When ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Occupies Your Street

Here are some of the lessons learned by Carolinas Medical Center when Occupy Charlotte protested at their facilities.

While the Occupy Wall Street movement has certainly generated much notice in the media since its inception on Sept. 17 in New York’s Wall Street District, recently, an offshoot of this group calling itself Occupy Charlotte (based in Charlotte, N.C.) decided to hold a rally at one of our hospitals, Carolinas Medical Center, in order to “bring attention to the suffering created when so many of us cannot afford healthcare.” Thanks to our security department’s existing policies and procedures, our cooperation with local law enforcement and preparations done well in advance of this event, our security department was able to prevent any disruptions to Carolinas Medical Center’s services to the community while providing a legal venue for these protesters to hold their assembly. 

Days prior to the Occupy Charlotte group’s rally, the Carolinas Healthcare System’s corporate security department was contacted by members of our local police intelligence division giving us notice that an event might be in the planning stages involving this group and one of our facilities. This was confirmed later that same day when the group updated its Web site with its plans and agenda for this rally. Thanks to our close ties and association with our local and regional law enforcement partners, our department routinely receives such critical information very early on, which allows adequate time for planning and preparation.

Such relationships are invaluable when dealing with any security related event at your facilities or in the community at large (since any protest or similar event could result in injuries resulting in patients being directed to your hospital regardless of its location in your area). Once the group’s intentions were confirmed, our security leadership met with and briefed the administration at Carolinas Medical Center and discussed what our plans were in preparing for this potentially disruptive event. Our Director of Corporate Security Ken McCreary initiated contact with Charlotte Mecklenburg Police leadership as soon as the event was confirmed, and an operational plan with mutual input and support from both our departments was completed with no confusion as to the roles and responsibilities of each agency for this event.

A briefing was held several days before the rally with appropriate stakeholders at the facility, including administration as well as leaders from several departments such as the emergency department, safety and support services. Detailed property line and right-of-way maps were created to share with police to easily distinguish our organization’s private property from the surrounding community, should this become an issue with the protesters.

Staffing plans for the day of the rally were created with strategic placement of additional security personnel at key locations with specific post orders. CCTV cameras were repositioned to allow for maximum effectiveness during the event (for both live feeds as well as evidentiary purposes should it become necessary). One of our investigators began keeping a close watch on all related social media channels involving the Occupy Charlotte group (including their Twitter and Facebook accounts), and applicable polices were reviewed and checked for accuracy as well as how they might be applied in certain scenarios. These policies included existing procedures for trespassing and detainment while keeping regulatory and legal implications in mind (such as the EMTALA Act and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid’s Conditions of Participation and Patients Rights).

Corporate security also teamed up with our public relations department and its public information officer (PIO) in order to provide them up-to-the-minute information, which greatly assisted them in their dealings with local media. The decision was made, with corporate security’s input, that the facility’s Incident Command Center would be opened and appropriately staffed for this event, and other preparations were put into place, such as the addition of portable potties near the area where the demonstrators would rally and having some bottled water on hand to provide to protesters. Additionally, a medic unit was positioned at the property line and near the event so that should any injuries or medical emergencies occur, the medics could rapidly respond in full compliance with existing procedures for such incidents.

On the day of the rally, all of our careful preparations and planning were evident. Local police escorted the group on their approximate two mile walk to our hospital and kept us informed of the number of protesters, location and progress during the entire march.  Our security personnel, briefed on the exact location of property lines and right of way, met with representatives of the movement upon their arrival. They clearly and concisely explained to them what the expectations were in regards to their behavior and provided them with the location of the bottled water and restroom facilities.  Our public relations personnel were standing by, and all media inquires and reports were handled according to the operations plan without issue. Constant surveillance was conducted on the group by both security officers at the scene as well as CCTV cameras, which were being controlled from our security communications center, and updated reports were provided to the facility’s incident command center at 15 minute intervals for the duration of the protest.

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