By: Aydrian Miles and Tonta Draper
Gun violence is a serious public health crisis and has been describe as a disease that is slowly destroying communities. Over the past decade, incidences of gun violence have steadily increased, which has put healthcare facilities at risk of becoming targets. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistic reports that the rate of injuries from violent attacks against medical professionals grew by 63 percent from 2011 to 2018.
Because they are focused on medical care, healthcare professionals are often distracted from the potential dangers that patients and personnel may pose with a weapon. Distraction can create a major challenge for healthcare facilities as there are often clearly visible warning signs prior to an event.
The false sense of security of being in a hospital has faded and now the healthcare community has shifted gears to more heightened physical security and training for personnel. Even with all these parameters in place, our medical professionals are still at risk for an Active shooter event. The unpredictability of would-be offenders can lead to increased injuries and loss of life.
Many facilities have established online workplace violence training or have held local law enforcement in-person active shooter discussions. While these techniques are great initial starts, more direct training that is customized to the specific needs of that facility accompanied with a threat assessment report would be effective. Law enforcement agencies routinely work closely with local healthcare facilities, but unfortunately are most engaged only when the active shooter is already onsite. Addressing the need for healthcare organizations to take additional proactive measures to develop in-depth individualize safety protocols and training can mean the difference in a life-or-death decision.
Many active shooter events occur with little to no warning and detecting unforeseen danger can be as problematic as finding a needle in a haystack. A personalized threat assessment report addresses an organization’s specific vulnerabilities that are essential to readiness and preparedness. Vigilance is also key to proactive approaches in observing co-workers, staff, patients, and persons visiting healthcare facilities. Being aware of potential warning signs and some behaviors to take notice are increased aggression, irritability, erratic, and even threats to harm oneself or others. Changes in staff work performance, distancing from colleagues, sudden personality shifts, or even stalking or harassing of patients/colleagues. People entering a healthcare facility should always have proper identification. The most common places a would-be shooting event will occur in healthcare is Emergency department, Outpatient Clinics, Parking Lots, Patient rooms, and Intensive Care Units.
There is no single effective method that will totally prevent an active shooter. Many healthcare organizations focus on Run, Hide, and Fight, or Avoid, Deny, and Defend training methods. The challenge of all those acronyms and trainings, they are missing key elements. So let’s ask some hard questions: Have medical professionals really been intensively trained in recognizing a potential violent offender? Have medical professionals been trained in threat recognition, non-verbal body language, or de-escalation techniques when assisting patients and their families? There is much emphasis placed on reaction when there is an active shooter and not enough on detection and prevention.
Aydrian Miles/CEO and Tonta Draper/President at Global Safety Professionals LLC (GSP). If you are interested in services visit GSP at www.globalsafetypros.com or Questions email GSP at firstname.lastname@example.org.