Weapons in Hospitals

Physical Security
Weapons in Hospitals

With more than half of violent incidents in hospitals committed against security personnel, a 2014 IAHSS study, Weapons Use Among Hospital Security Personnel, looked into how many healthcare security officers are armed on the job. 

Batons were the most common weapon carried and used by hospital security staff at 56 percent, followed closely by pepper spray products and handguns, both used at 52 percent of hospitals. TASERs have only been recently available for use in hospitals, according to the 2014 study, and 47 percent of security personnel carry them. 

“Perhaps the most striking finding with respect to TASERs was the 41 percent lower risk of physical assault among hospitals with TASERs available for security personnel to carry and use compared to those without TASERs,” the study noted. TASERs were also found to reduce injuries to both security officers and patients.

Security Management spoke with Bonnie Michelman, CPP, former ASIS president and the director of police, security, and outside services at Massachusetts General Hospital, about the study. Michelman is a member of IAHSS and says the study was intended to get people thinking about the different options for weapons use.

“Weapons in healthcare is not a one-size-fits-all formula,” Michelman explains. “There has to be a very conscientious and thorough review, and there’s a lot of factors that should go into the decision.” Hospitals considering arming their security personnel should take into account the demographics and geography of the facility, as well as the patient population, how officers are hired and trained, and the rate of turnover, she says.

“Weapons in hospitals can have an impact that may be different than weapons used on the street,” Michelman notes. “Using a stun gun or pepper spray on the street may be very different than using it in a hospital environment.”

Security managers should consult with a multidisciplinary team, including lawyers, on the pros and cons of arming security officers, and they should make training a priority. 

“Weapons are a tool, just as any physical security technology is a tool,” Michelman says. “Any weapons chosen to be used, in order to be effective, would have to have superb and ongoing training and credentialing to ensure that the right policies are in place so people understood how and when these kinds of things should be used. Weapons are synergistic with other tools depending on what the intent is.”