Locations once considered safe havens such as schools, places of worship and healthcare institutions are no longer immune to acts of violence and, in worst case scenarios, active shooter incidents. In a webinar, Connie Packard, Executive Director of Support Services, Deputy Chief Public Safety for Boston Medical Center discussed ways that the external and internal environment can be used to mitigate risk, tools that are available to help, and standards and guidelines aimed at preventing violence.
Packard described the elements of a workplace violence prevention and response plan, how to develop an action plan for assessing active shooter risk, how to train groups most likely to be impacted and the integration of preventative and response measures built in to the environment.
Active shooters are unpredictable and sometimes unprovoked as to when they will occur and why, Packard said. Therefore, it’s important to assess your risk vulnerabilities on an annual basis and examine your emergency operations plans.
You also need to ask how you share your risk assessment and make people aware that you have done it. Many security teams will do an annual risk assessment, but many others will do a new risk assessment whenever a new risk comes to your facility, she said.
“Do you know your abilities, capabilities and who is part of your crisis response teams?” she asked. “You can start by doing exercises and drills, over and over again. Practice gains confidence. Train for real incidents, gain leadership support and implement policies on workplace violence,” she noted. “We have recently updated ours to now include social media incidents, bullying, and other forms of harassment.”
With health care facilities, Packard noted that it’s not easy for employees to run, hide and fight, when they have patients to take care “We turned it around a bit to Get out, Hide out, Call out and Take out. Whatever term you use, any alert system that you have will help you to control fact from fiction.”
In addition, she said, “In healthcare, we have learned that staffing and response of your security program looks different in terms of the time of day. Do you have enough staff and response at 2:00 am that you have at 2:00 pm? That will help with your workplace violence policy assessment,” she said.
For healthcare facilities, active shooter planning should consider risk due to the location of the healthcare facility, risks associated with the types of services provided, history of violence/potential of violence, access to facilities, use of IAHSS design security guidelines, use of safe rooms, alternate entry/egress points, and more.
One lesson she shared that she learned during an active shooter drill, she said, “In one of our drills, people accurately and quickly did shelter barricade in place, yet they had no idea which room they were in, because they had never used that room before. So now we put the room number inside the door on the door frame so that people can identify where they are.”
Overall, Packard emphasized best practices for hospitals that incorporates “See Something, Say Something”; incorporating first responders, educating through training, drills and exercises; and having recovery and counseling services available, if an active shooter event should take place.