Virtually every day of one recent week a shooting/gun incident occurred in a public place. These included schools, colleges, a medical clinic, and the latest one — a busy mall in Maryland. The recent stabbing deaths in a Texas ambulatory surgery center just illustrates that surgery centers are not immune to such violence.
We are told these incidents are "just a sign of the times in which we live." I assert we can alter these events from even happening, and, should they happen, their consequences by following the measures listed below:
1. If possible, locate your surgery center on the ground floor of your multi-story building. This location provides greater security for staff and patients arriving early in the mornings before daylight and leaving after dark has descended in the evenings. Many times, the lobby portion of a multi-story building may be, either intentionally or unintentionally, unlocked over night. Staff entering have no idea of who else might be in the building, and are either trapped in an elevator or in a lonely stairwell ascending to the floor on which the ASC is located.
Having control of your own entrance/exit offers greater security even during the day. One center this author visits shares a floor space with another center whose patients often look scurrilous indeed! In fact, these patients frequently come into my clients' waiting room/reception area looking for the other center.
2. Provide a well-light, highly visible parking area. Law enforcement agents will gladly advise you of the perils of parking garages. If a parking garage is the only parking available, have you staff set up a "buddy system" for their arrivals and departures, so that staff are not walking through this area alone. If you think your garage or parking lot has enough light, go look at it again, and seriously add more! Make sure, too, that staff entrances are brightly lit and free of potential hiding places.
3. Trim shrubs to enhance visibility around them.
4. Use coded access locks on your doors rather than keys for staff to use to gain entrance, or to have to stop at the end of the day to manually lock a door, thus increasing their vulnerability exposure.
5. Provide window views of the parking lot so that reception/business office staff can periodically scan this area for suspicious persons or events. If there are blinds and/or curtains covering the windows, arrange these to maximize visibility of the parking area. Train the staff on the importance of their scrutiny. Invite the local police department community affairs division to the center to educate the entire staff on "aggressor in the workplace." Provide drills on this subject to your staff, and, as a group, critique their participation.
6. Install that "hands-free" panic button at the front desk! A knee or foot control installed for easy access is best. No aggressor is going to purposely allow the staff to activate an alarm! Have a signal such as a flashing light to also go to the administrator's office and the nursing control desk alerting the staff in these areas that a "situation" is at hand, and not to come to the front desk.
7. If the reception/business area opens into a hallway or other work area, secure that area with a locking door and keep it closed.
8. Install keyless locks on all doors going into the patient care areas and doors out of the waiting/reception area. Persons accessing these areas can be "buzzed" through or staff can use their access codes. The name of the game is to slow down any perpetrator until help can arrive.
9. Keep those back delivery/staff entrance doors shut and locked. These doors are frequently left unlocked, or even, propped open to allow easy access to smokers or to allow those vendor-provided free pizzas being delivered! This practice is naïve, at best, and poses a real risk and hazard to everyone in the center.
10. Use picture ID tags for all staff. These can be inexpensively and quickly made with kits available from office supply stores. Busy centers often have a lot of "extra" persons coming and going. All staff should know who these people are. Include in this your Visitors Log. Make certain that all visitors sign the log and are sporting a "Visitor" name tag indicating that they have gone through the front desk scrutiny and are okay to be in your work area.
The above measures are quick and easy to implement, but can have far-reaching safety ramifications for your staff. Never assume that "it won't happen here" or that "it will only happen to the other guy." We all know this mode of thinking is foolish.
Once in place, drill and educate your staff on safety measures on an ongoing basis.
This article was written by Anne Dean, Founder of The ADA Group.
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