Don’t Be Afraid to Share Security Best Practices With Your Competition

Not sharing with your peers because you think it will give them a competitive advantage could cost lives.
Published: November 6, 2014

Sometimes I feel like a broken record when I talk about cooperation. I’ve said it before, but let me say it again: It’s a best practice for campuses to develop good relationships and work closely with outside law enforcement, fire, EMS, local businesses and peer institutions.

Doing so enables everyone involved to develop awareness about crime trends beyond campus boundaries, share resources and, when appropriate, take advantage of economies of scale. Institutions that cooperate with their peers can do things like conduct threat assessments of each other’s institutions, thus saving both organizations the expense of hiring outside consultants. Most importantly, agreements like memoranda of understanding ensure others in your community will come to
your aid should a disaster strike your campus.

Campus Safety magazine has been talking about the benefits of cooperation for years, and I know it’s possible because I frequently witness hospitals, schools and universities sharing valuable information and tips with their cross-town rivals, be it at a meeting, conference or online.

Imagine my surprise then, when I met with a good friend of mine from a security vendor who told me about a recent experience he had with a group of hospital security professionals. After his presentation, when he invited the group to share
about their common challenges and solutions, no one raised their hand. After the meeting, however, several of the attendees came up to my friend privately, telling him that they were afraid to share in front of the other hospitals in the room for fear of giving away information that might give them a competitive edge.

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What a shame.

Although I understand and respect the fact that hospitals are working in a free-market economy, I have no patience when that competition keeps them from sharing information that could save lives. Are there times when it is not appropriate to share information? Certainly. But I’d be willing to wager that most of these institutions could learn from each other without giving the upper hand to their competition. Not being willing to even talk means they’ve missed a perfect opportunity for all involved to benefit, thus improving everyone’s bottom line, not to mention bolstering everyone’s security.

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So let me say it again … work together folks. I know that a lot, if not most, of you do so already. But for those security professionals out there who think you have to do it all on your own, please reconsider your approach. Reinventing the wheel when someone else has already created it is wasteful and might put your hospital in harm’s way.

And, if you are on the other end of the continuum and have created a security solution, process or policy that is fabulous and saves lives and resources, share it with others. It would be a shame, even an outrage, if your fear of the competition prevented you from sharing your best practices, which might one day save someone’s life.

You might consider playing up the rivalry in a positive way. A great example of this was highlighted How to Make Social Media a Winning Preparedness Strategy. Four colleges in Alabama, Florida and Georgia – Auburn, Florida State, the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech – leveraged their rivalries in a competition to attract followers to their emergency management and mass notification social media pages.

Could your hospital consider a similar approach that would acknowledge the fact that you are in competition with other hospitals, while working together to make your facilities more secure? I think so. Not trying could have disastrous consequences.

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Strategy & Planning Series