3 keys to facility security

Recent events have created a new awareness of the value and importance of quality security management programs in long-term care (LTC) facilities.

Most of us can remember a time not long ago when the term “healthcare security” referred only to hospitals, and the role of security officers usually amounted to tasks that could not be assigned to other disciplines. These tasks often included running errands across town, providing in-house courier services, delivering meals after hours, picking up and delivering mail and performing other duties not at all associated with providing a safe and secure environment.

Today, if you’re an LTC facility administrator, then you should be looking seriously at security operations issues, ensuring that security is an integral part of your overall management plan. How can you accomplish this goal? Let’s look at some ways.

1. Assess vulnerability

At least annually, perform a comprehensive security vulnerability assessment in all areas of operations as well as in all buildings and on the grounds. You may choose to perform this assessment yourself or retain an outside consultant. Both approaches have benefits and drawbacks. Some argue that a self-assessment is the preferred approach, believing that an LTC facility staff is more prepared than an outsider to look at operations. Others believe that an outside agency is more objective and has fewer propensities to overlook and minimize deficiencies. You must decide which approach is best for your facility and what you intend to do with the information that results from the assessment.

One word of caution to administrators: Do your homework before hiring an outside agency. Because of changes in society, "security experts" seem to be “coming out of the woodwork.” Working in the security field for years does not necessarily qualify someone. It is doubtful, for instance, that you would want a former mall security officer trying to assess your facility, considering issues such as resident security and resident rights.

Just the same, being an active or retired police officer does not necessarily qualify one to be considered proficient or qualified in security. With all due respect, ask a police officer about the proper type of closed circuit TV camera to use or the proper type of locking hardware to consider and you likely will agree.

Before you hire an outside security consultant, make sure he or she has the experience and expertise in healthcare to qualify him or her to work for you. Although many outstanding consulting agencies exist, a growing number of agencies simply look to make a quick dollar at the facilities’ expense. In addition, even well-established agencies do not necessarily have expertise or working knowledge of the differences between hospitals and LTC facilities.

2. Train all staff members

It’s difficult enough to find time to train your people in all of the subject areas in which they are required to be trained let alone find time for security training. Security training in the LTC facility, however, is not intended for guards or officers (although if you have such personnel, they best be trained to industry standards). All employees in the LTC facility should receive what could be called “security awareness” training, meaning they should know the risks and vulnerabilities in their facilities identified via the security vulnerability assessment as well as how to protect themselves, the residents and the property from being victimized.

Common areas of security awareness training, in no particular order, include, but are not limited to:

3. Take the ‘P2T2’ approach

All too often, LTC facilities spend tens of thousands of dollars on security equipment they don’t need. Security technology is needed for security management programs to be effective. Technology is one component of a program, however, not the entire answer.
Four elements must be present for an LTC facility security program to be totally effective:

  1. People,
  2. Programs,
  3. Training and
  4. Technology.

If any of these four is missing or poorly addressed, then the program suffers and security is compromised. In addition, when assessing your program, examine all four elements in detail.

LTC facility security has become a monumental challenge for administrators throughout the country. As with any other form of emergency preparedness, ensuring in advance that your facility is trained, staffed, equipped and properly assessed are the keys to being ready the next time an incident occurs.

Topics: Executive Leadership , Facility management , Operations