MENDOCINO Co., 8/2/19 — Hospital staff are no strangers to helping people in the wake of a disaster, but the possibility remains that a disaster, such as shooting or violent incident, could occur at a hospital as well. To help prepare staff to coordinate with local agencies in such an emergency, Adventist Health held an active shooter training in July, with the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, Willits Police Department, and the Little Lake Fire Department.
Here’s the full story from Adventist Health:
Multi-agency disaster response training held at Adventist Health Howard Memorial
Tuesday, July 30, 2019 (Willits, CA) – Hospitals are known for being a place of healing. But times have changed. While shootings in hospitals remain very rare, the reality is that, those institutions tasked with caring for the victims of violent incidents, are now also at risk of enduring them. And in disaster situations, teamwork between agencies and a coordinated response can save lives.
That’s why two weeks ago, Adventist Health Howard Memorial staff, along with Mendocino County Sherriff’s Office (MCSO), Willits Police Department (WPD) and Little Lake Fire Department (LLFD) came together for the first time to participate in an active shooter exercise early Sunday morning.
Lt. Jason Caudillo, MCSO and unit supervisor for the Mendocino County Multi-Agency SWAT team, worked with hospital staff to come up with three scenarios designed to test personnel from multiple agencies and their response.
With some hospital staff playing the part of civilians/patients, different scenarios happened in various locations in the hospital, each time followed by group discussion of lessons learned and what can be done better.
“While we gave the staff some information of where the scenarios were happening, they did not know much. The more realistic we can make the training, the better for them as it impacts their physical and emotional reaction. We want their reaction to be as real as possible and we want them to think quickly on their feet. A real mass casualty incident won’t have a warning, so we want to simulate that,” explains Caudillo.
“At the restaurant, we set up a situation where the suspect comes in and we have multiple victims,” explained Lt. Caudillo. “Officers from WPD and MCSO come in and confront the perpetrator and then the LLFD comes in, along with nurses to begin immediate care of people that have been injured.”
That is what makes this training different than others these emergency responders had hospital staff have done in the past.
“We’ve trained on mass casualty events in schools or in training facilities. It’s the first time, however, that we’ve done this integrated response with our partners in the fire, police and hospital staff,” said Chris Wilkes, LLFD chief.
“Active shooter situation is a law enforcement responsibility, but we are the rescue team for them. So having a training where we can put our skills to work and get our responders and law enforcement on the same page on how we can keep our responders safe and of course, provide treatment, that’s very valuable to us,” Chief Wilkes explains.
“It helps to be able to train in the actual place that the disaster can happen. We get to know the area, we familiarize ourselves with where the perpetrator might hide or areas we can use to our advantage. There were some key learnings that we get to take back to our staff and include as part of our own training,“ shared Sgt. Ricco McCoy from Willits Police Department.
“The collaboration and learning together here is so helpful. We’ve each done the same trainings in other places, but never together. Not only did we see how our officers will respond, but also how the other agencies will respond so we can really coordinate what we’re doing and save more lives should a real mass casualty event happen.”
Jason Wells, AHHM president, who also acted as one of the civilians in the scenario, says it was great seeing the teams working together. “Hospitals are supposed to be healing places and I hope a mass casualty event never happens here. But if it does, I feel good knowing that our team of first responders are prepared. The more prepared we are, the more lives we can save. Our community is incredibly blessed to have such dedicated group of first responders. “
Hospital staff face a different set of challenges when it comes to a mass casualty event. Patients inside a hospital at any given time have vastly different levels of training and mobility — making it difficult to apply standard advice to the medical environment, explains Amy Buckingham, emergency services director for the hospital, who organized the training with Lt. Caudillo.
“Most of the events we train for, such as active shooter or an outbreak of some sort may never happen —but it’s important for us to be prepared if they do,” she adds. “We would like to thank all of our agencies for taking the time to do this training, especially the Mendocino County Sherriff’s Office for working closely with us and sharing their expertise and time to help us organize this training,” Buckingham shared.
At the end of the two-hour training, Lt. Caudillo shares key lessons learned and pointers to remember. “Situational awareness is so important. Know your people, pay attention to things that are going on around you. Everywhere you go, start looking for the exits. You should always be thinking,’ where do I go if something happens? How can I protect myself and my patients?’”
“There is no perfect plan, but the act of planning is perfect. You can either be proactive or reactive. Wait until something happens and then hope for the best, or get educated about all the right tools and be prepared to know what you’re doing for an integrated response. In a real situation, there isn’t a lot of time to think. That’s why we train for this, so we can train to our response. We can’t afford to make mistakes because lives are at stake,” he concludes.