DHS releases Action Guide for hospitals and healthcare facilities faced with an active gun shooter

May 21, 2019

The Department of Homeland Security has released guidance for hospitals and healthcare facilities in the event they must deal with an “active shooter incident.” These incidents, says DHS, are tricky because they have no patterns in victim selection or method, creating an unpredictable and quickly evolving situation that can lead to loss of life and injury.

The agency says numerous factors associated with hospital and healthcare environments complicate traditional response to active shooter incidents, including the “duty-to-care,” also known as “duty-to-act,” commitment and the varying levels of patient mobility and patient special needs. Additionally, DHS says staff must consider response planning for patients that require the greatest allocation of resources, as well as the unique characteristics within the hospital and healthcare environment.

Between 2000-2017, there were hundreds of hospital related shootings, according to DHS and that they continue to increase, including several notable incidents:

·   On June 30, 2017, a doctor formerly employed at the Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center killed another doctor and wounded six others before committing suicide. 

·   On July 17, 2016, a shooter randomly opened fire at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, FL, and killed an elderly man and a hospital employee. 

·   On December 17, 2013, a former patient shot and killed a former doctor at Urology of Nevada on Renown Regional Medical Center Campus in Reno; he also wounded another doctor and patient before committing suicide.

Below are several potential warning signs that DHS says may be applicable to staff, patients, visitors, students, contractors, and volunteers:

·    Individual presents increasingly erratic, unsafe, or aggressive behaviors

·    Individual threatens harm to themselves or others

·    Claims of marginalization or distancing from friends and colleagues

·    Changes in performance at work by staff member

·    Sudden and dramatic changes in home life or personality

·    Appearing out of place in staff-only, restricted access locations

·    Stalking/harassing of staff/patients

·    Observable grievances and making statements of retribution

·    Auditory indicators and menacing, antagonistic behavior

·    Staff, students, contractors and volunteers not displaying proper identification such as an ID badge

In the event of an active shooter, there is no single method that is guaranteed to be effective. The Department of Homeland Security recommends the “Run, Hide, Fight” strategy, which provides three options in order of preference.