By Ken Close
The security department in a health care environment has many challenges on a daily basis and must be prepared for the unknown. The security industry needs to prepare for all emergencies including natural biological events such as an influenza pandemic.
By Ken Close
Experts are predicting that we are due for another pandemic, so now is
the time to ensure that our plans cover as much as possible and that staff
are trained and educated on their responsibilities should such an event
occur. Many organizations have started to plan or have completed plans
for responding to a pandemic event. Security departments/organizations
need to ensure that they are preparing as well or involved with their
organization’s planning process.
Most of the processes you will
complete when designing an infectious disease outbreak plan will
overlap with other response plans such Emergency Management Plans
(EMP), Business Continuity Plans — (BCP).
You will need to assess
your department responsibilities and decide which activities are
essential and what can be discontinued during the emergency response.
This is one of the components that should be covered in your BCP plan.
The Incident Management System is a good tool to assist with how your
department will respond to various emergencies. However it would be
even more beneficial if your organization was on board with IMS for
easier community response.
When an infectious disease outbreak
occurs, there can be directives from the government. Depending on where
the outbreak occurs will dictate which governments are involved. A
global pandemic would involve all levels of government within Canada.
They will provide direction to health-care facilities regarding what
they can and can not do. During Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
(SARS) there were visitor restrictions which created many issues for
security. Restrictions included family members not able to visit their
loved ones in long term care facilities as well as first time fathers
not being able to see their child being born. When visitation
privileges resumed most facilities put additional visitor control
measures in place which was only one of the many changes that tool
place post SARS.
The main areas that need to be addressed in an
organization are facility information, staffing, equipment, training,
access/egress, communications and recovery.
Areas that you should have information on are as follows:
”¢ Size of your facility (number of square feet);
”¢ Number of entrances/exits the facility has;
”¢ Number of magnetic locked doors;
”¢ Number of beds;
”¢ Number of patients;
”¢ Number of makeshift patient areas
This is information that should be readily available for general planning purposes and responses to emergencies.
areas need to receive extra attention during an infectious disease
outbreak if any vaccines/antivirals and supplies such as masks are
being stored. Theft will be an issue if people think they can help
themselves and give to their family.
Security department information can be divided into a couple of categories; staffing and program information.
health-care industry is made up of a variety of in-house and contract
security programs as other sectors of security are. It is important to
ensure that you understand the advantages and challenges that each of
these programs have.
”¢ Detailed schedules that have the flexibility to add in additional staffing for the emergency response.
”¢ Your staffing numbers (full time, part time, casual):
Where can you obtain additional officer support if required (need to
hire, agreement with another facility, contract services if your
collective agreement allows, etc,);
”¢ Security competencies for your organization;
Cross contamination issues — in-house officers that work for other
in-house programs may be restricted to one hospital or not allowed to
work at all;
”¢ Pandemic Planning assumptions predict 35 per cent
loss of staff over an 18 month period (spread out this would be
approximately 4 per cent per month)
”¢ Understand your collective agreement.
”¢ Do you have a fan out/call back systems and are they updated regularly?
”¢ Can hospital staff be utilized for some security functions? If so how will they be identified?
”¢ You will need detailed schedules that have the flexibility to add in additional staffing for the emergency response.
”¢ Do you know your staffing numbers (full time, part time, casual)?
”¢ Where can you obtain additional officer support if required (need to hire, agreement with another contract company)?
”¢ Are you going to be able to fulfill your contractual agreements with a staffing shortage?
”¢ What are the security competencies for your organization?
”¢ Cross contamination issues — will officers be restricted to one site or not allowed to work at all?
”¢ Understand your collective agreement if the officers have a union.
”¢ Do you have a fan out/call back systems and are they updated regularly?
an inventory of your equipment is important. Most programs can operate
with the equipment in place on a day-to-day basis. The question is do
you have enough equipment to support additional officers? A quick list
of the basic equipment that most security department will include:
”¢ Radios ”¢ Caution tape
”¢ Traffic cones/barricades ”¢ Pedestrian control equipment
”¢ Door signage ”¢ Bull horn
”¢ Identification (staffing, visitor, emergency ID’s, etc.)
”¢ Uniforms (summer and winter)
are many more items that most security departments would have but you
should think about what you may need extra of and start your own
departmental stock pile. However, make sure that any items that expire
are rotated into daily use so they are not wasted.
Protective Equipment (PPE) may be used during the response to an
infectious disease outbreak at the decision of your organizations
infection control professional or as a governmental directive. These
are supplies that should be stockpiled in the facility but you should
make sure there would be enough for your department and any additional
officers you may have working.
”¢ Gowns ”¢ Masks
”¢ Gloves ”¢ Hand sanitizer
4 Training/Educating/ Exercising
a plan and training/educating officers in your organization is a great
start. As we have learned from past emergencies, we need to work with
other organizations and governments to overcome the problem. This is
why it is very important to include other organizations and government
agencies with your training and exercises and ensure they are invited
to participate with your organization.
5 Access/Egress Control
your facility needs to lockdown during an infectious disease outbreak,
you need to ensure that you are capable of doing so. Many facilities
increased the number of magnetic locked doors after SARS due to the
number of officers they had to pay to sit at a door to ensure no one
entered or exited. Even with magnetic locked doors you need to ensure
that they have not been propped open through routine patrols. Most of
us in the Security and Emergency Management world like to be there to
support an emergency, but it is important to ensure that officers don’t
burn out through schedules or working to many hours. Working through a
biological event that could possibly by nature reduce your staffing
levels, needs to be monitored to ensure that you are not the cause of
the officer not being able to work.
Access/egress control needs
to be reviewed as during an emergency this will take additional
resources. When restricting access to a health-care facility for a
biological event it is important to ensure that a doctor, nurse,
infection control practitioner or other professional is stationed with
the officer to address any medical concerns. A plan outlining which
doors will be used for what, supplies, staffing, etc. are important so
that access control can be ramped up quickly.
has always been an issue in emergency response. Many issues could be
avoided if we ensured better communications. It is an advantage to
manage a department within large organization as you use some of their
ideas for your department. Look at the ways the hospital is
communicating internally and externally and use these methods for your
own communication processes. Briefings, memos, and emails are just some
of the methods you can use to ensure that your security department is
Liaising with other stakeholders connected to your
industry is important but we can’t forget about other external agencies
such as first responders who we rely on for assistance. The media is
important and it is important for your organization and department to
develop relationships with local media outlets to ensure smooth and
accurate information exchange during an emergency.
an emergency has ended, it is important to understand what your roles
and responsibilities are to return the organization to the new norm.
Reviewing what needs to be replaced or stockpiled again, removal of
signage, closing communications, etc. are just some of the areas that
need to be considered. In the recovery stage it is also important to
debrief all staff. This is an opportunity for your staff to let you
know how they felt the emergency response went. If necessary, you need
to allow your officers access to the Employee Assistant program (EAP)
if they require it.
It is also very important for
organizations to continue training, exercising, networking/information
sharing, and consider using common processes/procedures to make
emergency responses run more smoothly.
Ken Close is Manager of Security at Trillium Health Centre in Mississauga, Ont.