Security and Traffic Bollards Provide Vital Protection For Hospitals

Security bollards to protect hospitals against vehicles ramming into buildings are becoming increasingly important to ensure safety and prevent costly damage to buildings and security equipment, and experts in hospital architecture recommend separating emergency vehicles from other traffic at emergency entrances. The recent attempted bombing by parked car in Times Square in New York City has increased concern among security planners for hospitals, along with other kinds of facilities, about perimeter security.

Hospitals are especially vigilant about security near emergency rooms, where other types of vehicle problems may occur, including patients trying to drive themselves to the ER when they are having a medical crisis such as a heart attack or following an injury. Increasing use of glass walls and escalating costs for property damage, including metal detection and other entrance security deemed vital today at many hospitals, are additional factors in hospital security planning.

Security bollards are an inexpensive way to prevent ramming and keep vehicles a safe distance from structures. Security bollards are most frequently steel posts embedded into the ground with concrete. After 9/11, the U.S. Department of State developed what it calls a K-rating system, which calculates bollard resistance according to the size and speed of a vehicle that might be driven toward a building. Ratings are based on the diameter and structure of the bollard, its depth in the ground, and both the amount and kind of foundation which anchors it.

To present a welcoming, rather than bunker look at entrances, many hospitals use decorative bollard covers over top of their security bollards. Retractable or removable traffic `bollards are also employed in areas where a change of access may be required. Architects who specialize in hospital design suggest that new or renovated emergency department (ED) facilities separate entrances for emergency vehicles from the drop-off door for people being driven to emergency rooms by friends or family, or driving themselves, to improve treatment as well as security for patients.

Single entries to emergency rooms become “highly congested, chaotic and, quite simply, unsafe. Fundamental change in the layout of the ED began to manifest separate entrances for the two types of traffic,” wrote James W. Harrell, an architect who specializes in health care faculties for GBBN Architects with offices in the U.S. and China, and a founder of the American College of Healthcare Architects, in Asian Hospital and Health Care Management. He recommends separate entrances which “should begin at the arrival to the campus and continue to each entry,” with only the entrance for ambulatory patients, those arriving in private vehicles, marked. Bollards are frequently used to separate flow and direct traffic to specific areas.

Tony W. York (CHPA, CPP),senior vice president with Hospital Shared Services in Denver and co-author of Hospital and Healthcare Security, 5th Edition, told Directions, a newsletter published by the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety, in January that “we have been using bollards and they have been having a residual effect in protecting the walls and the actual entry points to the facilities themselves. We’ve had great success, even at the ambulance or ambulatory entrance, with bollards, making sure that we would not allow certain levels of penetration. That has become a fairly common safeguard for organizations, especially those that have done any type of renovation or new construction.”

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