Marilyn Hollier, University of Michigan - Case Study 1 Underwear Bomber


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Marilyn Hollier, CPP, CHPA, International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety; Director of Hospitals and Health Centers Security, University of Michigan Division of Public Safety and Securitydelivered this presentation at the 2013 Safe and Secure Hospital Conference. The comprehensive program addressed the following issues:

Early intervention via early reporting of disruptive, aggressive, and bullying behaviour to minimise work place violence
An innovative training model to help clinicians, security and policy makers respond to the problems of challenging behaviours
Therapeutic sedation in the Emergency Department: Best practice in managing the highly agitated patient
A systems approach to the prevention of Occupational Violence and Aggression (OVA)
Contract management security: The change from in-house security to contract security
Role of the Risk Based Approach throughout the design process
Preventing and managing clinical aggression in the paediatric and youth health setting
The roles, functions and training provided by the Mental Health Intervention Team (MHIT), New South Wales Police Force
Interactions between Police, Health staff, Ambulance and Hospital Security and future directions
A Legal Perspective: Prevention and management of violence in hospitals
Code Grey responses - Are they legal?

For more information about the annual event, please visit the conference website:

Published in: Health & Medicine, Business
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Marilyn Hollier, University of Michigan - Case Study 1 Underwear Bomber

  1. 1. The Worst Christmas Ever or The Underwear Bomber visits U-M (A PR perspective with Security highlights) Marilyn Hollier, CPP, CHPA Director, UMHHC Security Services
  2. 2. Timeline: Day 1 • • • • • • • Noon, 12/25/09 – Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly attempts to blow up NWA Flight 253 as it nears Detroit (DTW), resulting in burns to himself. 12:45 – Attending Emergency Dept. (ED) doctor pages Kara Gavin, UMHS Public Relations (PR) Director, to say that a burn patient who attempted to ignite something aboard an airplane is en route to U-M. (Patient arrives 1:20 p.m.) 1 to 2:30 – Kara alerts UMHS on-call PR person and hospital security, speak with our administrator on-call (AOC) and scour Google News, Twitter and YouTube for any mention of an incident at DTW. Hospital Security is told someone had caught himself on fire on a airplane as it was landing and the person was en route to our ED. Was advised to be vigilant for any members of the press. On duty Security Supervisor responds to the ED – suspect/patient arrives by ambulance at 1:20 pm and is escorted by 2 US Customs/Border Patrol vehicles. Prisoner Patient (P/P) was covered with a white powder so he had to go through decontamination process via ED Haz. Mat. Room. Hospital Security assists with making sure only necessary medical staff speak with the P/P and keep all other staff away from the P/P. Some ED staff were caught getting in the way and gawking at the P/P. 2 pm - the P/P was moved to the Trauma Burn Unit. The unit was locked down and the P/P was given an alias. He was constantly guarded by Border Patrol Agents. 2
  3. 3. Timeline: Day 1 • 2:30 – First media reports air, and the first page from a reporter comes in to our PR on-call person. Meanwhile, Kara tries to get through to a federal Public Information Officer (PIO) – any federal PIO! • • • • 3 pm – Federal Bureau Investigations (FBI) and Immigrations Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrive. FBI Agent confirms that it was an attempted terrorist attack. Agents were very forthcoming with information to Hospital Security and assisted in coordinating services with all of the various law enforcement agencies. Rest of the afternoon – As media calls pour in, and TV trucks begin to arrive at hospital, we receive the OK from the Detroit FBI PIO to confirm we received one patient from the airport, but to release no other info. Evening -- Reporters get desperate and keep calling us because little info is being released from any agency or entity. Unnamed/speculating sources proliferate. First reporters attempt to enter our (locked down) Trauma Burn Unit and unlocked ED but are stopped by Security. Security officers encounter media and curious employees throughout the evening. FBI and Border Patrol guard P/P in his room. 3
  4. 4. Timeline: Day 2 • • • • • • Reporter calls start up again in the morning, and continue to come in all day. Media return to hospital to await any news. One reporter manages to evade perimeter security and get near patient’s unit. At 9:40 am a Wall Street Journal reporter tailgates behind an authorized visitor and gets into the Trauma Burn Unit. Continue to have problems with curious employees from other units too. Security immediately posted 2 officers to the unit to control access and screen visitors. Off duty Hospital Security officers were called in to assist with this detail and it lasted until the P/P was discharged and officially transferred to prison. 10 a.m. – UMHS PR post a statement on our Web site referring media to FBI and asking media to remain outside the hospital. 4 p.m. – Finally, the first federal press release from Dept. of Justice (DOJ) is issued and gives the first official confirmation that our patient is the suspect. We update our statement to point to the DOJ release. We try to refer media calls to DOJ (which now are preparing to take custody of the suspect through US Marshals) but their PR office voicemail is full and neither we nor reporters can find a weekend contact number! Also 4 p.m. - A judge arrives to inform the suspect of the charges against him. US Marshals had told us that this was to be a closed proceeding, but upon arrival the judge says that a limited number of reporters, with no cameras, may be allowed in. PR hastily arrange for pool coverage by AP and Ch. 7, who are escorted in by security. 4
