First responders discuss response plan for active gunman scenario
Published 8:49 am Thursday, January 15, 2015
What would you do if an armed and angry individual came into your workplace?
That is the situation local emergency responders discussed during a tabletop planning exercise with officials at Sycamore Shoals Hospital Wednesday morning.
During the exercise, representatives of the Elizabethton Police Department, Carter County Sheriff’s Department, Carter County Constables Association, Carter County 911 and the Emergency Management Agencies from Carter, Johnson and Washington Counties talked through a theoretical situation in which an active gunman entered SSH and started firing into a crowd.
Carter County EMA Director Gary Smith said Wednesday’s session allowed local emergency responders and hospital leaders to begin outlining a plan for such an emergency.
“We are working with Mountain States Health Alliance to develop a plan for how we would deal with an active assailant in the hospital,” Smith said. “We stepped through different generic scenarios and got input from the different agencies to see how they would respond. Unfortunately, this is becoming a more common thing and we need to have a plan for it.”
SSH Site Manager for Engineering Services Sam Willis said Wednesday’s gathering was a first for the hospital.
“This is the first real planning meeting we have had,” Willis said. “We want everyone together to work on this plan.”
Smith presented the responders with a scenario in which an unidentified, disheveled male approaches the information counter and demands to speak to the “big boss” of SSH. The man becomes increasingly aggressive and starts frightening visitors and patients. The clerk is unable to calm the man down as he continues his rant in the hospital.
“His basic complaint is that a family member died, “ Smith said. “He blames the hospital and now he has gotten a bill for it.”
In the scenario, the man then pulls a gun and begins firing into the hospital, wounding or killing patients, staff and visitors. Since the time the man came into the hospital, calls have been going into 911 reporting the situation, but after the shooting begins, the 911 switchboard is overwhelmed.
Police arrive on the scene as people are fleeing. The gunman makes his way to the second floor where he takes some patients hostage and barricades himself in a room.
After presenting the case, Smith and the emergency officials discussed their plan.
EPD and CCSD officers discussed arrival on the scene. EPD Chief Greg Workman, who would also be the incident commander in such a situation, said once shots were fired, mutual aid would be requested from the county.
A perimeter would be set up around the hospital and traffic along West Elk Avenue would be diverted while nearby schools were locked down.
The Carter County Rescue Squad would be staged away from the active scene until officers called “all clear” for them to enter and remove the wounded for treatment. At this point, the investigation could begin.
After all the discussion of the theoretical shooting incident was over, Smith said the panel discussed many good points.
“This is the start of a plan,” he said. “There are a lot of ‘what ifs’ but these scenarios are unpredictable, and we need to plan for that.”
Willis said the next step would be to have an internal active shooter drill to give SSH employees and first responders a chance to play out their responses to a possible shooting scenario.