The Focus on Public Space

The Focus on Public Space

Taking a hard look at terrorist attacks and solutions to mitigate effects

Over the past several years we’ve seen an increase in attacks focused on public spaces. There is no safe-haven in today’s societal landscape that would allow any public service or business to conclude that they are not a target. Hospitals are no exception.

It is clear that increased threats across the globe due to the rise in violent extremism have created a need for proactively and predictively protecting critical assets, infrastructure, and people. The frequency and magnitude of recent terrorist attacks against civilians and civilian structures have alerted the design community to the need for holistic, layered, integrated comprehensive design solutions to mitigate the effects of such attacks.

Thwarting a terrorist attack through intelligence gathering or law enforcement techniques is always preferable, but securing our buildings and infrastructure is increasingly seen as a necessary line of defense in any coordinated anti-terrorist program. In particular are the vulnerabilities presented by open public space. These spaces are where you find the true exploitable “soft targets” that threat actors like to take advantage of.

Increasing Terror Concerns

While the threat of terrorist attacks has increased over the last several years, so has the ability of security professionals to mitigate the physical, economic and social damage, as well as loss of life, associated with these events in a cost-effective way. By learning from past experiences, taking advantage of advancing technical capabilities and using state-of-the-art technology, the design community has been able to respond to the increased need for security.

Nevertheless, new and more effective ways to deal with this problem are needed, as well as more adept methods of dealing with today’s highly trained and extremely creative terrorist element. Innovative concepts and techniques for holistically mitigating the effects of terrorist attacks, and securing our buildings and infrastructure against forced entry, ballistic attack, vehicle ramming, active shooters, chemical and biological attacks, eavesdropping, cyberattacks, incendiary devices and explosive bomb blasts are but a few of the threats that need to be addressed.

Securing a hospital is different for a multitude of reasons. Hospitals deal with a litany of internal threats and vulnerabilities that other facilities do not often have to consider. Child abduction, aggressive patients and securing all types of pharmaceuticals are just some of the additional considerations that contribute to the complexity of hospital security.

The balance between security and maintaining the necessary emergency ingress of critically ill or injured patients also adds challenges. Furthermore, hospital security directors deal with the challenge of implementing security features that do not take away from the aesthetics of the hospital. They do not want the facility to feel like a prison and this often presents further challenges for security staff. The good news is that with the host of security technologies on the market and a comprehensive security design, both security and aesthetics are possible.

Security technologies are often not the first thought for hospital leadership. The latest diagnostic and treatment devices are of greater concern because these technologies allow medical professionals to save lives. However, security technologies are vital for protecting medical staff to ensure they can provide life-saving care. Security staff and technologies are critical in safeguarding assets across the hospital enterprise.

Hospital facilities are vast and often encompass numerous building complexes with a wide range of structures used for anything from the helicopter landing pad to mental health inpatient care. Like medical technology, security technologies are constantly evolving and finding the right security solutions can be a challenge for hospital staff. Staying up to date with the latest and greatest security technologies and best practices for implementations can be nearly impossible for security staff while also handling the day to day security challenges across the hospital enterprise.

Security staff in hospitals should build the foundation for identifying a mitigation strategy. One way to build this foundation is to conduct a threat vulnerability risk assessment. Although most hospital security professionals understand the facility they secure better than anyone else, an outside perspective builds a holistic understanding of security concerns. Look at assessing the facility in its entirety and analyzing threats across the spectrum from weather to humanmade.

More Bang for the Buck

Hospital administrators want to get the most out of the money they are spending on security. Establishing the foundation by outlining threats and vulnerabilities to the facilities creates a list to mitigate. This can be used to find the technology that will best address the security considerations. Hospital security professionals should be able to link the purchase of specific security technology to the risk they are looking to address. Some security technology platforms, such as video-analytics, can assist security teams in addressing a variety of concerns. More than ever before, security technologies can provide more situational awareness for hospital staff.

