Active Shooter Training and Nurses: What You Need to Know
Active shooter events dominate the news. Paris, Colorado and California- people in places they thought were safe. The truth is none of us are safe any time, any where. While the odds of being killed or injured are very low, it happens to somebody. Terrorism is becoming a fact of life.
As nurses, we need to understand how to protect ourselves and our patients.
Surviving an Active Shooter Event
Knowing what to do in an active shooter situation can mean the difference between life and death. The following video from the FBI site “dramatizes an active shooter incident in the workplace. Its purpose is to educate the public on how to respond during such an incident.” Please watch it and increase your chances of surviving an active shooter event.
Run. Hide. Fight.
If you can’t hear the audio, the transcript can be found here.
The FBI site has a document that specifically applies to addressing threats in a health care setting.
The Department of Homeland Security also has a training video demonstrating “possible actions to take if confronted with an active shooter scenario. The video also shows how to assist authorities once law enforcement enters the scene.” Click on the play button to watch this video on You Tube.
Options for Consideration Active Shooter Training Video
The Department of Homeland Security website also has informative materials to print.
Difficult Challenges for Nurses
Active shooter events in a healthcare setting present unique challenges
- A potentially large vulnerable patient population
- Hazardous materials (including infectious disease)
- Locked units
- Special challenges (such as weapons and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines (these machines contain large magnets which can cause issues with firearms, or remove it from the hands of law enforcement)
Ethical Decisions for Nurses
Last week I attended a class sponsored by my employer (a large hospital) on how to respond to an active shooter event. It covered the major points in the videos above. Run. Hide. Fight. But there were a few things I was shocked to learn:
- Do not stop to help an injured coworker or friend.
- Leave the patients behind. Every man for himself.
Wait – what? Leave a coworker or friend behind? Step over them to save myself? Leave my patients? But I am responsible for them. Most of my labor and delivery patients have an epidural. They can’t run or hide. And what about the babies? Or the patient on the OR table, surgery in progress?
As a nurse, my first instinct and gut reaction is to help the sick and injured. Walking away is not an option. Abandonment is cause for revoking a nursing license. We are healers. Running and leaving them behind goes against every thing I believe. But it is what nurses must do.
Lt. Mike Madden, a first responder to the San Bernardino scene, describes what it’s like to face the unthinkable:
I hope I never have to make the decisions he made that day.
- First responders are not coming to help you. Their only objective is to neutralize the threat.
- After the initial threat is neutralized, the scene is searched for additional threats (more shooters, bombs, etc).
- It may be two hours or more before help arrives to tend the injured and evacuate the building.
The Bottom Line
Knowing what to do in an active shooter situation can mean the difference between life and death. As nurses, we need to understand the do’s and don’ts, the challenges we face and the decisions we must make.