Physical Security and Physical Design

As healthcare facilities have navigated the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic forced on us in the last year, the gaps between open facility design and physical security access control have been made abundantly clear. It is time for healthcare facilities to stop pretending an open design is most appropriated for the healthcare setting. That doesn’t mean we have to build fortresses, but it does mean that physical security needs have to have a seat at the table from the beginning of the facility design process. 

Many facilities struggled with the sudden and immediate need to limit visitation and control access to our hospitals in March of 2020. We were all suddenly and significantly impacted by the physical design of our hospitals. Large open and welcoming lobbies became difficult to funnel people through to capture visitors and patients alike with effective screening processes. Multiple public entrances around the building’s exterior perimeter meant that many more entry points to control and that many more resources were needed to effectively stop and redirect people to those entry points we chose to use. It was evident that many facilities did not enjoy the home-field advantage to limit and control access effectively. Much of this was a result, not of physical security infrastructure, but more of our facilities’ physical design and the organizational philosophies that drove that design.

Ultimately, what is needed is a redress to the years of an organizational philosophy that has equated physical security as anathema to an open and welcoming physical design. A robust physical security program and a welcoming design of the facility are not mutually exclusive. When done correctly, both the physical security of a facility and that facility’s welcoming feel can enhance one another. To spur this kind of culture change in healthcare, physical security leaders have to use the lessons that COVID-19 has taught our organizations and start to advocate for improvements in physical design. Principles like crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) should be incorporated into our facilities’ standard design requirements. Security leaders must be included in facility design plans from the beginning as those plans are put to paper instead of after the fact when it is too late to make physical design changes. This change is a critical need to help our facilities prepare for a safer and more secure future.

What are your thoughts? How does your facility approach physical design?  Are there processes that your facility uses to incorporate security into physical design? How can our industry advocate for improved physical design principles? Join the conversation in the comments below, and don’t forget to like, follow and share to support the Proactive Security Blog.

One thought

  1. Mike, I agree. We have to address the shifting philosophy of an open inviting environment for all to an open and inviting environment for those that are authorized. More healthcare institutions are implementing robust visitor management technology to screen people. Among other considerations, there needs to be space allocated to affect that.

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