Prepare Your Hospital for an Active Shooter Emergency
“Emergency! A suspect with a weapon is in the building. Go into the nearest room and lock the door.”
Even during a hospital emergency preparedness drill, seeing a mass notification of an active shooter can raise goosebumps. But with active shooter incidents on the rise, it’s never been more important to be prepared for this type of emergency.
Get the facts on active shooters in hospitals
- Active shooter incidents in hospital settings have been increasing. Rates increased from 9 per year from 2000-2005 to 17 per year from 2006-2011, and further to 20 in 2015.
- Active shooter incidents can happen anywhere. They are just as likely to occur in rural and urban hospitals.
- Preparedness and training is key. After a single active shooter simulation, 92% of staff felt more prepared.
Not a drill: Suspect with a weapon is in the building
When the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago faced an active shooter crisis, they took quick steps to protect staff and patients. A man with a semi-automatic rifle began firing at the hospital from the outside on the afternoon of August 12, 2019. After shattering the glass of the hospital entrance, he went into the hospital, still firing.
Using LiveProcess, the hospital sent an active shooter mass notification to more than 3,500 employees instantly, with instructions to take cover. Law enforcement responded swiftly, and within 30 seconds of the shooter entering the building, they had apprehended the suspect. No one was injured.
Nevertheless, the hospital was still an active crime scene until officials could determine that the threat was completely over. Thinking the incident had ended, some hospital staff members began to emerge from their hiding places. The hospital sent another mass notification, informing everyone to remain in place until receiving the official all clear. Fortunately, the all clear followed soon after, and the hospital was able to resume normal operations.
The FBI agent in charge of the case told reporters, “I cannot tell you, with all of the things that are going on in this country right now, how lucky we are and how blessed the city of Chicago is that we are out here talking about a subject who is in custody but did not hurt anyone.”
Emergency preparedness for an active shooter event
This is almost a best-case scenario for an active shooter event: no casualties, quick dissemination of information, and a swift resolution. In other scenarios, the communication and coordination needs can be more complicated:
- Calling a de-escalation or behavioral health team crisis code
- Locking down certain units or floors
- Evacuating onsite patients and alerting scheduled arrivals
- Contacting the families of patients and/or staff
Active shooter events outside the hospital may also require hospital response. A mass shooting will trigger trauma preparation even before the first victim arrives. Depending on the scale of the event, hospitals will need to initiate resource reallocation, collaboration with other healthcare facilities, and staff realignments as quickly as possible.
An active shooter threat in a school setting can cause additional stress and fear, especially when hospital staff are also parents of those students. Maintaining situational awareness and keeping staff informed will help maintain focus and calm. Notifications should inform parents of the ongoing situation and what actions have been implemented.
Making active shooter preparedness a part of your hospital emergency communications program will enable you respond to any of these scenarios swiftly.
- Get a 10-point checklist to prepare for workplace violence in hospitals.
- How LiveProcess helps hospitals, long-term care, health systems, and healthcare coalitions prepare for workplace violence and disaster management
- Learn how the threat of hospital workplace violence contributes to nursing burnout and strategies to address the problem.
- How LiveProcess can help your healthcare organization across all phases of emergency management, including planning, mobilization, coordination & collaboration, and tracking
Terry Zysk, CEO of LiveProcess, has more than two decades of experience in leading organizations that provide innovative solutions to the healthcare industry.