Protecting Our Consumers and Assets
Preparing for the Unexpected
While threats to our health system range from natural disasters to IT outages to acts of violence, we prepare for various scenarios to protect our physical, human and information assets.
Our Safety, Security and Emergency Management team oversees planning related to emergency management, safety and physical security. They routinely assess potential risks, review and test emergency operations plans and train managers on incident management principles and business continuity. Topics include communication, decontamination, patient tracking and evacuation.
Preparing for continued operation during a disaster is a key responsibility. Texas Health participates in functional exercises with local partners. It conducts internal drills and communication exercises with area hospitals, emergency responders and other authorities to test and fortify our emergency response systems.
We use the National Incident Management System framework to manage threats and hazards and include the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s training resources in continuity and emergency response planning. These help us with quick response and recovery during unforeseeable adverse events. We refine or create new policies and plans as needed to guide our emergency management and training programs.
Texas Health provides standardized instruction to security officers that meets Texas Department of Public Safety regulations and licensing requirements. We also established the Texas Health Security Training Academy in 2018, with a curriculum tailored to healthcare and our system. Through the academy, we deliver instruction that provides a cohesive understanding of our procedures and expectations.
Violence in healthcare settings has escalated in recent years as a result of illegal drug use, behavioral health issues, COVID-19 restrictions and other factors. To help employees prevent violence and respond to hostile patients and visitors, Texas Health created a Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention Program that includes training, tools and resources. From training employees on active shooter situations and crisis prevention intervention techniques to installing alerts that notify caregivers of violent patients, we are taking steps to keep our system safe.
As part of our efforts to keep our technological systems safe from cyberattack and privacy breaches, our Cyberthreat and Incident Response Team continuously monitors our network, builds firewalls, deploys intrusion protection tools, and encrypts and restricts access to information. We test our systems by conducting audits and contracting with independent specialists.
We also take steps to protect medical devices from threats and map how devices communicate to provide protection mechanisms. When we discover deficiencies, we immediately put correction plans in place.
Maintaining Security in Unprecedented Times
The COVID-19 pandemic, along with social and political unrest, made 2020 a challenging year for Texas Health’s security and police officers. A climate of fear, uncertainty and misinformation led to short tempers and, in some cases, threats of violence.
The first priority was to enforce COVID-19 protection measures by securing building entries, enforcing a mask mandate and restricting onsite visitors. While officers emphasized the safety benefits of these measures, a few patients, their loved ones and other consumers had negative reactions.
On the few occasions where threats or actual acts of violence were carried out, the officers had to de-escalate the situation, investigate, conduct background checks and make arrests. They also consulted with employees who filed charges against individuals who had inflicted harm intentionally. While no severe injuries occurred, Texas Health saw a slight increase in violent attacks by patients and visitors in 2020, primarily in emergency departments.
Later in the year, as more people required hospitalization and mortality rose, our security teams had to manage deceased patients' legal releases and acquire additional morgue resources. They then had to coordinate transportation to a designated funeral home for each of the deceased and often faced last-minute changes when the homes ran out of room.
Texas Health’s security and police officers are an invaluable asset to the protection and safety of our employees and the communities we serve. Their heroic efforts continue to make an impact on the care we provide every day.