The Focus on Public Space
Taking a hard look at terrorist attacks and solutions to mitigate effects
- By Bill Edwards, Autumn Harris
- Jun 01, 2018
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
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 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
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.