By now, healthcare facilities are familiar with the CMS emergency preparedness rule. This rule provides “best practices” for disaster and emergency preparedness. But many sites, especially long-term care facilities, often overlook preparedness when it comes to an active shooter/armed intruder emergency. While it is a difficult scenario to think about, it is something that must be considered. Planning and preparation accordingly will ensure the best possible outcome in the event of such a tragedy.
Long-term care facilities face especially difficult challenges with regard to an active shooter event. With residents requiring varying levels of assistance and an environment that is often designed specifically to look and feel like a home, it can be challenging to imagine how an active shooter emergency would be best addressed. This is all the more reason to make planning and preparation for such an event a top priority. Below are four areas to help you start thinking about this very real threat:
Hazards Vulnerability Assessment (HVA)
This is where your team should list any and all potential hazards your facility could experience (including active shooter). In addition, you should indicate the likelihood of each hazard listed. This will help your team prioritize and focus on the most urgent areas of concern. For example, earthquake may be listed on every facility’s HVA. But if a facility is in California, the higher likelihood makes it a more urgent priority than for a facility in, say, Connecticut. Your risk assessment and planning and preparations all start based on the HVA, so make sure it’s as thorough as possible.
Communication with Local Emergency Responders
Be sure to reach out to your local emergency responders. Share and review your HVA with them and ask for their input – they will likely have suggestions to help you improve your plan. It’s important to communicate with these people who are likely to be the first responders to your facility in the event of an emergency. Describe and discuss your population with emergency responders so they have an understanding of who they could be dealing with in advance of an emergency.
Conduct Drills and Training
Almost everyone is familiar with fire drills. But training and preparing for an active shooter or other emergencies is just as critical. Drills should be done regularly, and be focused on specific emergencies (i.e. active shooter, fire, medical, etc). Practicing the specific functional aspects of preparation help ensure that your staff know exactly what to do in the case of any given event. While unpleasant to consider, unprepared personnel might freeze into inaction. When specific situations or events are practiced and drilled routinely, “muscle memory” kicks in when an event really happens.
This step can easily be overlooked or thought to be not that important. But documenting everything about your emergency preparedness is critical. Many think about documentation for training purposes. However, documenting many other facets of your planning can be beneficial as well. Below are just a few suggestions of things you should consider capturing along the path to emergency preparedness:
- Emergency planning and prep meeting minutes
- Discussions or meetings held with local emergency responders
- Outline of the steps and actions your facility has taken towards preparing for emergencies
Having documentation of such things is incredibly helpful as part of the planning and preparation process. And it can also become a valuable resource during post-event recovery. Being able to provide proof of your planning process, training records and other steps taken to prepare in advance for such an event can go a long way in the aftermath of an emergency.
As much as nobody expects such a tragedy at their facility, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Take the time now to make sure your facility and staff are prepared. Many excellent resources are available and below we’ve provided a few links to help get you started.
- Willis Towers Watson training overview of active shooter scenario in a senior living community
- Emergency planning checklist from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
- Crisis & Emergency Risk Communication from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Lastly, reach out to your local police and fire departments, your state’s health and human services department or even other local healthcare facilities. Our distributors would gladly help review your current security, fire safety and access control systems. They could also assist in specifying any new systems or upgrades that could help improve your facility’s safety. A wander management solution and real-time location system can ensure residents and patients don’t get into areas they shouldn’t, and help you know when and where everyone is at all times. Contact us today to learn more.
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