In-house theft may be a bigger risk than burglary

If terrorists want to acquire radioactive materials in your facility, they may not do it by breaking in to the oncology department in the middle of the night. They might just pay a technician to steal the material for them, says Ray Eganey, a retired FBI agent and now a consultant with OpSec Consultants in Nashville, TN. That’s why your increased security for areas with those materials must include a higher level of screening for employees, he says.

"The risk of in-house theft is probably greater than burglary," he says. "You have to get sufficient background on everyone working there, from the pharmacist to the clerk who’s doing inventory. Most of the stuff that walks out, I’m guessing, it’s an employee you can trace it to."

Screening for employees in those sensitive areas should include a thorough background check for criminal charges and convictions, plus a credit check, Eganey says. This screening should be more in depth than any typical background checks before hiring, he says.

Eganey and his partner Dan Hodges, another retired FBI agent, offer these other suggestions:

Concentrate your radioactive materials in one area. Do not allow them to be spread throughout the facility in different departments or patient care areas. Having it all in one area will make it much more practical for you to have effective security.

Emphasize access control. Strictly monitor who can enter areas with radioactive material and keep access logs. This might be an area in which can you justify a big budget for high-tech access control.

Include camera surveillance of controlled areas.

Encourage employees to report any suspicious activity, such as people hanging around the entrance, someone watching as a code is entered into a keypad, or a visitor who is asking unusual questions about what material is kept on site and how to access the area. Also, keep the entrance area clear and have employees report unattended packages.

Contact law enforcement immediately if there is any suspicion that radioactive material is missing, along with the appropriate regulatory officials.