eric-smithHSS’s Eric Smith has assumed the newly established position of Director of Security Services at Denver Health. His previous experience as HSS Security Director for the Denver-area SCL Health locations has thoroughly prepared him for this new leadership role. One of the largest and most gratifying challenges Smith and his HSS team tackled for SCL Health was helping to plan security infrastructure for the newly constructed Saint Joseph Hospital campus and overseeing security operations during the hospital’s recent move.

“The HSS team worked with Saint Joseph’s as they designed and built a brand-new hospital, turning one building into an entire campus spread across about a half-mile of urban landscape,” Smith explains. “Designing the security system operations as well as creating the master plan for the new building and securing the construction and demolition sites has been one of the greater challenges I’ve faced in my career. It is also an achievement that I will remember every time I see the Denver skyline with the new Saint Joseph Hospital visible on the northeastern side of the city.”

The involvement of Smith’s team in the planning, design, and relocation of the hospital encompassed three years of activity. The planning phase, in particular, demonstrates one of the most efficient and cost-effective services HSS offers its customers—building security design into a facility from the ground up—and efficiency was a goal for Saint Joseph’s. Smith describes the process in seven steps:

1. Prep Work: Determine the customer’s needs, vision, and project scope; identify primary stakeholders; and establish design standards for creating a safe environment. “It was important at this initial stage to develop key partnerships and get executive support for our security vision,” Smith observes. The security vision was “a safe and secure hospital campus, built on strategies and tactics that meet or exceed the recommendations of the Department of Homeland Security, International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS), and ASIS International for the best practices and design measures for the security of urban hospitals.” The guiding principles were:

  • Limit and control public access points to buildings on the hospital campus
  • Maximize the use of technology for security and crime prevention
  • Balance the need for a safe and secure environment with the value of “Welcoming Spirit”

2. Early Planning: Examine the building’s potential footprint, access, and flow, as well as the customer’s organizational culture and business needs. Smith conducted a value-stream analysis with the hospital’s diverse clinical and support groups to develop wish lists, and considered parking locations, entry points, patient flow, and overall long-term security posture. The ER’s location drove the placement of many other departments.

3. Security System Design: Consider the needs of personnel utilizing security technology, including the hospital’s information technology department; define key objectives for security systems; and provide proper training and support. Smith worked with the hospital to identify security-sensitive areas and analyze visitor management, addressing special concerns such as infant protection. Saint Joseph’s integrated security technologies such as video surveillance, intrusion and door alarms, and mobile panic buttons. “With security’s perspective as the end users of these technologies, it was beneficial to have our say at the table. The training and support element is crucial to have in place,” Smith advises.

4. Construction: Stay vigilant to design changes and issues that might conflict with the security vision. Smith likens this “deceptively calm” phase to being in the eye of a hurricane, but the security planning continues: reviewing fire codes and egress plans, checking blueprints, and identifying missing elements.

5. Check-in/Review: Establish a security master plan and conduct an in-depth risk assessment to deal with potential issues. “When the walls go up and you start visualizing the finished building, it’s the prime opportunity to think about security staffing and create a master security plan,” says Smith. The master plan encompassed staffing, duties, and responses to such events as a fire alarm or infant abduction.

6. Fit-up: Review the role of security, access plans, loss prevention, and safety. Smith spent training time with HSS security staff covering security systems, locations within the facility, emergency response plans, and competency tasks.

7. Opening and Beyond: Move patients, troubleshoot surprises, and revisit security plans. Smith, Facility Security Supervisor Keith Karel, and the rest of the HSS security team helped Saint Joseph Hospital accomplish its move from the old hospital to the new facility in one day. With Saint Joseph’s staff, they relocated every patient and turned the lights off in the old building and on in the new—all while providing seamless security and medical care. Security also screened hundreds of construction workers daily after the move-in and identified a small water leak that could have led to costly damages had it gone unnoticed. Smith says, “Once the patients were in the new facility, there were still lots of little things to be done, and some surprises. We also rewrote security documents based on the final features of the facility.”

Smith concludes, “Looking back, one of the key things is to make sure to build a partnership with the client, to understand their culture and how to balance security with business needs because the patient experience drives everything. Having the right pieces in place to design a security program into the new building is another key to success.”

HSS has been serving Saint Joseph Hospital since 1972 and is pleased to enter the hospital’s new era as its longtime security partner. Smith started at Saint Joseph’s as the security manager in 2006, with the task of revamping the security program; he later took over security leadership of the Exempla system, which became part of SCL Health. Now as Denver Health’s Director of Security Services, Smith oversees about 80 security employees and holds responsibility for security operations system-wide, including the 525-bed Denver Health Medical Center—one of Colorado’s busiest hospitals—and clinics throughout the city. Denver Health also operates the 911 center for the city’s paramedics, a poison control center, and one of the nation’s top Level 1 Trauma Centers.

“One of the initial challenges is how to show the hospital leaders what kind of value the security program brings to the hospital,” says Smith. “I am looking forward to developing regular reports and metrics to demonstrate the officers’ and supervisors’ great work performance, as well as ensuring that we fit in with the hospital’s customer service model.”

A former police officer, Smith also blogs and writes books about “organizational self-defense,” including Workplace Security Essentials. “All my experiences have given me a good understanding of crime, criminals, and how to find the best approach to protecting against them. I’m definitely looking forward to bringing my business, security, and law enforcement experience to my new role at Denver Health.”

Watch for more news from this dynamic rising HSS leader, author, and security expert as we follow him on his new professional journey at Denver Health. Follow Smith on Twitter: @businesskarate.