is crucial. Of equal importance istraining.

Whether we like it or not, incidents and disasters do occur athospitals. Is your healthcare facility ready?

Robin Hattersley Gray is executive editor of Campus Safety magazine and can be reached at

For the unabridged version of this article, please refer to the March/April 2007 issue of Campus Safety Magazine. To subscribe, go to

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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