Responding to active shooters in hospitals

IAHSS President-Elect Lisa Pryse covers industry best practices in SIW webinar


During active shooter scenarios, the Department of Homeland Security recommends that people evacuate, hide out or as a last resort, take action against the gunman. The IAHSS also has its own guidelines for active shooter response, which includes; having a multidisciplinary team appointed by the healthcare facility to designate, in writing, its plan for responding to an active shooter on its campus in conjunction with local law enforcement authorities; establishing communication procedures that include the creation of a specific announcement and procedure to institute a response; having a campus-wide notification system that alerts staff members to the threat through multiple modes of communications (i.e. text messaging, digital displays, emails, intercoms, etc.); and, education for employees on awareness, reporting and response to an active shooter.

When it comes to alerts sent out to staff members, Pryse emphasized the importance of plain language rather than using a code.

"Probably a few years ago I would have said code... but plain language is where our incident command system has gone," she explained.

In addition to the IAHSS guidelines, Pryse added that the Joint Commission also has suggested actions that healthcare organizations can take to prevent violence, which include:

  • Working with the security department to audit a facility's risk of violence.
  • Identifying strengths and weaknesses to make improvements to the facility's violence prevention program.
  • Taking extra security precautions in the emergency department.
  • Conducting thorough prescreening of job applicants and volunteers.
  • Training for staff members in dealing with patients' families.
  • Having procedures in place for notifying managers and others about workplace violence.
  • And, establishing counseling programs for employees that become victims of workplace violence.

While some people may still take the attitude that "it can't happen here," Pryse said those feelings can be changed through training.

"It really starts with some good training, not scare tactics, just good training," she said.

For more information about the IAHSS' active shooter guidelines, visit www.iahss.org. Click here to listen to the entire webinar.