IAHSS Responds To Hospital-Based Shootings Study

Published: September 27, 2012

In response to the recent release of a study sponsored in part by Johns Hopkins entitled “Hospital-Based Shootings in the United States: 2000-2011,” the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety [IAHSS] believes there is some valuable information that was garnered from the evaluation of violence within hospital facilities, however several key strategies were not discussed. Specifically, the need to seek out the guidance of a healthcare security expert during the decision-making process of a security program, for instance when installing of metal detectors or whether to arm security officers are being considered. Other recommendations put forth by the renowned association touched upon the need for greater professionalism and training of security personnel, the value of due diligence and risk assessments for effective decision making at the time of an incident and the importance of liaison work with a hospital’s local law enforcement community.

According to officials at the IAHSS, hospitals should seek out the consultation of a certified healthcare security expert to assist in the development of a healthcare security program. Organizations such as IAHSS can provide best practices and important protocols when a facility is developing its healthcare security plan.

For example, the study found that 50% of shootings in the Emergency Department involved a security personnel’s firearm. A security expert can help carry out a risk assessment of a facility, pin pointing specific details such as the demographics of the hospital location, economic condition, incidents occurring throughout the community, proficiency of current security team, etc., from which a plan can be further developed.

After completion of the due diligence phase, clear guidelines should be analyzed and implemented for specific issues such as whether or not to arm the security staff. Such guidelines would encompass questions like what type of holster is being used for the firearm (low or high level of weapon retention capability) or what is the make and model of the firearms being considered? “These minor details need to be taken into account when considering whether to arm a security team,” explains IAHSS President Bryan Warren, “because there are certain safety features of some handguns for example that may provide added protection to the security team, hospital staff and patients in the event that the weapon falls into the wrong hands.” Once these policies are in place, it is essential they become the framework around which hospital security officer training evolves.

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The report did not speak to the training and professionalism of a security force, which is central to operating an effective security operation at any facility, as reported by the IAHSS. According to Warren, it is critical that security and police staff have education and training on a routine basis, especially on firearms and weapons retention. “Unfortunately, this still does not exist in most facilities,” he says. “There needs to be more emphasis on training for those responsible for healthcare security duties.” In the likelihood that an incident may occur, it is necessary to have workplace violence education and training for a hospital’s clinical and ancillary staff as well. “Better preparedness for an emergency event is crucial. Staff should be taught warning signs, who to call, when to call, etc.” Warren emphasizes. “Preparation is key to managing any crisis, and it should be an all hazards approach.”

Another significant topic not touched upon in the Hospital-Based Shooting study was the need to create a good relationship with local law enforcement. “The most important thing is being prepared as much as possible for an emergency event,” says Warren. Partnering and pre-planning with local law enforcement is a critical element when it comes to emergency planning. Working in concert with local law enforcement on a routine basis and making sure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities in case of an emergency as well as what resources are available at the facility is important to best prepare for an emergency event.

Although the report shed some light on the issues of violence in hospitals covering the 40 states considered in their research, the study stops short of addressing some of the critical issues facing hospital administrators on a daily basis: How to operate a facility with a well-trained, professional security team, which functions under a well-conceived security plan, and is prepared to handle any crisis situation that may arise.

Here is a link to the full Johns Hopkins report: http://www.annemergmed.com/webfiles/images/journals/ymem/FA-gdkelen.pdf

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