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Peter Jackson, MD, Jacksons Fencing
Hospitals and other healthcare institutions are critical infrastructures where security and safety need to be carefully balanced. Despite the crucial work carried out by these sites, they are still targets of theft and vandalism for opportunistic criminals.
Now amid an ongoing global pandemic, with infection rates surging faster than before, and news of the vaccine beginning to be rolled out, a tremendous amount of pressure has been placed on our essential healthcare services.
This pressure also extends to the facilities managers and specifiers, who need to consider these additional factors to provide sufficient protection for people, property, and assets.
Securing new, temporary wards that have been explicitly built for Coronavirus patients is just one example of how the virus has impacted healthcare facilities. These wards are becoming increasingly common across many hospitals to enable them to cope with the excess demand. Often entirely disconnected from the main hospital, these sites require their own physical security measures to ensure they are adequately protected.
Facilities managers are seeing the benefit of combining fencing, gates, storage enclosures, and access control as part of a complete solution to secure such buildings. With the right combination of security measures in place, it’s possible to operate effectively 365 days a year, through the pandemic and beyond.
Effective Access Control
Efficient access is vital in all hospital environments. The promptness of patient admittance and staff movement around the site is critical to achieving a good outcome for many patients. As such, seamless access routes are essential. All gates and access points around the perimeter need to be assessed and well planned before installation, and all points of access need to be controlled centrally, or regularly monitored.
Another principal consideration is the range of vehicles that require access, including ambulances entering and exiting at speed, lorries carrying crucial medical supplies, and staff and visitor vehicles. The appropriate solution should ensure that all visitors, including site staff, should have access to secure parking, while also allowing emergency vehicles to get in and out of the site unhindered, and without ever compromising the safety of pedestrians.
When designing pedestrian and vehicular access: gates should be DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) compliant. It is important to note that the design of fencing and gates specified needs to accommodate rapid evacuation and access for emergency services.
Secure Parking Solutions
Multi-storey car parks provide an effective way of parking cars, using far less ground area than conventional parking solutions. Commonly used alongside healthcare facilities, they provide low building costs per vehicle space and a greater degree of flexibility, which ensures faster parking and retrieval times.
These structures need specialist fencing to secure them effectively. Jacksons has worked on several multi-storey car park sites, including one at Lister Hospital, Hertfordshire, which specified over 1,000 metres of steel welded mesh panels. We recommended an ultra-secure barrier at this site, to stop members of the public from falling through open gaps in the car park’s steel structural framework, while also delivering an aesthetically pleasing solution which did not impede surveillance.
Rising arm barriers or bollards can strengthen security in hospital car parks. These solutions control access and actively separate pedestrians from vehicle traffic once inside the designated area, thus reducing the risk of accidents.
Protecting Patients from Noise
Many hospitals have air-conditioning units and generators within the grounds. These can create noise pollution, which may disrupt patients and hinder recovery. Acoustic barriers such as our Jakoustic® Absorptive fencing can reduce noise. It consists of a timber structure with an additional layer of unique mineral fibre and a protective membrane.
If the hospital is near a major road, then Jakoustic® Commercial and Highway acoustic fencing is a tested and certified solution to reduce road traffic noise. This barrier provides a high level of noise protection and security while maintaining a pleasant timber aesthetic, which is an essential consideration for healthcare environments.
Promoting Wellness through Aesthetics
Creating a welcoming environment is extremely important when specifying security options for hospitals. Although razor or barbed wire are effective deterrents to any potential trespassers, they create an intimidating and harsh aesthetic, far removed from the sense of wellbeing these developments should promote.
Vertical bar security fencing or welded mesh panels both offer visual appeal and a high level of security. These options deliver strong boundary protection and, crucially, excellent visibility for surveillance, surpassing any alternatives.
For recreational or recovery areas requiring a delicate appearance, such as gardens, timber fencing and outdoor furniture are popular options. Timber has a natural, welcoming appearance and promotes a sense of wellbeing and privacy, transforming gardens or terraced areas into little oases of calm, ideal for recovery and relaxation.
Outdoor Storage Areas
Hospitals and other medical facilities produce a large amount of hazardous medical waste that requires secure storage on-site before being taken away. Hospitals have a responsibility to ensure these areas are secured using risk-appropriate fencing to avoid potentially dangerous materials getting into the wrong hands.
Risk assessments are the first step to ensuring an appropriate solution is installed effectively. For facilities at risk of criminal activity, products accredited by Secured by Design or the Loss Prevention Certification Board’s LPS 1175 can reduce the likelihood of crime. It’s also best practice to assess any climbing aids such as lamp posts or trees located near the storage areas. The surrounding fence should also be high enough to deter any attempts at climbing.
The variety of robust and easy-to-install security options, suitable for healthcare facilities, is expansive. Each institution’s security needs to be carefully assessed on a case-by-case basis to build a site-specific plan. This will ensure the adequate security of the site and the people who use and rely on it.
Keeping Healthcare Facilities Secure Has Never Been So Important
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