Having the Medical Basics in your pocket
Continuing on the theme of planning for emergencies in this weeks article I would like to look at the use of mobile phone applications in emergency preparation and in general security operations. I am a big fan of leveraging new technologies to make our jobs easier and enhance our ability to maintain a secure environment. The use of mobile phone technology has been huge in the past number of years and those little devices in our hands have become one the primary tools in the security departments across a variety of sectors.
Since the atrocities of the London and Manchester attacks earlier this year and the following Barcelona attacks there has been a renewed focus on the role of the private security and our capability to act as ‘zero responders’ in the event of further incidents. Despite the superb response times of police and other first responders in these recent attacks there still emerged heroic stories of security operatives acting in the interim to save lives. Recent guidance released in both the UK and Australia specifically aimed at those tasked with protecting crowded places refers to the use of emergency or crisis response kits. In this article I would like to look at the concept of the emergency response kit and show that this not so new idea has applications far wider than terrorist attacks.
I have long advocated the preparation and staging of emergency response bags in both my own workplaces and client venues for over a decade. People who have worked with me over the years will remember me keeping stocked response bags in the control rooms of various venues (this earned me the nicknames ‘Mr Prepared’ and ‘The last Boy Scout’ over the years). This wasn’t because I always suspected a terrorist attack was a likely occurrence , in fact it was such a low likelihood/high impact event that it hardly figured high on the risk register of most of the venues I have worked (although never say never). The emergency response (I prefer this title to crisis response kit) bag however has applications far beyond terrorist incidents and outside the realm of a first aid kits capability. Lets take for example a shopping centre or large city centre department store. Public disorder, looting, escalator accidents or armed robbery are all more likely major incident/mass casualty events that such a kit may be required for. Similar instances might also apply to a university campus . In the night-time economy nightclub venues may encounter mass violence, stage collapses or multiple drug overdoses as situations just as likely as a terrorist attack. The point I make is that just because a kit is set up with one type of emergency in mind doesn’t confine it application to that situation only.
The original concept of a fire bag or evacuation bag is not new. It has been around for decades and is mentioned in most good evacuation plans. There is often one left gathering dust in a corner somewhere which is checked periodically by security or facilities (usually found to contain out of date equipment and a set of dead two-way radios). The reality of today’s emergency incidents is that evacuation is not always a priority or an option. In fact invacuation (shelter in place) may be more applicable to many situations. Also the traditional approach of a single evacuation bag/box may need to be reconsidered. We may encounter situations where certain areas of a building which are inaccessible or we have multiple scenes ongoing at once.
The emergency response bag is also not just a large first aid bag. It falls somewhere between an evacuation bag and a first aid kit. While a first aid kit caters for all sorts of bumps bruises and minor injuries the emergency response kit contains more trauma related items and in much more volume to manage larger numbers of casualties.
The list of suggested contents below is just my generic recommendation based on the guidance referenced above, my own training on the subject and my own experience of building these kits. Some of the contents I have listed may not suit your venue and others you may not agree with. The content list is simply a start point to get you considering what you may need at your own venue. My suggested contents include:
Of course there is much more that could be added but I am always conscious of not creating another evacuation bag and filling it with nice to have items. I prefer accessibility and mobility and I think this kit does just that.
Having a great kit made up is one part of the jigsaw but it’s absolutely worthless without staff who are trained and willing to use it. I strongly believe that if a security operative is willing to carry out medical duties then they should be trained to the highest possible standard. In today’s risk climate I believe that this goes beyond occupational first aid (first aid responder) level and should be at emergency first responder (EFR) level. Aside from medical training for security staff all employees should receive detailed and regular briefings on what is expected of them in an emergency. I always encourage clients to merge this in with their fire drill practice and discuss other emergencies at the same time. I know that practicing for emergencies can be costly and time consuming but its worth it.Having staff who are confident in whats expected of them in an emergency is a great advantage and working to a plan only improves that advantage.
