BMN Blog

MAR 19
Healthcare Staff: Are You Prepared for an Active Shooter?

We have heard a lot from the media on active shooter events throughout the U.S., but how many of these include healthcare facilities? The Homeland Security and the FBI define “active shooter” as “an event where one or more persons actively engage in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” Statistics show active shooter incidents involving healthcare facilities are less common than other events, but they can occur, so planning may save lives.


Because hospitals are open to the public with many entrances and exits, securing the building presents specific challenges. Hospitals serve some vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or handicapped. Many are unable to run from the situation which places them at higher risk.


According to a John Hopkins study on hospital shootings, many took place outside the building or near the entrances, so metal detectors could not have prevented these events. The same study indicated that from 2000 to 2011 there were 154 hospital-based shootings. 30 percent of these occurred in emergency departments.


What have you done to train staff on Active Shooter events? Hospitals are required by CMS to include workplace violence education into Emergency Preparedness planning and training. However, clinics and other healthcare organizations may also need to initiate training. In developing plans, you should first assess for safe areas and exits. Have an emergency number to activate local law enforcement.


With any active shooter situation, be aware of your environment and any possible dangers. If possible, look for at least two of the nearest exits whenever you are in any facility. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, should you be involved in an Active Shooter event, remember run, hide, fight.



  • Have an escape route and plan in mind; make sure patients and visitors are safe
  • Leave your belongings behind
  • Keep your hands visible
  • Call 911 when it is safe to do so



  • Hide in an area out of the shooter’s view – preferably in a locked area if you cannot exit the facility
  • Block or lock entry doors to your hiding place and if there are any windows shut shades and turn off lights
  • Silence cell phones



  • Only fight as a last resort if you are confronted directly by the shooter and if your life is in imminent danger
  • Attempt to incapacitate the shooter by throwing objects at the shooter, use a fire extinguisher if nearby


Additional Safety Tips:

  • Keep all unnecessary exterior doors locked (personnel may enter by badge, key, or code only)
  • ID checks for visitors entering and sign-in processes
  • Do not share any entry codes with others
  • Do not prop locked doors for any reason
  • Practice situational awareness - pay more attention to who is around you and what they are doing
  • Knowing how many personnel can hide in any given area is important
  • Practice knowing exits and situational awareness everywhere you go
  • Identify potential triggers in your department (waiting, lack of feeling informed, history of violence, etc.)
  • Install metal detectors at entrances, especially in the emergency department


You may not prevent all shooter events but putting processes in place for becoming more aware of situations that may trigger an event can save lives.


Teresa Fields, Debbie Franklin, Marie Howatt, and Lisa Rawlings are with Inspirien.

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