Hospital Security Symposium Addresses Risk Management Challenges

IRVINE and PALO ALTO, Calif.—When it comes to professional liability, “Do you know what you don’t know?” is a question that most hospital security executives frequently ask themselves… or they should, according to organizers of the California International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) Symposium, which was held at UC Irvine Medical Center on July 22 and Stanford Medical Center on July 23.

Indeed, the odds of a hospital security professional being faced with a lawsuit at some point during his or her career are very good, especially now that AB1083 is in effect in California. Emergency preparedness and security force management are other areas that can lend themselves to litigation, so these and other topics were also covered at the conference.

Hospitals Must Audit Contract Security, Off Duty Police Officers

Jeff Young, CHPA, CPP who is the senior director of business development for Garda, started the day off with an update on the IAHSS and then an overview of the liability issues involved with proprietary and contract security. He suggested hospitals audit their contract security and off-duty law enforcement officers, and conduct thorough background checks because 53 percent of job applicants lie on their applications.

Young also recommended doing yearly risk assessments. “Address your identified risks, especially those identified for you by an accreditor like the Joint Commission’s Sentinel Event Alerts,” he told attendees.

Security assessments were also covered by Paul H. Watkins, JD, who is the executive director of real estate and support services for the UCLA Hospital System. He spoke on how hospital security professionals should respond to AB1083, which went into effect July 1. For security personnel with severely limited resources, Watkins reminded them that “Not having the budget is not a good defense for not doing an assessment.”

Fortunately for hospital security professionals, they are not the only ones who would be held accountable for not implementing AB1083. Administrators would also be on the hook for non-compliance.

Emergency Plans Must Address Specific Questions

Patty Skoglund, RN, who is the administrative director of disaster preparedness for Scripps Health presented on disaster plans and the lessons learned by her institution when it held its own disaster response drill two years ago. She stressed the importance of communicating specifics with law enforcement in creating disaster plans. “How will it work, and who will be sent in?” were just two of the questions posed by Skoglund, as well as “How do you secure the premises but let people in for treatment?” (Story contiues below.)


The importance of security during these types of disasters became very clear during the Scripps exercise. “We require security support for the first 48 hours in controlling our perimeter, access and communications,” she added.

Another unanticipated issue was what to do with the hospital’s pharmaceuticals. Skogland was pleased to discover that the Drug Enforcement Agency is very active in this area and is eager to assist with the protection of these assets.

Stay Tuned for Details on Next Year’s Event

Symposium organizers will soon be planning for next year’s conference, which will most likely also take place in the summer.

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