Shawn Reilly combines guards and gadgets at Greenville hospital

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Randy Southerland


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Building an effective security program for a hospital with multiple campuses and buildings that weren't designed with security in mind can be a challenging undertaking. Shawn Reilly, who heads the security program for Greenville (S.C.) Hospital System, would know.

When he took on the job, his boss told him, “we've got some challenges that we need to overcome and we're looking for a professional who can handle them.” They had spent years trying to build a secure environment for patients and staff using a contract guard force and a few access control devices. Now there was a growing realization that more had to be done.

Reilly's task was to turn Greenville into a first class security system, and it was just the job he had been looking for.

After finishing a 29-year stint with the U.S. Air Force, he had joined a defense contractor doing risk assessments in the Pacific region. That job kept him on the road and usually out of the country for three weeks at a time with just a few days at home. He soon realized that he wanted to spend more time with his family and his growing number of grandchildren. That made the offer from the 6,000-employee Greenville, S.C.-based system all the more appealing. It also presented a challenge to a professional who had spent his career being a problem solver.

Reilly quickly developed a two-pronged approach to upgrade the security officer force and the technology that supported their efforts.

“It was really the hospital's vision to say ‘we're going to put our money where our mouth is and we want to be the benchmark for the Southeast in providing security in a health care setting,’” Reilly explains.

The first move in transforming the guard force was to hire better personnel and then train and certify them at a much higher level. And, Greenville was willing to pay the price, posting a 30 percent increase in salaries. Along with better pay came requirements for minimum physical fitness and increased training. Then each officer had to pass both a local exam and the International Association of Hospital Security and Safety (IAHSS) exam for certification.

“Once we got the pay increase, we could access a larger, more qualified group of people and establish more stringent standards,” he says.

Greenville-based American Security Services, which provides officers for the hospital, was eager to establish the new standards as it represented an opportunity to be part of a major upgrading of the security system. Within a year, more than 40 percent of all personnel were certified and the rest were well on their way.

Along with human security, Reilly was determined to build an effective access control system that included the latest technology for video surveillance, card access and biometrics.

“He's a gadget guy,” says Mike Gardner, an official with American Security. “And most of all he likes gadgets that work.”

Realizing the complexity of building security into a building, Reilly guided efforts to ensure that two new facilities were designed to accommodate physical security systems from the ground up.

“Every door at the ground level either has access control or automatic locks so we can lock the hospital down at any one time,” Reilly says.

In addition, cameras are installed at all alarmed doors along with locations equipped with panic buttons such as pharmacies or nurseries where infants are protected with their own security systems to prevent kidnapping. A centrally-located dispatcher at the Greenville Memorial Medical Campus has immediate visual assessment at the point of alarm.

“Now we're hoping do that in the main hospital which is much like five hospitals in itself,” he explains.

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