To most CHOP visitors, Security officers are the men and women in blue uniforms who greet you at the entrances and parking garages, asking to see your ID and giving you directions. But these 89 officers do so much more behind the scenes to keep patients safe.
When a fire alarm goes off, whether it’s a real fire or burned popcorn, Security responds instantly. They stand watch over all traumas in the Emergency Department to ensure that no one impedes the patient’s medical care. At times they are called on to safely restrain patients or family members who become a danger to themselves or staff. When children are a witness to or victim of a crime, Security coordinates with police and other authorities to manage interviews and make sure evidence is properly handled.
Security’s full-time technology manager oversees a network of 700 security cameras, all recording 24/7, and 3,000 card readers that unlock doors for staff.
“Just don’t do anything bad and we’ll never be looking at you,” says Director of Security Michael Brooke. “But following an incident, it’s pretty easy to backtrack and understand where people were and what they were doing.”
Their most effective weapon? Words. Officers are trained in “verbal judo” to calmly de-escalate situations through conversation — and that works most of the time.
In fact, their way with words is something many families appreciate. Particularly in the quiet overnight hours, many strike up conversations with Security officers.
“A lot of our staff develop a rapport with patients and families,” says Matthew Novacich, assistant director of security. “It’s really fulfilling when you get to see a child finally go home.”
“You see so much that’s touching and humbling,” says Officer August Seldon. “You see kids who are dealing with a lot, but they always have big smiles on their faces.”
“We don’t do direct patient care or research,” says Brooke, “but it’s important to us that in our own way, we can contribute to the overall CHOP mission.”
— Julie Sloane