I am going to continue on the theme of planing for and managing emergencies over the coming weeks and this article is the first of probably 4 or 5 on the subject. When it comes to emergencies planning and preparation are vital. But planning based on traditional and generic responses is bit futile and wasteful. Take the time to bring together your security team over the coming weeks and discuss realistically what equipment you will need in your emergency response kit to make t work for your venue. Someday you maybe glad you did.
Footnote: I know that the use of tourniquets is not approved or taught by PHECC in Ireland but I’m leaving them here anyway. From extensive conversations with medical and other first response professionals in Ireland, UK, USA and Australia they have a place in an emergency. Current Home Office guidance from the UK is even showing private citizens how to apply in an emergency.
This article is written in response to a question I was asked last week and a subsequent Facebook post on the subject. When I was asked the question first I thought about my answer and decided to put it out to my contacts and see what the opinion of those on the ground in the security industry was. To say the response was interesting is an understatement. I got a variety of answers from definitely yes to absolutely no and a multitude of reasons for each. There were also some interesting debates on the level to which security operatives should be medically trained. In the following article I would like to dissect the question a little and the responses I received. What first may seem like a straightforward response may actually be a little more complex when we discuss it a little deeper. Really the question has two parts:
The first part for me is a no brainer. My answer is definite yes. As an essential skill set I believe that all security operatives regardless of sector should be trained medically to a level that suits their role. For some that will be basic for others more advanced but they should as professionals actively seek out this training. My reasons for this are simple and I haven’t had anybody within the industry supply any counter argument to them. Firstly, it is a set of tools that will almost certainly be needed at some point in your career either for self-treatment, to assist a colleague or a member of the public. As with any tool, I would rather have it in my toolbox and never need it than need it someday and not have it. The level of care may vary from applying a simple dressing all the way up to lifesaving treatment but it is nice to have the skills to apply regardless. The second and possibly more important reason is that even outside of work it is a life skill. Anybody who is a parent, brother, sister, partner or friend and has the capability to have these skills should learn them.
The second part of the training is a little more complex. Should security operatives have this training delivered as a mandatory component of training. An add on to this question then arises in the workplace. If the training is mandatory then is the performance of first aid as a security duty also mandatory? Now it becomes a little more complicated.
I personally don’t agree with mandatory training of a skill such as first aid. I can see some positives in the idea such as a large pool of trained first aiders always on site and the value added benefit of a security provider who can boast that their employees can also perform first aid duties thereby relieving the burden on the clients own staff The main reason I don’t agree with mandatory training is that a skill such as this takes both capability and willingness to perform. If my elderly aunt falls down a staircase tomorrow morning I really don’t want their care entrusted to a person who has been forced to learn a skill that they didn’t want to and has gained the bare minimum amount of knowledge to achieve a qualification.
As a positive, a person willing to perform additional duties such as first aid obvious brings a lot more skills to the job than one who doesn’t but I also believe that making this training mandatory at the point of entry shifts both the cost and the responsibility for the training onto the individual and away from the employer. If first aid training becomes mandatory at the point of entry to the security industry them it forces a new entrant to the industry to pay for that training without the guarantee of work at the end. It also absolves potential employers of the cost of this training as all new staff have already paid for it. Companies then don’t need to stand behind this training either because it was received prior to starting employment. This industry is already expensive to start off in for a new entrant without adding an additional cost.
The next issue we would encounter then would be the mandatory performance of first aid duties as part of the security role. Clients no longer need to have first aiders on staff because the security provider can supply staff who can double job. The client might pay a little extra for this to balance out the liability taken on by the security provider but the person on the ground certainly won’t receive any more money for this task. It’s a mandatory part of your job remember. However, if it remains a voluntary skillset then you at least have the option to tell your employer about previous training or volunteer to become a first aid person at the company’s expense.
