Healthcare needs to get real about active shooters

By: October 27th, 2015 Email This Post Print This Post

I had the pleasure yesterday of spending a day at the 2015 annual conference of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), which is being held here in my beautiful hometown of Boston.

Being in the safety business, I sat in on a session about active shooter response preparation in healthcare facilities, led by an emergency physician and security director with Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. I didn’t leave with that feeling like we have our collective act together.

Are we really ready for someone to come into our hospitals with a gun, bent on causing mass carnage?

First, let’s start with the numbers. From 2000-2007, there were “only” about 6 shootings a year. From 2007 to today, the numbers jumped to 17 per year.

Many facilities are following the government’s recommendations to “run, hide, and fight” when confronted with a gunman. That’s fine training, if you’re in an office building. Run first, hide when you can, and fight back as a last resort.

But that won’t fly in hospitals and clinics where people are counting on you to help them survive. Poll numbers I heard quoted estimate that at least 40% of healthcare staff wouldn’t leave their patients’ sides, even when confronted with a shooter.

Hospitals need to train their staff to stay alive. Most active shooter incidents end within 7 minutes, and doctors and nurses are then required to turn around and treat the wounded and prevent as much death as possible.

So my question is this: What are you doing to prepare for an active shooter in your facility? Do you have specific plans? Are you training your staff, and what resources are you using?

Please drop me a line at and share your thoughts on this very real threat.


John Palmer



By Sue Callahan on October 28th, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Hi John.

I work in a Long Term Care Community and our staff work as caretakers for residents who are no longer able to care for themselves. I can see many of them stepping up to care for and keep safe their charges. Many become like family.

We have a sheriff in our community who will speak to staff about the run, hide, fight philosophy. We will still educate our staff on how to keep themselves safe but I see many of them stepping up for their residents first. Our caregivers are the greatest! In this scenario, we need to teach them to protect themselves first…

By Victoria Pruitt on October 28th, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Policies, practice and more practice, a well trained staff will most likely respond appropriately and it may increase their chance for survival. We encourage our hospitals and facilities to partner with local law enforcement to include our facilities and hospitals in their community training as well conduct in-house drills at least annually. I agree, run, hide, fight works well here at the corporate office, that is why training and the policy for our hospitals and facilities use a lock down procedure knowing staff will stay in place and not leave their patients. Recently we have revised our policy to include providing local law enforcement with blue prints of the facilities and key or code access to the building as standard procedure, therefore if an incident should occur, law enforcement will have access to the building. Most of our facilities have no weapons allowed signs on the entrances, metal detectors have been discussed. I agree violence in our hospitals is a serious threat and requires our immediate attention.


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