WALLA WALLA, Washington – In November, Providence St. Mary Medical Center will be introducing a new member to its security program – a K9 security dog. According to the hospital incidents of violence in health care settings are on the rise nationally. Locally, the hospital has experienced that trend, and has taken steps to ensure the safety of its patients, caregivers and visitors. The addition of the K9 security program is part of that strategic work.
“Security dogs offer a very effective deterrent,” Safety, Security, and Emergency Preparedness Manager Susan Leathers said. “The very presence of a K9 often will defuse the situation, and prevent an escalation. It is a demonstration of our commitment to safety for our healthcare workers.”
The program is being funding by the Providence St. Mary Foundation.
Security Officer Michael Smith, who has a background in law enforcement, is a certified crisis intervention negotiator, a licensed private investigator, and has served as an instructor for law enforcement defensive tools. He has been selected as the K9 program coordinator. Smith had experience as a K9 handler while working in law enforcement.
Later this month, he will travel to the Alabama Canine Law Enforcement Center in Northport to be paired with a German shepherd. He will then undergo eight weeks of training with his new partner. The Alabama Canine Law Enforcement Center has trained dogs for more than 1,500 police departments in 28 countries.
“An increasing number of hospitals across the nation are now using security dogs to detect contraband, deter violence and help address possible threats,” Leathers said. “Our sister hospital, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, started the first hospital K9 program in Washington earlier this year and the response from the public and healthcare workers has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Leathers added the entire security team at Providence St. Mary Medical Center is looking forward to working with Smith on the launch of the K9 security program at the hospital.