The next issue that arose once I opened this particular can of worms was the level of training required by security operatives. Some suggested first responder, others occupational first aid and other a more advanced level such as EFR. I believe that two of these levels may be appropriate dependant on a risk assessment of the role carried out. The third I believe is a waste of time for security operatives.
The level I don’t agree with is the basic life support or first responder level. This tends to include things like primary and secondary survey, CPR and AED. Nothing at all wrong with these skillsets but wholly incorrect content for a security operative. If a security operative is trained then it should be to deal with the type of incidents more likely to occur in their role. In a security context this will include, slip trip fall injuries, blunt force trauma injuries, lacerations and illnesses (including alcohol and drug overdoses). The likelihood of needing CPR is remote compared to these and while I think it is a great tool to have in an emergency it is not going to be an effective level to teach to for the industry. The venue still needs to provide full first aid cover so for me it’s not a solution to anybody’s problem.
The current occupational first aid programme is both the industry and legal standard for those performing first aid for work. If first aid training where to be made mandatory I believe that this is the logical level for it to be introduced. It’s a broad curriculum and covers most of the scenarios that a security operative might face. One situation that was raised in the discussions was around security operatives being trained to this level but only acting as a first response until another first aid trained person arrived and took over. Seems an obvious solution at first until a seasoned security and medical professional came up with a very valid reason why it isn’t. A general principal in security/emergency response/medical situations is that you should only ever hand over control to a person who is at least the same level of skills or qualifications as you are at and preferably at a higher level. If I am performing first aid as an experienced security operative with medical training and I’m acting as first response to an accident. The cavalry arrives to take over in the form of a 16 hour contracted staff member who has done the same course as me but has only performed first aid twice in their lives and I am left with a dilemma. Do I hand over or do I stay? I’m staying every time so there goes that idea out the window.
The more advanced level of EFR (Emergency First Responder) is a great programme. Just as important as the programmes content is the way it is taught. It’s taught by dedicated medical training professionals to a very high standard. On the down side, it’s an expensive investment and is probably beyond the required level for most security contracts. It’s probably beyond the economic and skill levels for entry level security operatives as well but for experienced operatives on medium/high risk contracts this is an excellent solution. Once again not something you can make mandatory considering the level and the stakes.
The last question I have been asking myself since the question came up is about the suitability of the security team as the best people for carrying out the first aid function. If we look at it from simply a skills and competency level them I would argue the answer is a definite yes. If we are to look at it from the perspective of security being the greatest value to the client/organisation in the event of an accident then there is certainly an argument to be made that security is a wasted asset while performing first aid.
If we take a basic accident profile for an office block or retail store. There will be lots of incidents of fainting, episodes of weakness and other minor illness related situations. Using a security operatives time in dealing with these is certainly not value added. In the night time economy is the door supervisor the best person to be left sitting with the intoxicated person who is passed out in the first aid area and needs to be monitored for an hour until the ambulance arrives. I would assume the answer to this to be a resounding no.
If we look to a slightly higher level of accident such as a slip, trip injury where the person has suffered a minor non-life threatening injury. The major risk to the organisation at this point is reputational damage and a civil case. An effective security operative is ensuring a clear access route and effective communication to the emergency services, providing a secure cordon for treatment, taking witness details, preserving an accident scene. If the security operative is working alone and providing first aid who is performing these tasks?
First aid is an amazing set of tools in both a personal and professional life. Every security professional should seek out and achieve at least occupational first aid level to be considered fully proficient in their role. You should be trained but you shouldn’t be forced to be trained. I still don’t agree with mandatory training for all the reasons discussed above. My advice to the security industry would be this:
Get trained, make sure you have the right equipment, keep it stocked and know how to use it. Be prepared and willing to put these skills into use if there is a serious accident or incident which required your intervention. But don’t be taken advantage of and don’t allow yourself to be distracted from your main role which is preventing accidents and incidents. If there are others there more suited to the role allow them to take the lead and you can supply the support if required.