Securing A Hospital Campus
Protecting parking, pedestrians and entries to the campus facility
- By Stephen Martorano
- Aug 07, 2020
Security a hospital campus is very different from protecting
a typical commercial building. Hospitals have
many more access points, as well as hundreds-to thousands
of patients and employees to protect in a facility
operating 24/7. The COVID-19 pandemic has now highlighted the
need to add access restrictions for both visitors and employees for
any campus building.
These challenges point out the need for thoughtful planning
and execution by the facility’s security department. Let’s take a
look at some of the best security practices beginning with parking
garages and moving into main facilities.
Parking lots and garages are the first stop for most people arriving
at a hospital campus. Parking facilities are among the most
dangerous areas of any campus, according to the federal Bureau
of Justice Statistics (BJS). The most recent BJS report shows more
than 7 percent of the country’s violent crimes and 11 percent of
property crimes occur in a parking lot or garage.
It is essential to have a readily available communication link between
parkers and security officers as more facilities are now unattended.
Video intercoms embedded into ticket dispensing and revenue
control systems enable a two-way conversation with the hospital security
team to resolve equipment problems. Emergency stations placed
near pedestrian entries, stairwells and pay stations provide a similar
link for distressed patrons. Emergency towers help secure pedestrians
walking on pathways between parking facilities and hospital buildings.
In the COVID-19 era, not everyone may enter the hospital – at
least not as directly as they did just months ago. Hospitals are limiting
the number of visitors and checking their body temperatures
to limit the spread of the virus. Security officers are locking many
ancillary doors and allowing only authorized employees to enter
using access control cards or PINs.
Only two doors – those into the main lobby and the emergency
department – should remain open to visitors and vendors. The main
entry may be locked overnight with video intercoms enabling security
to screen visitors before remotely opening the door or directing
them to another entrance. Intercoms are frequently added outside
entries to departments such as the pharmacy, intensive care and surgical
suites to provide a layer of visitor management. The intercoms’
embedded cameras also allow staff to see if visitors are wearing
masks and other appropriate personal protective equipment.
Many hospitals are creating locked access points beyond the
lobby, keeping visitors and employees from wandering throughout
the facility. Authorized staff may present ID badges to card readers
for entry. Intercoms enable visitors to contact the security office for
Vendors must register at the main lobby desk or use a visitor management
system kiosk to receive a temporary badge clearly showing
where they may go within the hospital. Employees must be trained to
challenge people not authorized to be in certain areas.
Video cameras provide valuable real-time information when located
throughout the campus. Anywhere from the parking garage to
main entries, hallways, elevators, and stairwells, cameras can be installed
where necessary. Additional cameras can be integrated with
video intercoms to provide a broader view of critical entry points.
Recorded video helps with after-the-fact forensic investigations.
Hospitals and many other organizations are looking at infrared
cameras to spot visitors with elevated body temperatures (EBT), a
common symptom of COVID-19. The cameras use thermographic
technology to rapidly detect and initiate an alarm when a set temperature
is exceeded by 2 degrees. While higher resolution cameras claim
accuracy within half a degree, they will return false positive and negative
results as it is difficult to focus on one face in a crowd. The cameras
work best when trained on a single person.
Securing Patients and Assets
Real-time location systems provide asset tracking. Patients and
valuable mobile equipment can be tagged to allow staff to monitor
their locations. Wireless RTLS tags emit a wireless radio frequency,
infrared, or ultrasound signal that’s picked up by receivers mounted
at preset chokepoints. An alarm sounds if a tagged object passes
a reader. An object’s position can be determined by triangulating
signals. More readers improve the system’s accuracy.
Tagging systems have greatly reduced infant abductions in hospitals.
Tags also work well with patients prone to wandering by allowing them to access common areas while remaining protected
from walking into dangerous areas. Often, equipment such as an
X-ray device is misplaced. Tags may be configured to trigger an
alarm if equipment is removed from a specific floor or department.
Nurse call systems enable patients to gain assistance by pushing
a button or pulling a cord. These systems add health and safety
to security while providing data to help optimize staffing, measure
response times, and more.
Portable biometric readers are also gaining favor as a way of
verifying patient identity. Handheld readers match a patient’s iris
or facial patterns with a template stored on a chip in an ID bracelet.
These systems help ensure a patient is receiving the correct
drugs and treatments. Contactless iris and facial biometric systems
also do not pass along diseases such as COVID-19.
The Emergency Department
Emergency departments (ED) are often dangerous places for
medical professionals. A 2018 survey found more than 70 percent
of nurses and nearly 50 percent of physicians have been hit or
kicked while treating ED patients.1
While the ED lobby door must remain open, entries to the triage
and treatment areas should remain locked. A receptionist, located
behind bullet-proof glass, can press a button to electronically
Metal detectors, stationed at the entry and operated by a security
officer, help keep weapons out of the ED. Security officers can monitor
surveillance cameras aimed at the entrance and the lobby for a realtime
view. Intercoms foster communication between staff and security.
Due to the potential for ED violence, best practices call for adding
panic buttons to staff badges. Pressing the button signals to the
access control system that informs security, initiates a lockdown
and alerts other staff members.
The challenges of securing a hospital continue to change as patient
expectations evolve, staffs continue to grow, and treatment systems
become more complex and expensive. Also, there are unexpected
events such as the COVID-19 pandemic that place added burdens
on security directors. Security professionals must use their experience
and available tools to create a safe and secure environment for patients,
employees, and visitors.
This article originally appeared in the July / August 2020 issue of Security Today.