Securing a Medical Center

An in-depth look at the technology and strategies for a successful security deployment


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare is the country’s largest industry and is expected to generate more jobs over the next few years than any other field. Seven of the 20 fastest-growing occupations are healthcare-related. The explosive growth in this area will require extra attention to security in order to the meet the special needs of hospitals and medical centers.

A typical medical center is likely to share many of the same safety concerns — transportation, parking, crowd control, theft and violence — that a small city might face. There is a need to maintain a constant safe and secure environment at the center to help protect a population that includes doctors, nurses, staff and hundreds or thousands of patients and visitors moving in and out of the facility each day.

All of those people — many of whom are under stress — can create volatile situations. The federal government has reported that hospital workers are four times as likely to be assaulted on the job as compared to those in other private-sector jobs. This high-stress environment, concentration of diverse population groups and abundance of high-value assets create special challenges for the security professionals charged with providing a safe and secure environment for the property owner, employees and others.

Start with the Perimeter

One good way to create a tight security plan is to start with the outdoor perimeter. Most people’s first impression of a hospital or medical center is likely to be the parking areas. Most centers will have uncovered lots, a parking garage and special areas for doctors, employees and emergency vehicles. Low-tech methods, such as crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), will require that foliage be kept cut back and not blocking views of security officers into parking areas. As hospitals are active both day and night, bright lighting in all parking areas is vital.

Video surveillance systems also play an important role. Cameras need to be placed properly and in sufficient quantity to reasonably cover all parking spaces. Parking lots and garages offer potential attackers many ideal places to hide in wait of a victim or to avoid detection while waiting for an opportunistic crime. Cameras enable security personnel to provide a video escort for hospital employees coming and going during night shifts, freeing security officers from this important but time-consuming task. Video can also help to review incidents, such as when a visitor claims to have a slip-and-fall accident or damage to his or her vehicle while in a parking structure or lot.

Communication kiosks can be a great complementary addition to video surveillance. The kiosks should be prominently located in easy-to-find spots throughout parking lots and garages to help guests summon help if a visitor or employee feels threatened or should someone need immediate medical assistance. Wireless and cellular technologies increase flexibility of these kiosks, making it possible to install them virtually anywhere on the medical center property. Some kiosks can even use solar power, reducing energy costs and enabling a further variety of installations. Cameras can also be integrated with these devices to provide a single point of communication and surveillance.

To address potential privacy concerns and create a deterrent effect, ample signage should warn visitors and would-be criminals that they are under surveillance. Additionally, advanced video technologies, such as video analytics, can automatically monitor camera data and alarm on predefined conditions. Analytic profiles can alert security officers to a vehicle blocking the ambulance parking zone, loitering persons or unattended parcels left in an unsafe or suspicious manner. Analytics can also be used help monitor parking areas for people crouching behind objects or cars, unsafe traffic movement or illegally parked vehicles.

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