In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Health & Human Services (HHS) sent out a notice from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to the health care and public health community urging them to review their security plans with employees and revise where necessary.

The notice states that “incidents like this give us another opportunity to review our response plans with our employees for situational awareness, maintaining vigilance for behaviors, objects and activities that depart from the norm of their experience, that are out of place for the area, that prompt suspicion or that otherwise raise safety or security concerns.”

The notice brought up four action points for health care and public health officials to address.

  • Review security plans and exercise them regularly, using scenarios based on tactics recently used.
  • Reinforce with employees that they are best positioned to enforce these plans if they are familiar with the surroundings; are attentive to what’s common and what is not through being vigilant throughout their shifts and across work areas; and if they report in a timely manner to appropriate authorities.
  • Review active shooter, suspicious activity reporting and counter improvised explosive device, or IED, preparedness in training and awareness initiatives and in organizational safety briefings.
  • Ensure proper functioning of emergency communications equipment and conduct regular tests.

The communication notes that investigations following terrorist attacks typically uncovers witnesses who, after the attack has occurred, say they recall seeing suspicious activity but did not report it. Advice from DHS and HHS calls employers to expand the “See something — Say something” concept and reinforce to their employees that if they see or hear suspicious activity they have a right to be concerned and should feel comfortable to responsibly alert the proper authorities.

Information and resources to help the health care community prepare and respond to security incidents was also included in the notice.