Enhancing Physical Security for Health Care Facilities During COVID Response

Enhancing Physical Security for Health Care Facilities During COVID Response | Delta Scientific.jpg

During a public health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, medical facilities and personnel are even more critical than usual. While trying to care for patients infected with the novel coronavirus, health care providers have faced challenges such as lack of personal protective equipment, insufficient supplies of respirators, and overwork, as well as the risk of contracting the illness themselves or passing it on to their families.

We at Delta Scientific are grateful for the efforts that caregivers at health care facilities have devoted to protecting the public, as are the majority of Americans. However, some providers have been the target of violence, verbal attacks, and even terroristic threats against the facilities themselves. Therefore, we believe that enhancing physical security at these locations is at least as important as observing safety measures when it comes to patient care and slowing the virus’ spread.

Where Are Terroristic Attacks Against Health Care Facilities Taking Place?

There have been reports of violent and terroristic threats at health care facilities all over the world. The International Committee of the Red Cross reports them in the following foreign countries:

  • Philippines
  • Pakistan
  • Colombia
  • Central African Republic
  • Bangladesh
  • Afghanistan

However, it is not only outside the United States that these threats exist. In April, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency reported a planned terroristic attack against a hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. According to the report, the intention was to cause mass casualties at the facility with a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.

Why Do People Threaten or Carry Out Such Attacks Against Health Care Personnel?

The COVID-19 pandemic is an uncertain and frightening situation. In such situations, people sometimes panic and give way to fear. The public safety measures imposed to slow the spread of contagion have put a strain on the public. People have sometimes blamed health officials for making recommendations for preventative measures that disrupt ordinary public activities. Some people have lost loved ones and blame health care providers despite the effort put into giving all patients the best care possible. In all the chaos and confusion, tempers flare and people sometimes give in to unplanned and unprovoked violence.

Then again, there are groups that take advantage of the uncertainty to stage violent demonstrations to advance their own ideologies. According to ABC News, both white supremacist groups and Islamic extremist groups have called for violence against critical infrastructure targets, including hospitals and health care facilities, for the purpose of undermining order.

How Can Management Enhance Physical Security of the Facility?

Management personnel of the health care facility has a responsibility to guard the safety of patients and staff. In the face of an immediate physical threat related to COVID-19, Delta Scientific portable barriers that can be transported easily and set up quickly may be an effective first line of defense. With the immediate threat mitigated, management should perform an assessment of the long-term risk. The benefits of protecting the safety of people on the premises should be weighed against the costs involved in installing more permanent infrastructure, such as barricades or bollards. Health care facilities with a long, straight approach to the building may also benefit from an early warning system designed to alert guards to a possible vehicular threat in real-time.