Preparation

Lang: I am the security manager for the main adult campus, which averages more than 110,000 visitors a month. The security department is definitely a full-service one. In a typical 24-hour period, security officers perform numerous duties, including restraints, clearing the landing pad for helicopter takeoff and landing, vehicle patrols, foot patrols, key assists, property reports, investigations, weapons and visitor screening.

 

Security has a well-seasoned leadership staff and supervisors who have been involved in different types of high-risk incidents for decades. The usual training drills are mainly geared toward clinical and decon areas. We also perform lockdowns on a regular basis in the emergency department.

 

In the early morning hours before the Pulse shootings, we had 10 security officers on duty. Once the Pulse 0600 was called, we increased our numbers to 24. The extra officers all knew their core job duties, which never change, and adapted to the new circumstances and environment.

 

Margeson: The Orlando Health Security Plan is based on the premise that simplicity increases effectiveness. The plan requires the appropriate balance between three key components:

  • Professional and well-equipped officers
  • Integrated, electronic-security measures
  • A robust security-awareness program with strong team-member engagement

 

Here’s a visual: It’s like a stool with three legs. When all the legs are in proper alignment, the stool is balanced and strong. However, if any one of the legs becomes weak, the stool becomes vulnerable. Historically, security programs have focused on the first two legs — professional, well-equipped officers and integrated, electronic-security measures such as cameras and access control. The third leg, which is a robust security-awareness program with strong team-member engagement, is often undervalued, but that is a huge mistake. Building a strong security-awareness program and engaging team members in it is an enormous force multiplier. The need for force multipliers has been recognized by police departments for decades and it’s what drove them to develop community-watch programs. Over time, the community-watch concept was adopted by the Department of Homeland Security and the “See Something – Say Something” campaign was born. Time and again this program has proven that simplicity and consistency improve effectiveness when it comes to safety and security.

 

Here’s another visual: If a hospital has strong access controls coupled with a visitor-management badging system, every person in the hospital will be wearing some form of identification badge at all times. This makes it easy to train team members to validate anyone wearing a badge and initiate a conversation with those without a badge. Those identified as suspicious or without a clear purpose can be reported to security. It’s this “all eyes are watching” posture that dramatically enhances our collective prevention, protection and response efforts. Team members in every corner of the hospital performing a basic but critical security function 24/7 — that is a simple and effective security force multiplier.

 

Hospital emergency departments are well-known for being fast-breaking and unpredictable, and the demands for security services encompass the entire spectrum of risk. The Pulse incident tested our security team at the extreme, high-risk end of the spectrum. By industry standards, emergency departments are always considered sensitive security areas simply by the very nature of the services they provide. As such, it can be challenging for security to maintain order during chaotic situations. It’s like a perfect storm of human emotions. Extraordinary, stressful situations can bring out violent behavior in ordinary people who would typically maintain an appropriate level of self-control. It’s like going from zero to 100 mph without time to pump the brakes before the crash of emotions happens.

 

Pulse was that perfect storm, but on steroids. Hundreds of the victims’ families and friends were caught up in the repeating cycle of going from zero to a 100-mph crash. That cycle went on for days, not minutes or hours, but days. Families and friends swung back and forth between a variety of emotions — denial, pain, guilt, anger and bargaining — while the answers they sought slowly trickled down a complicated path. The shock of the initial event was absolutely overwhelming from the start. But for security, it actually intensified in the days that followed because of the complexities surrounding visitor management and crowd control. The barrage of local and national media crews only added to the challenges for security. Training and preparing for an event of such magnitude is difficult, if not impossible. Don’t get me wrong, our training absolutely gave us a solid foundation, but it was the unbelievably strong commitment to duty and the true grit of our security officers and their leadership that got us to the finish line.