Ken Harr: Protecting the Citizens
“No two days are ever the same,” says Ken Harr, Corporate Director Safety, Security & Emergency Management for Ballad Health, when asked what he enjoys about his role. “One of the most rewarding things for healthcare security is knowing that you’re protecting the most vulnerable citizens. Patients and visitors have enough to worry about; they shouldn’t have to worry about their safety while in one of our facilities.”
Ballad Health is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving 29 counties of Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Northwestern North Carolina and Southeastern Kentucky. The system operates a family of 21 hospitals in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, including a dedicated children’s hospital, several community hospitals, three critical access hospitals, a behavioral health hospital, an addiction treatment facility, long-term care facilities, home care and hospice services, retail pharmacies, outpatient services and a comprehensive medical management corporation.
Harr has spent his entire career protecting people, he says. He began his career in law enforcement as a patrolman, patrol sergeant and administrative lieutenant. He also served as a field training officer, point man on a S.W.A.T team, commander of a fatal incident reconstruction support team and he is qualified as an expert in accident reconstruction and horizontal gaze nystagmus. He graduated the 219th session of the FBI Nation Academy.
“After 20 years, I decided to take a different career path and taught criminal justice and forensics in a high school setting. One day, my wife sent me a job posting for the Director of Security at Mountain States Health Alliance and said ‘This sounds like you.’ I took the position, and after only three years, I was given the responsibility for safety and emergency management along with my security role. In February 2018, Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health Systems merged to form Ballad Health. After the merger, I was given responsibility for all 21 facilities.”
At Ballad Health he has three market directors, four market managers, five facility managers and 130 security officers.
As much as Harr enjoys his role, it does come with challenges that are typical of the healthcare sector. “Healthcare security has to create a safe environment for its patients, visitors, physicians, vendors and team members,” Harr notes. “But we have to abide by the rules and regulations set down by The Joint Commission, HIPPA and NFPA. This creates unique risks – from dealing with a combative patient and following TJC rules – to locking a door and following NFPA guidelines.”
He and his team have worked hard to show security’s value among the Ballad Health organization. “Security is seen as a necessity, not a necessary evil among the C-Suite,” he shares. “Security is included in every aspect at the facility level – my security managers are treated just like a nursing manager. My vice president Bill Alton (whom he reports to) once told me, “This is the best security team I have ever came across in my 30 years.”
Part of that success has come from Harr relying on his law enforcement background. “We have a tremendous relationship with our local law enforcement, which spans across two states, 13 counties and federal agencies,” Harr explains. “Local law enforcement and federal law enforcement invite our security department to attend their training sessions free of charge. We now have 13 active shooter instructors who were all trained by local law enforcement, all at no cost to us. One local law enforcement administrator said to me, ‘You keep hiring and training them and we will keep trying to take them.’”
In his free time, Harr enjoys fishing and golfing, in addition to spending time with his wife, son and daughter. “This will be the first year in the past 18 years that will not be spent watching one of our children play sports,” he says. “They are both off to college. My wife and I have yet to decide what our hobby is going to be since we no longer have children living at home.”