After serving our country for 10 years in the Marine Corps, Joey Hunter was ready to be a prison guard. The career path appealed to him and the job interview was set.

Yet, at the same time, he had a job interview for a position in healthcare security. He thought he could make both interviews, despite the fact that they were about four hours apart in travel time. He got to the first interview despite some rain and heavy traffic, but he didn’t make the second interview, which was for the prison job. He’s been working in healthcare security ever since.

Hunter is Director of Security, Safety and Emergency Preparedness for San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital in Banning, Calif., a city of 30,000 residents, which is located about an hour from Anaheim, Calif. and about 80 miles from Los Angeles.

The hospital was founded in 1951 and today, it is a growing 79-bed facility with plans to construct a patient care building to meet the increasing needs of the San Gorgonio Pass communities.

Hunter’s security team consists of 16 security officers, all of whom Hunter has trained to his level. He says, “Banning has very small police department, but looking at the training these officers have or were given, we really don’t need to call the local police for assistance that much, thankfully.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Hunter’s officers to “improve, adapt and overcome,” he says. “I only had one officer who had to retire for fear of getting his mom sick from COVID, but the other officers show up every day and do their jobs. We made sure they had, and still do, the amount of PPE they would require to go into any situation and still be safe.”

Many hospital security professionals will teach and employ workplace violence mitigation methods such as ALICE or Run, Hide, Fight. Hunter employs the AVADE Workplace Violence Prevention theory at San Gorgonio Memorial. Dave Fowler, who founded the program, is a retired world champion MMA fighter.

“He was with a security team at a hospital in Washington State, where his mother worked as an RN,” Hunter explains. “He noticed that a lot of the security officers, his co-workers and other hospital employees, were getting hurt by patients. He taught them a few ‘moves’ to help them to get them out of trouble and stay safe. As he progressed with his program, other hospital departments, including employee health, noticed that employee injury rates were reduced by almost 100%. And since we have been using the method here, we’ve seen our injury rates go down about 99%. The program works.”

The AVADE philosophy incorporates learning new habits, skills and actions that employers and employees can use to enhance their personal safety and their ability to defend themselves or others from dangerous situations, crime and violence. The principles in the AVADE Training Program are:

  • Awareness = An ability to perceive, feel or be conscious of something.
  • Vigilance = The practice of paying attention.
  • Avoidance = “The best self-defense is to not be there...”
  • Defense = Self-defense is the right to use reasonable and appropriate force.
  • Escape/Environment = Spatial empathy, own the door, proper positioning, etc.

Hunter is a certified AVADE trainer, along with an ER nurse and his security manager at the hospital. To date, he has trained and certified more than 600 associates at his facility.

He says, “I knew about AVADE and when I took on this role, I convinced management to allow me to implement it. It was not a hard sell. I’m a strong advocate of the training, and I enjoy training others.”

Another recent success for Hunter is his relationship with Global Grant Services, a contractor he regularly uses to find grants for security projects and upgrades. “We are a very small hospital, so asking for security cameras, access control and other equipment is not always easy,” he says. “To date, working with Global Grant Services, we have received more than $7.5 million in 15 months. They also help us with submitting paperwork and other admin duties in order to maintain the life of the grant.” Through a $100,000 grant from the California Officer of Emergency Services, Hunter will soon install new IP security cameras. The hospital also has received a development grant to build and construct a $7 million radiology center.

  In his free time, Hunter enjoys rebuilding classic cars and trucks. Currently, he has 40 vehicles. He says, “I do ground-up restoration on each one. I rent a hangar at a local airport and that’s where I do all my work on them.” His car club, the Axle Draggers, has 3,000 members in three countries.