A June shooting at a Bronx hospital that left one doctor dead re-sharpened the focus on how facilities can prepare for these highly shocking and traumatic events.
Shooting incidents in hospitals remain relatively rare, according to studies, but that doesn’t mean employees should be complacent or adopt a “this could never happen here” attitude, Baker Donelson’s Emily Wein told me.
Wein advised training employees to recognize threats, to identify and speak to potentially “problematic” people as they enter the facility, and to follow protocols in place to protect patients from a shooter. She also advised working with law enforcement to train employees, identify security weaknesses, and help police respond in an emergency.
In addition, communicating with the community about active shooting incidents—before, during, and after—can help restore a hospital’s reputation for safety should an event occur, David Jarrard, of Jarrard, Phillips, Cate & Hancock Inc., told me. Jarrard’s firm works with health-care industry clients to develop communications strategies addressing a variety of situations.
Jarrard said hospital management must recognize they can’t control the message completely, but they can help minimize the damage to the facility’s reputation caused by an active shooter event. He recommended developing a crisis communications policy in advance, similar to one the hospital would use in any other emergency situation, such as a hurricane or earthquake.
Have a social media policy and ensure employees know its parameters, so they can help get out the message that the hospital has prepared for the event and is doing everything possible to protect its patients, he said. Jarrard also recommended preparing a “black” website on which information about the event can be posted.
My takeaways? Dealing with an active shooter is never easy, but preparing in order to minimize employee and patient risks, and managing the message after an incident, can help the institution and community recover more quickly.
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