As much as I hate to admit it, as we consider the possible threats to our facility’s safety, in light of recent senseless events both here and abroad, it may be more likely to have to deal with a violent individual than a tornado or hurricane. We hear about violence within healthcare more often as well. With the motto of prepare for the worst and expect the best, I recently prepared for and presented an in-service to educate staff on the risk. Although much of it is common sense, there are some key points I learned that could be lifesaving that I thought I would share.
I utilized the wealth of information found on the Department of Homeland Security website. The focus of being prepared is the RUN-HIDE-FIGHT response.
Once an active shooter is realized, everyone should run to the nearest exit, leaving personal belongings behind with hands up. Try to avoid corridors or areas that are confining as you exit. As you evacuate, encourage others to run as well, but it is advised not to take time to assist or convince others to leave. This is difficult, of course, since we are trained helpers. However, this is about survival and what works. Delaying your exit may prevent your ability to exit at all. Once safely outside of the facility, continue moving to your set evacuation point away from potential harm or as law enforcement directs.
If running is not an option, the next plan is to hide. The best places are behind locked doors. If there are no areas that lock, consider barricading the door with items around you. If hiding is the option, be sure to put your phone on silent. If an active shooter is searching quietly for more people, the ensuing silence will allow for hearing cell phones vibrate. If possible, evaluate your surrounding for potential weapons. Fire extinguishers are a real consideration. Chairs can work too.
If confronted by an active shooter, the best defense is offense. Be aggressive. You may be fighting for your life and the lives of others. It it very scary to consider this option, but it may be your only one. Using that fire extinguisher to disarm the shooter may work, and has for others in this situation.
Communication is key. If you evacuate the area safety, be prepared to provide law enforcement as much information as possible. Things like how many offenders, last location, ways to identify the shooter, and any other key observations may be significant in ending the incident.
Preparation is important. As uncomfortable as it is to think about an active shooter in your environment, consider what you would do if faced with dealing with the situation. What areas would be best to shelter in place if necessary? What evacuation routes allow for cover? What “weapons” are in the facility (fire extinguishers, chairs, even IV poles!)
As mentioned, the DHS website has great information to prepare. You can find more information here.
We can only hope that these terrible incidents will stop happening, but we need to be vigilant in being prepared for this hopefully never event. If you lead others in preparation, I found it helped to acknowledge how uncomfortable the subject, and have everyone relate their personal perception on how best to respond. I also reminded everyone that talking about it alone allows you to prepare personally, and may lead to a more effective response if necessary. Count the activity as a disaster drill when complete, and, like all things we consider never events, I hope for all of us that these skills never become necessary.