  5. 5. Timeline: Day 2 • Hospital Security Supervisor assists FBI with setting up the Federal hearing to include finding a suitable conference room inside the Trauma Burn Unit. When Judge decided to allow 2 reporters (because it was a public hearing) Security Supervisor assists PR by going across the street where media had congregated and selected 2 reporters to go with him to the hearing which lasted 30 minutes. Charges were filed and custody of the P/P was officially transferred to the US Marshal Service. The reporters were escorted out of the hospital. • 6 p.m. – UMHS PR can finally inform our 19,000 employees via e-mail and Intranet that (as the media have been reporting) the suspect is at our hospital, that extra security is in place, and that they should alert Security if they spot media inside. 5
  6. 6. Timeline: Day 3-5 Day 3 • Morning: Suspect is transferred from U-M to federal prison. Shortly after, a “person in scrubs” approaches reporters outside hospital to tell them they can go home because suspect is gone. Reporters try to confirm this with us. • At 9 am – US Marshals inform Security that P/P is being discharged and transferred to Milan Prison. We assist them with establishing a plan to do this without alerting the Media. • 9:42 – The US Marshals and P/P leave the medical campus without being seen by the Media. • Morning-afternoon: Kara again tries (for several hours) to reach a federal PIO who can tell her what we can say. She finally reaches one via the DOJ Command Center (whose number she found on the federal Bureau of Prisons PR line voicemail message). Around 1 p.m. we get a message out to employees saying the patient has left the hospital. We update our media statement. • Evening: a reporter comes to the home of a U-M burn surgeon seeking information and is rebuffed by her husband. 6
  7. 7. Timeline: Day 3-5 Day 4 • Kara prepares a detailed guide for burn unit staff about handling media inquiries in the days to come, since they are likely to be contacted by those looking for “scoops” about the suspect or his care, and they may be called to testify. • (local newspaper) contacts us to ask for interviews on how we handled the incident. We decide to give limited information. Day 5 • FBI gets clearance from UMHS General Counsel to interview all medical staff who had contact with the P/P. A different FBI Agent is assigned to each person who needs to be interviewed. Each FBI Agent called security prior to their assigned interviews to assist with coordination of the interviews. 7
  8. 8. PR Lessons learned (can be applied to any celebrity patient situation) • Make friends with your hospital security staff, ER staff and administrative on-call team now! – • Don’t assume that those who can talk to media (because they aren’t bound by Patient Privacy Laws) will talk, nor that they will offer information soon. – • Help them understand how much it helps to have early warning and constant communication, and how aggressive reporters can be when a celebrity or suspect is hospitalized Be ready to say something, even if it’s saying nothing because you may be the only source for a while. In matters of law enforcement, find out who has the authority in the hierarchy of responding agencies. – Reach their PIO as soon as you can, so they can guide you on what to say to press and your employees. • Get (and update annually) phone numbers for law enforcement and federal agency PIOs, as well as health authorities -- including weekend and holiday contact info. • Know how to reach your Web staff at all times, and plan ahead so you know who can make basic Web updates from home over holidays/weekends 8
  9. 9. More PR lessons learned • Assume the worst of reporters; they’ll do everything they can to get in. – • Keep all employees informed, not just those who are directly involved. – • Make sure all entrances to the patient’s hospital unit are locked & guarded, and that the patient is under an alias. Ask security to check staff badges to reduce gawkers. Remember the operators and other folks who answer phones, and the folks at main entrances and info desks. Write them a brief script and tell them where on the Web to look for information, in case they get questions. Inform employees about the importance of security & confidentiality. – Remind them that it is possible to tell who is looking the patient up electronically. Enlist them to spot and report unauthorized media. • Change the greeting on the PR office voicemail to give a statement and other basic info and/or to refer callers elsewhere. • From the moment you get the first word of an incident, log and mark the time of every major development, conversation, etc. – It comes in handy later. 9
  10. 10. Challenges for Hospital Security • Dealing with multiple Law Enforcement Agencies • Balancing Family Centered Care with Unit Security - Don’t count solely on security systems to lock down and control access - immediately assign officers to the area/unit. This will ensure that authorized visitors get in to see their family/patient but media will not be able to tailgate. • In addition to aggressive media, watch out for curious employees – they know the back way into your units. (Might want to request an audit of the patients medical record to make sure there were no HIPAA violations). Working closely with PR and AOC is critical when dealing with these types of situations! 10
  11. 11. More info…. • UMHS statement: m?ID=1416 • DOJ press release • story: • Contact Kara • Contact Marilyn 11