Archive August 2014 XV, No. 8

The Surgeons' Lounge: Active Shooter Situation

How Would You Respond to an Armed Intruder?

Jennifer Collins, CMOM, CASC


How Would You Respond to an Armed Intruder?

armed intruder NEW THREAT Have your trained your staff to protect themselves against an armed intruder?

We’d just finished a bomb threat drill when one of my staff asked a good question: How would we handle a shooting situation? Our center didn’t have a policy or emergency plan for such an event, but in light of the recent rash of armed intruders harming and killing innocent people in public places, we decided we needed one.

Plus, our surgery center specializes in spine and pain procedures. We see a lot of pain patients, most of whom are repeat patients. The nature of our business and the types of drugs we keep on hand made us feel that we may be more vulnerable to an armed attack than most surgical facilities. Then there’s the nature of the economy. With higher deductible plans forcing patients to pay upfront, it’s no secret that surgical facilities collect cash from patients. Here’s what we did.

  • Create a policy. You’ll find useful information for creating your policy at the Department of Homeland Security website.
  • Meet with your local police department. My management team and I asked our local police department to tour our center and meet with us. The officers gave us great tips for our exit strategies, our “safe haven” areas and how to better secure different areas of our facility. They reminded us that armed intruders do not always attack with guns; they can also show up with knives, baseball bats and other harmful objects. The officers suggested we watch a 6-minute YouTube video called “RUN HIDE FIGHT Surviving an Active Shooter” (, in which actors role-play a shooting in an office building setting.
  • Put together a drill. We then sat down and began to put together an annual plan/drill that would work best for our facility. Our drill consisted of walking through several different scenarios — intruder in building hallway, intruder in waiting room, intruder in PACU area. This was followed by an open discussion with staff, which was difficult and uncomfortable to have. No one wants to think about the possibility of such a terrible event occurring in their workplace. But as uncomfortable and stressful as it may be, it is imperative to take the time now to plan and train your staff.
  • Safeguard your facility. We added new locks to several doors throughout the center to create the “safe haven” areas. We installed several digital touch-code locking mechanisms that would prevent any unauthorized visitors from entering the business office or PACU area from our waiting room area. We also installed a “panic button” at our front desk that, when pushed, sends an alarm notification to our local police department. We are currently researching different kinds of protective glass for our front reception area.

Police officers warned us that during these types of situations, no one can predict how any one person will react. Some staff may be calm under this kind of situation and others may panic. Management can only provide staff with several options and choices for their protection and safety. We all hope that this type of event never occurs. It’s always best to be prepared, however. We will be practicing this drill each year from now on.

— Jennifer A. Collins, CMOM, CASC

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