Searching for Hard Data about Security Cameras…

I was really surprised when someone asked me about how many cameras should be put in a small hospital to deter violence against healthcare workers. They were asking for a universally recognized guideline or standard that would give them ammunition to take to management to prove why they needed the extra cameras installed in the Emergency Department.

If you’re already in either the security or healthcare field,  I’m sure you’re aware of the dramatic increase in violence against healthcare workers and why this is obviously a concern of all healthcare facilities.   Cameras are often the first stop in a security improvement program because they provide a lot of visibility/protection at a reasonable cost.  

My next step was to start looking through different standards to see if there was a standard for how many cameras should be in an Emergency Department, or a birthing center, or a hospital lobby.  I could not find a simple standard anywhere.  I first started looking at FEMA requirements for preventing terrorism (FEMA 428) (www.fema.gov) and while they covered lighting, they stopped short of recommending a basic configuration, or an “acceptable minimum” for cameras.  Next I looked at the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (www.iahss.org) and they also mentioned lighting and cameras but again, without specific guidelines for the various parts of a hospital.

More research followed.  I called about a dozen hospital security directors, and then started on a literature search.  I started with the classic Russell Colling book, “Hospital and Healthcare Security” and again found a great deal of common sense advice and recommendations on how cameras should be placed to view certain areas and the panning area, and what kind of cameras to use where, but again, no exact direction on how many cameras should be put in a hospital emergency department.

Back to the phone to get more information, I talked to more security professionals who explained that each facility is different — each hospital is different — each hospital has a different budget — different configurations.   I totally understand that companies that sell cameras and lighting to hospitals (and all sorts of other facilities) want to do an in-depth assessment before each installation to make sure the cameras fit the total security picture. 

But I think that the security organizations should start creating minimum standards with actual guidelines of WHAT KIND, HOW MANY and WHERE To INSTALL, as a sort of default value, or minimum to achieve some level of improved security.  For example, ‘basic’ or ‘minimum’ recommendation for an ED might be — one camera at each entrance and exit and a camera at the admissions area.  Having some basic configurations spelled out would be a great thing for security directors and probably for the camera companies.

Those who have read my blogs before know I am a big proponent of standardization — for lots of reasons.  It is good for the buyers because they don’t have to agonize over whether they are getting a certain (if minimal) level of protection; and it helps them secure the budget to install the new camera systems.  It’s good for the camera integrators because it increases sales because (see previous sentence), security departments can more easily get budgets approved and thus, sell more camera systems.

One of the security groups I talked to told me that the reason they don’t have a minimum is because it reduces pressure on smaller organizations that may not be able to afford a particular system, but I think that with the increasing use of cameras, having a minimum standard makes sense and would be a win-win proposition for everyone.

For example, did you know that rail gauge on railroad tracks used to be different for every state?  So early trains could chug around a state, but couldn’t cross the border into another state because the rail gauge was different.  After the rail gauge was ‘standardized’ so that the whole country used the same gauge of track — trains were going coast to coast and everywhere in between.  It allowed rail travel and shipping by rail to really take off.   Maybe we can do the same with cameras.

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