Security blanket: Keeping Michigan Medicine safe during COVID-19

April 22, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

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The mission of Michigan Medicine Security is two-fold, aimed at reducing both risk and anxiety. The department focuses on ensuring the safety of patients, visitors and staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Equally important, according to Director Brian Uridge, is the second part of Security’s mission — making people feel safe.

Both parts of this mission have been put to the challenge in unprecedented ways during recent weeks.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unusual set of circumstances for us,” said Uridge. “We always talk about reducing anxiety for others but this is such a unique critical incident; our first responders are approaching things with the same fear, anxiety and outside pressures as those we are trying to help.

“At the same time, we must be able to continue delivering top quality support wherever it is needed.”

Uridge and his team have risen to the challenge in countless ways, and their presence can be widely seen and felt as they work hard to blanket the health system in security.

Creating a safe environment

Security staff led one of six special operational teams created to respond to the pandemic. The team was charged with developing processes to manage access control, conduct entrance screenings, provide safe intra-facility transport of COVID-19 positive patients and patients under investigation, develop emergency evacuation plans and conserve resources.

The department used aerial maps, detailed lock plans and its extensive knowledge of patient, visitor and staff flow to develop a plan for which entrances would close and which would remain open. Then, Security and its Division of Public Safety & Security (DPSS) partners from across the university, along with redeployed Michigan Medicine employees, began screening patients, visitors and staff around the clock at entry points to the main medical campus and ambulatory care sites.

Screeners are charged with determining, based on responses to scripted questions, whether to give people a mask and allow them to enter, or turn them away. Security handles logistics to support the screening stations, with activities such as restocking hand sanitizer and masks, sanitizing eye shields and delivering lunches to screeners.

The department helped create a security plan and processes for activating and deactivating the RICU (regional infectious containment unit), which has involved locking down the perimeter of the unit and directing and monitoring traffic through a single entry point. Security staff assisted with the transport of COVID-19 patients to the RICU when the unit first opened, and they helped establish a process for direct admits and patient transfers from other hospitals.

Protecting valuable resources

During the pandemic, one of the most important jobs of the Security team has been to protect limited and valuable resources. The department has staff stationed at the University Hospital warehouse and NCRC donation collection site to prevent theft of personal protective equipment and other critical items.

In the early days of the COVID-19 threat, Security pulled together a multidisciplinary team from their own department, Guest Services and Entrance Services to protect mask stands across the health system.

Building relationships

One of the keys to creating safety and a sense of security for all is developing relationships — with internal teams, external partner organizations and individuals.

Security has been an integral part of the hospital command center since it opened, helping create plans to safely implement the health system’s management of the COVID-19 crisis. Team members have been available to support and help secure areas for special ad hoc activities related to the pandemic, like the virtual town hall events held weekly.

The department has worked with U-M Police and Guest Services to form a Special Experience Team (SET). This three-part team visits off-site locations to demonstrate a unified approach, offer support and reduce anxiety. The team focuses on relationship-based patrol and non-traditional contacts with staff. While SET members are on location, they are able to build relationships with medical staff, create trust and troubleshoot issues immediately.

Collaborative relationships between DPSS, Michigan Medicine Security and local law enforcement agencies help ensure the safety of patients and staff at each of the Michigan Medicine drive-through testing sites.

“The Canton Police Department, Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department and Brighton Police Department have all been incredible partners, offering ongoing assistance and cooperation,” Uridge said.

In terms of relationship-building with individuals, one of the most important functions of entrance screeners is to help reduce anxiety by engaging in friendly conversation with staff, patients and visitors, and by offering smiles, which are evident even behind the masks they wear.

‘In-the-moment leaders’

In addition to supporting the operational changes presented by the pandemic, Security maintains its regular staffing to respond to all calls for service. In recent weeks, the department has received help from DPSS personnel across the university to provide 24/7 coverage wherever needed.

“Regardless of rank, we had employees step up, meet the challenges head-on and become in-the-moment leaders,” said Uridge. “This was an amazing proving ground for our team, and we’ve seen remarkable talent, initiative and drive from front line staff.”

Brian Uridge recently recorded a Short Takes video to explain in detail all the work Security is carrying out. Check it out by clicking here!