Experienced Security Team Keeps Christian Hospital Campuses Safe
By Bret Berigan
CH - Dialing extension 3-5110 at Christian Hospital to reach the security department is like calling a 911 center when security assistance is required. When quick response is needed on the CH, Northwest HealthCare or Village North Retirement Community campuses, one of the five experienced security dispatchers is ready to activate the skilled force of CH's 27 security officers.
This specially trained security team can handle any situation to ensure a safe work environment. With thousands of annual calls, they're frequently put to the test.
"All of our security officers are licensed by St. Louis County," says Steve Irving, CH manager of environmental health, safety and security. "They are properly equipped and prepared with extensive training in crisis prevention intervention to use non-violent techniques to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations."
'A good mix of people'
Irving, who served in the U.S. Air Force, says the CH team includes several ex-military members who understand chain of command. Regular armed officers, sergeants and charge officers serve on each shift.
"When you see an officer wearing the white security shirt, that distinctive uniform identifies the individual as being in charge in a security situation," he says. "These officers stand out as the leaders when responding with the other officers on the scene."
Irving notes that several CH security officers were former law enforcement or active police officers in the area. Some have an associate or bachelor's degree in criminology or are pursuing a degree, and several have martial arts training. "It's a good mix of people and experience with diversity in age, gender and ethnic background, all sharing a commitment to public safety," Irving says.
The right tools for the job
Surveillance cameras are one of the department's key tools. Several new cameras have been installed in strategic campus areas, Irving says. The new digital cameras provide a much clearer picture for surveillance than the analog cameras they replaced. "You can actually zoom in and capture license plate numbers, so it's a much more useful tool for follow-up investigations," he adds.
Irving describes the dispatchers' job as the epitome of multi-tasking because they're watching multiple cameras, answering phones and responding to security requests from hospital departments. They monitor all of the alarms and all hospital doors and campus buildings that are alarmed, as well as all card-reader access points.
Safety is a team effort
The CH security team works closely with St. Louis County Police Precinct 1, as well as administrators from nearby Hazelwood East High School. "We've had several instances in the past where high school kids were involved in misdemeanor crimes on our campus, but recent collaboration with the school has almost eliminated that problem," says Irving.
Irving stresses that all employees and physicians and their office staff are charged with being good campus citizens and should report any suspicious activity to the CH security dispatch center at extension 3-5110. "If your gut tells you something isn't quite right, call security," says Irving. "Nine times out of 10 it may not be anything, but that one incident could be a potential crime in progress."
"We're here to maintain the peace and keep order, and help everybody out in any way we can," says Barry Light, charge officer on the third shift. "We interact with every single department and encounter a wide range of situations in the course of a day. One minute we could be helping a senior citizen out of a car, and the next minute we're assisting staff with an agitated patient. The last line of our job description states 'subject to change at any time' and that is so true."