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Giving physical security a shot in the arm

Posted: December 1st, 2014

Mike McColl, managing director of Securiclad, highlights the importance of a ‘last line of defence’ when protecting healthcare facilities…

Healthcare facilities have always been at risk from crime, such as theft from patients by opportunistic thieves, or staff taking advantage of their access to pharmaceutical products or equipment.

Hospitals can sometimes appear to offer ‘easy pickings’ for criminals, with assets such as pharmaceuticals, autopsy tables, defibrillators, laptops, computer monitors, iPads and lead from hospital roofs among the items to have been stolen from NHS sites.

And of course, there are a multitude of security measures in place to counter this kind of criminal activity.

But specialist healthcare facilities, and areas within hospitals containing hazardous substances (including chemical, biological and radioactive material), blood supplies and high value pharmaceuticals, such as vaccines, can be at risk from more determined criminals.

Their motives may include financial gain, sabotage or obtaining ingredients for use in terrorist devices. The areas which house these items clearly need to be afforded a high level of protection against serious attempts at forced entry, where the perpetrators may be employing heavy duty equipment, such as power tools, to gain access.

Server rooms in healthcare facilities should also be safeguarded with robust security measures. Of course, the risk of cyber-crime has resulted in substantial investments in IT security and the recent theft of 4.5 million patient records in the USA, blamed on hackers using the Heartbleed bug, has again brought this into sharp focus.

But a physical breach in a server room, with critical equipment damaged or removed, can have serious consequences to the operational integrity of a healthcare facility, as well as putting sensitive data at risk. The long term implications of a security breach can lead to a loss of confidence in the facility’s ability to function, and a costly repair bill too.

And in a time of increased austerity, public healthcare facilities can ill-afford to lose valuable assets or items – whether that’s IT hardware or supplies of expensive drugs – to theft, sabotage or damage caused in the process of a burglary.

Plus, many large healthcare facilities may store substantial amounts of cash on-site: again, these areas will prove attractive to thieves and so need adequate protection to prevent a burglary. Retailers within a healthcare complex are also at risk.

When protecting a healthcare facility, the ability to ‘retro-fit’ security is often a key consideration for older and exiting buildings, however design measures should be incorporated into the design of a new or refurbished facility to help protect high-risk areas. Project teams often discuss security with the local police crime prevention design advisor (CPDA) and in the case of laboratories and areas housing sensitive or hazardous material, a Counter Terrorism Security Adviser (CTSA) may also become involved.

Traditional security measures such CCTV surveillance and high quality access control systems all have their part to play in protecting healthcare facilities, however the importance of an effective prime physical barrier – the ultimate line of defence – to protect against intruders is imperative.

Unfortunately, the use of traditional partitioning methods to form enclosures around high risk areas, using materials such as plywood, plasterboard and insulation held within in a timber frame, may not offer enough protection against more determined criminals.

Often these traditional layering methods are not certified or accredited by an appropriate security body and offer little or no resistance to an attempted breach by determined criminals using high impact tooling equipment such as sledgehammers, disc grinders, jig saws and high powered cutting devices. Protection at this level, however, is crucial in providing a barrier that will prevent entry by determined criminals.

Standard brick or block walls also come with the cost and labour pitfalls associated with wet trades and their onsite delays.

Implementation of these traditional building methods can create major disruption to a facility and hinder day to day operations.

For absolute reassurance, any physical security measures – such as wall panels, ceiling panels and locks – used to protect critical areas of a healthcare facility, should be accredited by a relevant certifying body such as the Loss Prevention Certification Board or The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) to guarantee both their quality and suitability for the application. Anything less and they can be left vulnerable to attack.

At Securiclad, we’ve developed a complete and certified high security modular panel system solution manufactured to ISO9001, and achieving a number of ratings within BRE security standard Loss Prevention Standard (LPS) 1175, which is the standard used to ascertain the physical security level achieved in secure building construction elements and accessories.

The system can be used to create a secure environment or partition within an existing structure, or be incorporated into a new-build, and therefore can be used to protect pharmaceuticals, data, blood supplies or other sensitive or hazardous materials from a physical security breach. As a complete modular solution, it features wall, floor and ceiling panels.

Securiclad is built to withstand attack by a circular saw and a high-powered 750W reciprocating saw with specialist blades, as well as tools including drills, sledgehammers, disc grinders, felling axes. Offering a solution to LPS 1175 Security Rating (SR) 5, it is designed and manufactured to withstand determined attempts at forced entry using the kind of top-of-the-range, battery powered cutting tools employed by fire and rescue personnel.

And the Securiclad panel has also achieved European EN1063 BR4 certification, which means that it can withstand the firepower of a powerful large bore 0.44 Magnum weapon.

Securiclad, which is approved by the CPNI, is quick and easy to install and is pre-finished, negating the need for any wet trades and keeping any disruption to operations down to a minimum – essential in a healthcare environment. This also generates cost savings associated with hot trades, turnaround time and on-site labour.

In addition, it’s available a wide range of core types to satisfy insulation and fire rating requirements and has both internal and external applications.

The hygienic finish afforded to healthcare facilities by a modular panel system such as Securiclad is also important: it allows rooms to be easily cleaned, preventing contamination and the build-up of dust, which can affect the operation of computer hardware, such as servers.

And measures such as Securiclad’s high security panels can also address the security concerns created by co-location premises, allowing healthcare facilities to compartmentalise to a higher security level and protect materials or hardware from unauthorised access from elsewhere in a building. There is little point in installing a high security door and access control system when criminals can smash through a partition from a neighbouring premises to gain access.

Securiclad’s work to date with healthcare facilities, including the National Health Service Blood and Transplant Authority and Guys & St Thomas Hospital, London, has highlighted the need for the kind of physical security barrier offered by Securiclad, which has many applications within the sector and can provide valuable peace of mind to facilities managers.

And it has illustrated that within the healthcare sector, there is a growing awareness of the importance of a ‘last line of defence’ in protecting critical equipment and hazardous, sensitive and valuable material from the attention of thieves and terrorists – especially in an era of both heightened national security concerns and slashed budgets in the public sector.

This article originally appeared in Health Estate Journal.

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