Exposing hospital security to the result of an assessment of the facilities can help expose different ways to consider what they might see using the technology for. Determining which video analytic software is best for the facility can be a daunting task. However, by establishing the list of concerns that the technology can address the value becomes more rapidly apparent. The security team should build the foundation by understanding the real needs of the facilities before developing a design or more importantly purchasing additional security technology equipment.

Most hospitals already use video surveillance, video analytics, and employee access control systems to address prescription drug theft, perimeter security and to prevent newborn abduction. Advanced analytics software in most video management systems allows a hospital to track staff, patients and assets, and help protect them against fraudulent accident or injury claims. Video surveillance and access control are standard technologies used in the hospital across the country. However, some other security technologies starting to gain traction are biometric access control, visitor management kiosks and real-time location systems.

At the Tip of the Finger

Biometrics can enhance security for hospitals in ways access badges cannot. A badge can be handed off to another person that looks similar to a hospital employee, but biometrics can eliminate this vulnerability. Facial recognition for access control can speed up the process of transiting staff in and out of a facility. Biometric platforms can also be used to verify patients identity, saving security staff from the misidentification of patients. Identifying dual-use security platforms is one way that security teams can show added value when determining ways to pay for security technology.

Security staff at any facility remain in limited supply. One way to elevate the need for security staff to manage patient visitors at hospital entrances is through the utilization of a visitor management kiosk. These kiosks create a temporary printed badge limiting access to only the area where the patient they are visiting is located. A photo and identification information is collected that can be referenced if a situation arises. This self-service feature can help eliminate lines or visitor crowding that could be a target in an active shooter event. Visitor management kiosks help to free up security staff from checking identification, allowing them to remain mobile and better identify anomalies.

Another technology trend in hospitals is real-time location device systems. Adding a layer of situational awareness, real-time location devices enhance hospital security personnel’s ability to respond in the event of a crisis. Real-time location systems (RTLS) support security by providing time and locations for patients, staff and assets. RTLS systems also provide a wealth of data that can assist with more than just security, including bed availability, wait times and pedestrian traffic patterns throughout a hospital complex.

Each of these emerging hospital security trends provide a significant amount of added value in the form of the data they aggregate. These security trends highlight the need for the integration of the systems and data. Hospital security professionals often have current systems in place that they do not have the budget to replace completely. While working to mitigate risks that a security assessment has highlighted, the consideration of both system integration and data integration is key. Visitor management kiosks are valued added, but do not provide value to the security apparatus without the integration with cameras, access control and analytic software that can make use of the data gathered as visitors check in.

Physical security information management systems are one way to allow systems to integrate. More and more often simple modifications can be made to allow the integration of security devices across the spectrum. Hospital security personnel should understand if and how the systems integrate. Information technology personnel should be brought in early in the design phase to ensure the current network infrastructure can support these technology upgrades.

Considering the Integration

While system integration is one consideration, another is how does the integration of these systems support analysis of the data that each security platform provides? Pharmaceutical dispensing access control and building access control could be different systems, but the integration of data is valuable. If the employee did not access the room where the pharmaceutical dispensing device resides, then they should not be able to access the pharmaceutical. The data integration in this example should create an alert result from the analysis of each of the systems data outputs. It also provides the security team more value than each of the security data feeds independently. System and data integrations increases the security team’s efficiencies and effectiveness and are vital when purchasing security technology equipment.

Overall, hospital security staff have a wide range of threats and vulnerabilities to consider. The increase of active shooter incidents and terrorism-related events combined with the unique security challenges in a hospital environment present security personnel with a difficult job. Budgetary constraints add to the challenges and make identifying the best security solutions critical. Hospital security staff should conduct threat vulnerability risk assessments to aid in identifying these risks. Being able to identify what the security concerns are that need to be addressed contributes to identifying the correct security technology solution. The integration of security technologies systems and the data that results from these systems is vital.

Demonstrating the value added by these technology solutions becomes even more evident when the system and the data can be integrated to trigger a security response.

This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Security Today.


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