By Lonni Nicoll and Julie Black
Samaritan Albany General Hospital hosted an active shooter drill Oct. 22, 2013. Health Security, Preparedness and Response’s (HSPR) own Lonni Nicoll, HPP liaison for Region 2, participated as an observer and evaluator. This "Code Silver" exercise tested the hospital’s internal procedures as well as staff response to an active shooter arriving at the facility and opening fire. The Albany Police Department responded through 9-1-1 and their local dispatch. They were in full play for the exercise and attended the post-exercise hotwash discussion.
The exercise began with shots heard coming from the bottom floor of the hospital. Staff responded with several overhead Code Silver announcements notifying staff of a shooter on the premises. Staff immediately cleared hallways, ducked under desks, turned off lights and locked themselves in rooms until the police gave an "all clear."
“These exercises are necessary to identify gaps in existing hospital policies. They also allow hospital personnel to physically practice procedures of a Code Silver incident,” says Lonni. “The hospital staff at Samaritan Albany General did an excellent job of immediately responding according to their procedures.”
Samaritan Albany General Hospital learned two primary lessons from this exercise. The first lesson being that active shooter incidents make the subject facility a crime scene. Doctors and nurses will naturally want to respond to the injured, but in these unique cases they cannot. When it is safe to do so, police with the assistance of EMS (if present) will triage living victims and take them to an exit point where nurses can move them to the emergency department for triage.
Hospital personnel will not be allowed to go to the areas where people were killed or injured because law enforcement must preserve the integrity of the crime scene and enact an evidence-gathering process. If this process is not done precisely according to procedure, the shooter has a chance of escaping charges based on the evidence at the scene being disturbed before it was properly documented.
The other takeaway is that police do not respond to victims down in an active shooter event. They step over the injured, regardless of the severity, and continue with their sole mission, which is to stop the shooter from killing or hurting anyone else. “Having your local police department present is valuable so that hospital personnel are aware of police processes and can revise internal policies according to how police handle these types of incidents.”
"Observing this drill was extremely helpful,” says
Lonni. “I appreciated the opportunity to partner up with the Samaritan Emergency Management and be assigned to follow the shooter during the actual drill. It gave me a chance to witness the response of those staff members who were in the path of the perpetrator. I was impressed with the hospital's level of preparedness and training."
All hospitals in partnership with their local police are encouraged to set up active shooter drills.
Next: Preparedness Moments to Remember