By Leon Harris
Published in INsite December 2007/January 2008
Although we have seen some considerable improvement in Security Risk Management in various aged care facilities, some adverse conditions remain which degrade efforts in crime prevention and as such should be re-visited by management. We know that the following conditions have assisted criminals in the past and will continue into the future, unless serious remedial action occurs. The following are examples:
External grounds of many facilities can assist criminals. Typically, landscape design is not underscored by crime prevention principles and allows criminals to hide without detection. Some trees and other vegetation often interfere with lighting thus reducing another critical aspect of crime prevention.
Lighting is important to deter criminals and to re-assure site users. External lighting is often designed without a thorough understanding of the importance of lighting in crime prevention. Incorrect illumination and lighting types are common. Very often lighting does meet Australian Standards. Reporting of non-operational lights is too often not reported by night staff or security patrols. Lighting covering staff car parks, staff entry/exit doors and security patrol walkways as well as lighting failure reporting, should be re-assessed.
Poor and ineffective lighting can assist criminals to perpetrate crime with little risk of detection or apprehension. It can for some staff, create a ‘fear of crime’.
In many facilities where there is a reception desk, the desks are not positioned to maximise human surveillance of the main entry or visitor toilets. These conditions favour criminals and they know it.
Unattended reception areas also greatly assist criminals. If it is not possible to re-arrange the reception area or position someone at the times the front door is unlocked (including weekends), consider alternative strategies such technical detection and surveillance. Ensure your security procedures for staff address and mitigate the risks.
Clean Utilities or Treatment Rooms
Clean Utility or Treatment Room doors left open with no staff in attendance, sometimes medication trolleys have also been found to be unlocked. This is more evident after administration hours.
This can lead to the risk of a resident or a child of a visitor accessing the room to find unsecured medications or an unlocked medication refrigerator. There are other dangers especially for children, such as an accessible yellow (attractive colour for children) sharps container and particularly if it is the type where a small hand could be placed into it to investigate what it contains.
Some kitchens had windows not capable of locking and/or the refrigerators and freezers were not locked after hours. The risks of food contamination and/or theft are evident and should be better managed. Remedial action that should be considered includes using more appropriate locking hardware and ensuring security procedures are effective and audited. Consider movement activated lighting outside.
Often windows, including residents’ rooms, are unable to be locked either in the closed position or partially open. Evening/night staff sometimes do not check to ensure windows are secured. Remedial action should once again include locking hardware and procedures.
Key control is always an issue for concern. Master keys have been found left on desks in opened and unattended offices, behind doors, in jars, in unlockable desk drawers. In many facilities, key auditing is rarely undertaken.
Some facilities are now taking advantage of technologies providing electronic access and key issue control.
Safes in many facilities are in full view and in close proximity of the general public (including couriers, technicians, contractors); a particular concern when staff access them. Usually, safes are not bolted to the floor and/or not in a secure location. It is hard to believe but safes have been stolen from facilities.
Policies, procedures and training relating to cash handling are frequently absent.
Wherever cash and valuables are kept, the risk of armed hold-up is present. Armed hold-up ‘survival’ training is rarely provided for staff and post hold-up procedures are not articulated. Besides the personal life-safety issues, there is a real possibility of failure in OHS compliance.
Frequently there are too many external doors opened, particularly at night. Usually doors have nil or ineffective access control. Unsupervised doors are usually opened too early in the day and too late at night increasing the risk of intrusion. The alarms on doors are often totally inadequate.
Management should objectively consider the number and location of accessible perimeter doors and the installation of a good standard electronic access control system for doors, improving security procedures (which should be appropriate for evening and weekend periods) and the possibility of movement activated lighting outside the doors.
Universally, (although improving) facilities do not take advantage of modern security technology, in particular closed circuit (CCTV) surveillance, electronic access control and duress alarms.
Staff who attend external residences at night often express concern about personal safety.
Policies and Procedures
Security policies and procedures are rarely comprehensive or relevant. They are often not complied with by staff. Many staff claim that they are not aware of them.
Security incident reporting and defects notification is often inadequate, inefficient and ineffective.
Security companies are often not engaged by a properly constructed contract document thus missing opportunities for performance measures and compliance management.
Security officers that either patrol or respond to incidents are rarely ‘site trained’ which has possible consequences of reduced effectiveness and non-compliance of OHS obligations. Outsourcing security services does not eliminate your duty of care obligation to the security officers. Management should consider the Australian Standard for Guards and Patrols AS4421 as a base requirement.
The above examples are general information only and should not be used as a replacement for a comprehensive professional security review. A holistic approach is required for a sound and cost-effective security risk management.
A comprehensive list of Australian Standards that should be obtained by facility management is available on this website.
Leon Harris DIP,SEC.STUDS,.CPP, is the principal consultant Harris Crime Prevention Services, a national specialist and independent security risk management consultancy established for the health and aged care sectors.
Harris Crime Prevention Services provides on an occasional basis articles by other Industry experts, such as: How Airports apply designing out crime principles