Security for social services in Finland

Tailor-made security services are meeting the demands of the Helsinki Deaconess Institute, whose many facilities offer a wide range of social services to the least fortunate members of society. The security team's specialized training, caring attitude and focus on preventive measures are keys to success in this complex environment.

Founded in 1867 as a hospital for the treatment of infectious diseases, the largest sector within the Institute organization is Diaconal Services. This unit, which has a staff of about 500, offers services ranging from housing, healthcare for the elderly, childcare and family counseling to treatment for severe drug addiction and mental health problems.

For Diaconal Services, a guiding principle throughout is to protect and respect the basic human rights of every person it takes under its wing – many of whom have nowhere else to turn for help. “We strive to keep the entry threshold as low as possible when it comes to applying for and receiving assistance here,” explains Kalevi Alopaeus, Security Director for Diaconal Services. “That means we accept a lot of people who, for one reason or another, may have been rejected by public services and support networks. Many of them are homeless, have psychological problems or suffer from various addictions and illnesses.”

One of a kind

The Institute’s Munkkisaari Activities Centre, for example has become a major center for the treatment of drug addiction, including detoxification and rehabilitation. It is also used extensively by the city hospital services. In 2005, it had more than 3,000 clients ranging from babies to grandfathers. “This makes it a very exceptional facility,” says Unit Director Jukka Hampunen. “There is nothing like it anywhere in Europe in terms of numbers of clients and range of services.”

Such a sensitive and complex environment places special demands on security. In the past, security took a conventional, reactive approach to emergencies. Security officers were simply called to a scene after an incident had occurred. Today’s system, which is provided by Securitas, is entirely proactive and involves a specially trained team of officers who focus on preventive measures, identifying and dealing with potential incidents before they become a problem.

This technique is based on the Securitas 24PATROL method – a round-the-clock protection concept developed in close cooperation with customers according to individual specifications. “The officers keep a low profile and move around among the personnel, doing their part in helping to create a positive atmosphere,” says Alopaeus.

The officers normally deal with one to three risk situations per day, such as disruptive behavior during meetings with medical staff, disturbances when transferring a client from one treatment unit to another, or when young people in distress arrive for drug treatment and may have to be placed in an isolation room.

The right attitude and training

The success of the operation is a combination of the suitability of the officers chosen for the assignment and regular, specialized training sessions. Good social skills and an unprejudiced approach are considered essential qualities for the officers, as well as an ability to react quickly to rapidly changing situations.

Training sessions are usually held twice a year and also attended by key personnel from the institute. The program involves developing the team’s psychological ability to manage crises and traumatic incidents, as well as how to deal with people under the influence of intoxicating substances.

In addition, Securitas provides situation management training that includes, for example, alarm response procedures and situations requiring the use of force. The officers also spend two days at the institute as part of their training, familiarizing themselves with the facilities, studying the location of corridors, stairways and so on, and getting acquainted with the personnel. In addition, confrontation models and operating methods are practiced in advance with a theoretical 'client.'

Encouraging results

The Securitas service has been in operation at the institute since the end of 2005 and Security Director Alopaeus says the results are encouraging. “In the past, our threat and dangerous situation reports often stated that an incident could have been avoided by increasing the number of staff and placing a security officer at the door. Now the attitude is completely different. As a result of this new working method, the staff has an increased feeling of security and is clearly satisfied with the service provider.”

According to Unit Director Hampunen, the system is also more flexible and easier to manage. “The service and cooperation from Securitas have been built around the very demanding needs of the Munkkisaari center,” he says. “Implementation of the officer’s duties and interaction with the staff has been monitored right from the start. If anything required change, this has been successfully handled. The officers have been well received by both clients and staff.”

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