By Leon Harris CPP
Published in ANHECA NEWS, June 2002
Good security management is an essential component of the philosophy and business practices of aged care facilities. One of the common reasons why management fails to achieve their desired aims in protecting people in their facility is as basic as poor communication between staff and management. The decision makers responsible for strategic security issues need critical information in an organised and timely manner from staff undertaking their operational duties. Unfortunately, communication between staff and management is often seriously downgraded because of poor practices between night shift and ‘day time’ management. The following case study illustrates this.
A security review was undertaken of a large aged care facility that comprised a nursing home and adjoining hostel. The consultant was advised by management that the nursing home did not have wandering residents, as they were not in a position to cater for their needs. Evening staff, however, painted a different picture, advising they had several residents who often opened external doors and walked out into the darkened grounds at night. When carrying out their rounds, staff would sometimes find a resident ‘missing’, and would leave the safety of the facility to carry out a search. Staff were concerned about the possibility of injury from falling over or possible assault from an intruder.
Also of concern was that the nursing home had a low perimeter gate. In addition, a retaining wall at the rear of the facility started at ground level and increased to approximately two metres in height. The section at ground level provided access along a perimeter fence to an un-gated driveway and public street. Thus the gate would not have prevented an able bodied or determined ‘wanderer’ from walking out.
When a wanderer incident occurred, the night RN would inform the morning shift. It was assumed by the night RN that the morning shift would advise management. Unfortunately the reality was this did not happen.
When this issue was raised with the DON she could not find any records where this type of incident had been documented, although staff had been instructed by memorandum that documentation of this type of incident was part of their duties.
The management of this facility needed to ask some important questions:
Communication failures relating to security/safety incidents often result in no remedial action being undertaken by management. As a result, it strains relations between management and staff, as well as allowing the risks associated with the security/safety incidents to continue.
The following list should be considered, but is by no means complete:
As a final note, staff training and information should mention that incident reports may be called upon in legal action involving an incident It looks poor when incident reports are not available for court matters.
Leon Harris CPP, is the principal consultant for Harris Crime Prevention Services.
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