Why it is Harder for Healthcare Facilities to Defend against Active Shooter Threats

Picture of Andrea Lebron By Andrea Lebron

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active shooter threatsHealthcare facilities find it harder to defend against active shooter threats than other soft targets because shooters in healthcare environments often have more personal targets and an apparently lawful purpose for entering the facility. The issue can be further complicated by healthcare providers remaining with vulnerable and elderly patients, and placing themselves at risk of injury.

Most active shooter events are impersonal in nature. Some - such as the Mandalay Bay shooting in Las Vegas last fall - are totally indiscriminate, while others - such as the recent Kroger grocery store shooting in Kentucky - are motivated by the hatred of a group of people due to their race, religious beliefs, or sexuality. Rarely is an active shooter motivated by the desire to kill or injure a person known to them.

The exception to this “rule” is active shooter events in healthcare environments. These can be both impersonal and personal in nature, and are commonly motivated by personal grudges, euthanizing an ill relative, or suicide. In many cases, the perpetrator had a lawful purpose for entering the facilities and would have passed ID checks to visit personnel, ill relatives, or physicians. Examples include:

  • In November 2018, Juan Lopez entered the Mercy Hospital in Chicago on the premise of wanting to see his former fiancé Dr. Tamara O´Neal. Lopez started an argument with O´Neal, which concluded with four deaths - Lopez, O´Neal, a pharmaceutical resident, and a police officer.
  • In August 2018, Richard DeLucia entered the Westchester Medical Center in New York to visit his terminally ill wife, Anne. DeLucia killed his wife before turning his gun on himself. Police later found a note at the couple´s home stating DeLucia wanted to end his wife´s suffering.
  • In November 2010, John Jack - a former employee of the Palm Bay Hospital in Florida - turned up at the hospital ostensibly to say goodbye to his former colleagues. Although having no grudge against his former employer, Jack went into a back office and killed himself.Read the Latest Workplace Violence Statistics

Metal Detectors and Armed Guards are Not the Answer

The installation of metal detectors at healthcare facilities does not necessarily stop active shooters. There has been a history of active shooters using guards´ guns to attempt an escape from Emergency Departments while in custody or while detained as a psychiatric patient. Research conducted in 2012 found that, of thirty shooting incidents in Emergency Departments between 200 and 2011, half were committed with a guard´s gun, while five other in-hospital events were also committed with a gun taken from a guard or other security personnel.

For this reason, many healthcare facilities are reluctant to arm guards with any form of weapon - especially as nursing staff feel compelled to remain with vulnerable and elderly patients rather than follow the recommended course of action in an active shooter scenario of run, hide, or fight. Instead, healthcare facilities are using technology to mitigate the potential consequences of an active shooter on their premises and give nursing staff as much warning as possible about the risk of danger.

Mitigating Potential Consequences with a Multifaceted Crisis Communications Platform

One of the technologies being implemented to help healthcare facilities communicate with employees during an emergency is a mass notification system. Having a system that would allow hospitals and healthcare facilities to communicate with all of their personnel, whether they’re on-site, working in the field or traveling to different locations, is vital so they can continue business operations, especially during an emergency. A multifaceted crisis communications platform would allow you to have two-way communications over multiple channels with all of your healthcare staff wherever they’re located, such as at the hospital, another part of campus or in a patient’s home. It would help you respond to your healthcare staff’s needs, offer them guidance and keep them safe.

If an incident occurs and you need to know about the safety and security of your traveling nurses, in-home caregivers and others, you can send out a poll to collect real-time location data of your traveling employees. A poll-based alerting system that’s integrated with your organization-wide mass notification platform allows you to gather poll responses and real-time location data from a select group of your workers through text and email. Through polling, your traveling healthcare staff employees can answer a question through email or a SMS text, automatically sharing their real-time locations. For example, if an adverse event occurs and you want to check on your staff, a poll can be sent out for a status update. Automatic follow-up alerts then can be sent out based on your traveling healthcare staff’s response and outline the necessary next steps.

Another way to empower your healthcare personnel to be ready for any situation is through an employee safety app. An employee safety app would help them if they need to act in an emergency or dangerous situation, while strengthening your connection with your staff. RNs, LPNs, personal healthcare aides and others would be instantly connected
to your emergency managers and other staff, so they can inform your safety and security personnel about what’s going on. Emergency procedures then could begin quicker. An employee safety app also would include an emergency call button, as well as the ability for
your healthcare staff to travel with a virtual escort and you to send targeted notifications.

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Written by Andrea Lebron

Andrea is Rave's Director of Digital Marketing, a master brainstormer and avid coffee drinker. Andrea joined Rave in August 2017, after 10 years of proposal and corporate marketing at an environmental engineering firm. You'll find her working with her amazing team in writing and producing blogs like this one, improving your journey to and through our website, and serving you up the best email content. When she's not in front of a keyboard, she's chasing after her three daughters or indulging in her husband's latest recipe. Andrea has a Bachelor's degree in Marketing/Management from Northeastern University and an MBA from Curry College.

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