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December 15, 2023

Virginia Law Requires Every Hospital with an Emergency Department to Establish a Physical Security Plan Using Industry Standards

A bill recently passed by the Virginia General Assembly (S.B. 827), which took effect on July 1, 2023, and which amended and reenacted part of Va. Code § 32.1-127, requires every “hospital with an emergency department to establish a security plan.” 

These physical security plans must be “developed using standards established by the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety or other industry standard” and, importantly, “include the presence of at least one off-duty law-enforcement officer or trained security personnel who is present in the emergency department at all times as indicated to be necessary and appropriate by the security risk assessment.” The plans must be based on “identified risks for the emergency department, including trauma level designation, overall volume, volume of psychiatric and forensic patients, incidents of violence against staff, and level of injuries sustained from such violence, and prevalence of crime in the community . . . .” 

The State Health Commissioner is to provide a waiver from the officer requirement “if the hospital demonstrates that a different level of security is necessary and appropriate for any of its emergency departments based upon findings in the security risk assessment.” 

This new law is a substantial departure from the previous requirement that hospitals with emergency departments were only required “to establish protocols to ensure that security personnel of the emergency department, if any, receive training appropriate to the populations served by the emergency department 

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