Across the United States, federal, state and local government stakeholders, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and National Guard, are building alternate care sites – also known as alternative care facilities or ACS. Alternate care sites are essential for reducing the burden of COVID-19 on hospitals and other medical facilities – but making them operational also requires addressing security challenges.

Assessing the Risks Confronting the Operations of Alternate Care Sites

When building alternate care sites, protecting patients, staff, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, and equipment is one of the highest priorities. As massive, “open sites” that suddenly appear in the middle of neighborhoods, in schools and at large entertainment venues, alternate care facilities are particularly vulnerable to certain threats and risks.

Though every site’s leaders should consider a threat and vulnerability assessment to determine their location’s unique risk profile, common vulnerabilities include the following.

  • External emergencies (e.g., tornadoes, fire, civil unrest, mass casualty event)
  • Unknown patient population that includes patients with mental health issues, substance dependence and other undisclosed conditions
  • Reckless, dangerous and sometimes violent behavior from patients, distressed family members, members of the public who do not like the site and its COVID-19 patients being in proximity to their homes, and individuals with criminal or terrorist intent

Protecting Patients, Staff and Assets

Among the most effective ways to address these risks comprehensively, holistically and cost-effectively is to establish an ACS Security Master Plan that addresses several critical security elements.

  • Threats and risks
  • Threat analysis and reporting (e.g., open-source intelligence or OSINT monitoring)
  • Workplace violence prevention plan or function
  • Perimeter design (i.e., outer, middle and inner perimeter security)
  • Security checkpoints for people and vehicles, including delivery trucks
  • Emergency response structure
  • Communications and notifications
  • Security technology integration (e.g., access control, intrusion detection, video surveillance)
  • Coordination with federal, state and local first responders
  • Staff health and hygiene
  • Security force staffing (e.g., surge versus absenteeism)
  • Use of force policies
  • Bag searches and individual screening
  • Credential integrity
  • Training (e.g., emergency response, evacuation and protective equipment fit testing)
  • Integration with local first responders via the Incident Command System

Engaging an Outside Perspective

Given how quickly alternate care sites are being established, stakeholders should consider hiring a third-party organization to conduct a security operations assessment, build and implement a security master plan, and remain on site to maintain security awareness, if necessary.

Our experts have already deployed to alternate care sites across the country and are prepared to assist you in ensuring safety while saving lives. Reach out to us or visit our COVID-19 resources page for more information.

COVID-19 Video Series: Learn more about the variety of risks facing alternate care sites and how we're addressing them.
Watch Video