The following blog article has been converted from an original articles from Campus Safety Magazine January-February 2019 with updated comments as of 2023.
In recent years, the unfortunate rise in active shooter incidents has forced us to reevaluate safety protocols in various settings, including healthcare facilities. The healthcare sector, with its focus on patient care and well-being, is not immune to such threats. As a result, it becomes crucial for healthcare professionals and administrators to be prepared and equipped with effective strategies to respond to active shooter situations. This blog post aims to provide a comprehensive guide on effectively responding to active shooters in healthcare settings.
Understanding the Threat:
Before delving into response strategies, it is important to understand the nature of the threat posed by active shooters. Active shooter incidents involve individuals armed with firearms who engage in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area. These situations are often unpredictable and escalate rapidly, demanding quick decision-making and immediate action.
Developing a Comprehensive Response Plan:
- Establish a Threat Assessment Team: Create a multidisciplinary team comprising representatives from various departments within the healthcare facility, including security, administration, medical staff, and law enforcement. This team should be responsible for developing and implementing the response plan.
- Conduct Risk Assessments: Regularly assess the facility’s vulnerabilities and identify potential weaknesses. This assessment should involve evaluating access points, security systems, staff training, and emergency communication protocols.
- Develop an Emergency Operations Plan: Craft a detailed plan that outlines specific response actions for different scenarios. Include procedures for lockdowns, evacuations, and communication protocols, ensuring they are tailored to the unique needs of healthcare settings.
- Training and Education: Provide comprehensive training to all staff members, including medical personnel, administrative staff, and security personnel. Train them in recognizing potential threats, responding appropriately, and administering first aid to injured individuals.
Active Shooter Response Strategies:
- Run, Hide, Fight: Encourage staff to follow the “Run, Hide, Fight” protocol during an active shooter incident. If possible, individuals should evacuate the area using safe escape routes. If escape is not feasible, they should find secure hiding places and silence their mobile devices. As a last resort, if confronted directly, individuals may need to physically defend themselves.
- Secure the Area: Encourage employees to lock doors, barricade entrances, and turn off lights in rooms to make them less accessible and visible to the shooter. Utilize any available security measures, such as alarms or panic buttons, to alert law enforcement.
- Communicate Effectively: Establish clear lines of communication within the healthcare facility. Utilize a combination of methods, including intercom systems, mass notification systems, and text alerts, to inform staff and patients about the situation and provide instructions.
- Collaborate with Law Enforcement: Establish a close working relationship with local law enforcement agencies. Conduct joint training exercises to familiarize both parties with the layout of the facility and response procedures. Share critical information with law enforcement during an incident to aid their response efforts.
- Post-Incident Support: Recognize that an active shooter incident can have long-lasting psychological effects on staff and patients. Provide access to counseling services and implement debriefing sessions to help individuals cope with the aftermath of the incident.
While the thought of an active shooter incident is distressing, healthcare facilities must prioritize the safety and well-being of their staff and patients. By implementing comprehensive response plans, conducting regular training, and fostering collaboration with law enforcement, healthcare professionals can effectively respond to these threats. It is crucial to remain vigilant, prepared, and proactive in order to minimize the impact of active shooter incidents and maintain a safe environment for all within the healthcare setting.
Dr. Charles Denham II
Dr. Gregory Botz
Charles Denham III