Security Smackdown - Safety versus Dollars

Necessary evil. Cost center. Wasteful expense. This is often how businesses describe security. Security professionals have been working hard to show the return on investment and value that security adds to a business. Forward thinking business leaders do see past some of the old ideas and realize that security is a critical business function, one that supports and helps a business meet goals and objectives, not just an expense.

However, just as security professionals are striving to join their organization's colleagues as a vital business function, there is another setback, this time in the healthcare security arena.

Hospitals have been struggling to stem the tide of violence against their staff members. Anyone working in emergency rooms or dealing with psych patients has been at a much higher risk of being a victim of violence than people in most other industries. Hospitals have been responding through staff training, improved security response, monitoring at-risk patients, using duress alarms and so on as means to protect their staffs as well as patients.

Many hospitals have even used metal detectors. However, the LA Times recently reported that metal detectors were going to be removed from several hospitals and emergency rooms, not because it was a safer environment, but rather due to money! Under the new Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), hospital reimbursement is now impacted by patient surveys and scores. The worry was that some of the measures that enhance security might have a negative impact on the scores and result in less reimbursement. The changes could cost hospitals millions of dollars each year.

In a perfect world, visitors and patients would understand the necessity of security measures, even metal detectors, in urban emergency departments. In reality, they might not grasp the level of violence faced by healthcare workers and almost certainly do not realize the number of combative and dangerous patients encountered daily and the types of weapons often carried by them. Some hospitals have reported that since adding metal detectors, hundreds of weapons have been taken from patients or visitors, including lipstick cases disguising blades, homemade daggers and firearms.

In this showdown between security and profits; facts, risks and crime data will be no match for dollars. The situation makes you wonder what the next steps will be. Some people think even seeing a security officer may be unwelcoming and send the wrong message to patients. How many other hospitals will abandon other crime prevention measures in order to secure more federal reimbursement? Healthcare leaders, and in particular security professionals, need to be on high alert and ready to show the value of various security measures and enhancements. Anything from cameras, to visitor management or visitor check-in, even locked doors causing inconvenience, could be a target if it is seen as contributing to a negative patient score.

In round one of ObamaCare's security versus dollars smackdown, dollars least in LA at those locations removing metal detectors. In the long run, who will be the ultimate winners and losers? Doctors and nurses worried about working in unsafe environments will leave for other hospitals and if the best ones move on, the ultimate losers will be the very patients the hospital wants to appeal to.

Note: This post is not about the value of metal detectors. Rather it is about the risk to any security measure due to government healthcare reimbursements based on patient scores in lieu of objective risk assessments.
Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense. He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management. Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces. To learn more email


If you would like to reprint this post, please contact Eric at 

Save Innovation with a Corporate SWAT Team!

How many times have you had a great idea? One that would really improve the way things operate around your workplace? It seemed great, there were really no objections, but then...well, it went nowhere.

Most of us are extremely busy and one of the biggest challenges to new ideas is being able to set aside the time to develop and implement those innovations. In recent years, we've seen the impact of high unemployment, company lay-offs and more stressful amounts of work placed on the employees who remain. Creativity is one of the first luxuries to go in that type of environment.

Creativity and innovation are an absolute requirement for a business to remain successful in a changing world. If cavemen were never innovative, we would still be in caves, struggling to build fires and using sticks and stones for tools. Innovation is the way forward and the path to the future. Companies that ignore that concept do so at their own risk and peril.

So where do good ideas come from and where do they go? Innovation comes from your creative staff members who can and do take the time to think through processes and ideas and look for new ways to do things. Sometimes, that means experimenting and trying new methods.

Creating new ideas is only part of the process. Once there is a good idea floating around, the practicality of getting it implemented becomes the next challenge. I know that some of my own ideas, brilliant as I thought they were (debatable, of course) quickly died when I started thinking about what could be involved. There could be a capital requirement, perhaps an information technology piece. Approval from a senior leader or training to be supported by yet another department. Along the way, there are many skeptics and naysayers ready to give your super brilliant idea the ax. It is easy to see how hard it is for an idea to survive.

I've often thought that companies need some type of corporate SWAT team to take on special projects and execute them. Police departments train officers in Special Weapons and Tactics to take on those atypical missions, something that is more involved than what the 'average' police officer may be ready to handle. Dynamic entries, hostage rescue and high-risk arrests are some of the missions a SWAT team might be involved in. Probably much more exciting-sounding than most corporate projects, but it does create an idea (there I go again).

What if companies had a special team to help implement projects above and beyond the normal routine. Corporate directors and managers do not necessarily have the time to implement new ideas and may not know the best approach or who to contact within the organization. The SWAT team would be able to do just that, paving the way to accomplishment. Members should have additional training in project management, including budgeting and being able to build key teams with the right stakeholders, manage meetings and execute the mission, in this case, implement a brilliant idea. The team would need executive support, as well as its own budget to work with. Understanding the strategic goals of the organization is also fundamental to successful innovation and implementing the right ideas.

Perhaps they could use the same acronym to be recognizable. Special Workplace Achievement Tactical team or something to that affect (okay, I'm not always that creative).

Being able to develop brilliant ideas into a creative and innovative approach to business is vital for long-term survival. Companies that encourage that innovation and can implement new ideas will be the leaders in the future. Those that do not will be the cavemen wondering how to start a fire.

Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense.  He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management.  Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces.  To learn more email



If you would like to reprint this post, please contact Eric at