Did Your Hospital Pass the Security Stress Test?

Results from Campus Safety magazine’s Healthcare Security Survey indicate that for a good number of respondents, their officer training programs, budgets and access control systems require immediate resuscitation. Background checks and disaster preparedness, however, are areas where hospitals are relatively healthy.

Some Departments Struggling With Training
In the healthcare security field, it’s common knowledge that at the bare minimum, hospital security officers should receive instruction on non-violent crisis intervention, healthcare regulation compliance, CPR and Hazmat. Departments using special tools such as stun guns, handcuffs or pepper spray should provide training specific to those tools, as well as additional psychological testing and background checks to verify officers will use the weapons properly.

According to the CS Healthcare Security Survey, however, a significant percentage of hospitals may not be meeting these basic requirements.

Although 69 percent of hospital security professionals surveyed are happy or very happy with their organization’s level of training for their public safety officers, more than one in five respondents are somewhat unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with the amount of training. Nine percent say they are neither satisfied nor unsatisfied.

38% of Security Departments Have Cut Budgets
Bryan Warren, corporate security director of the Carolinas Health System, believes the current recession is partially to blame for the inadequate level of on-the-job education. “Training is the first thing to be cut when the economy goes down,” Warren says. “A lot of people don’t consider it a crucial part of their security force. It’s an easy place to chop because, if [training] is done properly, it’s expensive.”

Indeed, in the 2008 CS Salary Survey and Industry Census, 53 percent of hospital respondents indicated that budgets and availability of resources was one of their top five safety and security concerns. According to the CS Healthcare Security Survey, those concerns have become a reality for many hospital protection professionals. Thirty-eight percent said their security budget is less this year than in 2008, and 32 percent expect their 2010 budget to be less than in 2009.

Still, nearly two thirds of respondents (62 percent) say their budgets are the same or more than last year’s budgets. More than 68 percent anticipate that their budgets will be the same or greater next year.

Average Lockdown Time is 11 Minutes
Many hospitals are also struggling to limit access during emergencies, such as active shooter incidents or mass casualty events. Twelve percent of respondents to the CS Healthcare Security Survey say their hospitals take more than 20 minutes to lockdown. Another 7 percent say their campuses can’t lockdown at all. The average lockdown time is 11 minutes (8 minutes median).

Not surprisingly, smaller hospitals have faster lockdown rates. Ninety-four percent of medical centers with less than 200 beds take 15 minutes or less to secure their entrances and exits, and less than 2 percent can’t lockdown. Additionally, the average lockdown time is 6 minutes (8 minutes median).

Hospitals with 200 or more beds are much more likely to be unable to lockdown (10 percent for facilities with 200-400 beds; greater than 8 percent for those with 401-600 beds; 8 percent for hospitals with 601-800 beds; and 6 percent for those with more than 800 beds.)

Fortunately, the majority of survey respondents are actively addressing this issue. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) said they have purchased or plan to purchase physical access control/key management solutions this year.

Preparedness, Background Checks are Bright Spots
Despite these challenges, survey respondents indicated that hospital security departments are doing many things right. Almost all survey participants (97 percent) said they conduct background checks of 100 percent of their public safety/security officers. Less than 2 percent don’t conduct background checks.

More than four out of five (83 percent) conduct employee screening of all of their non-security hospital staff. Still, 5 percent don’t conduct background checks of non-public safety employees.

Survey participants also said they were pleased with their organization’s disaster preparedness. Thirty six percent are very satisfied, and 53 percent are somewhat satisfied.

More than three out of four respondents (78 percent) are at least somewhat satisfied (40 percent) or very satisfied (38 percent) with the number and frequency of security risk/vulnerability assessments done on their campuses. Of course, that leaves the other 22 percent who aren’t happy or just lukewarm with the number of risk assessments. Ten percent said they are neither satisfied nor unsatisfied with the number and frequency of risk/vulnerability assessments, while 7 percent are somewhat unsatisfied and 5 percent are very unsatisfied.


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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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