Your front desk team is likely to encounter angry patients from time to time, but when patients get violent, things can take a very stressful — and dangerous — turn. In some cases, that may mean your front desk team is confronted by someone with a weapon. Unfortunately, active shooter incidents have occurred at several medical facilities this year, and the best way to prepare for these situations is to create a strategy up front so your entire staff knows what steps to take to protect themselves and your other patients.
Consider the following steps to create an exit plan that your entire staff can follow if you’re confronted with an active shooter.
Your active shooter plan should start with training your staff to run if an active shooter enters — that means leaving behind belongings and making your way toward the exit. But in some cases, your team members may not be aware of the nearest exits, so your active shooter training should include a map of all of your office exits, and where they lead. Share that map with the entire team and walk them through it so everyone commits them to memory.
If your exits aren’t well marked or brightly lit, take the time to make them more visible. You don’t want to wait until an emergency happens to rectify hard-to-see exits.
Don’t Wait for Shooting to Start
If any of your team members see someone brandishing a weapon, they should immediately act without hesitation. When training your team, let them know that the first sign of a gun should prompt them to lock the doors, then head to the nearest exits immediately.
Head Away From Gunfire
If your team members are seeking the best exit among several options, you should instruct them to always move away from the sound of gunfire. Quick glances around corners can help them see if the shooter is near their desired escape route so they can head for the exit without putting themselves in the line of fire.
Stay Quiet When Escaping
Any sound of crying, screaming or running could sharpen the attention of an active shooter, and you don’t want the shooter to come looking for your staff. Let your staff know that as they make their way toward the exits, they should do so as quietly as possible.
After Getting to Safety, Call 911
As soon as your team members get somewhere safe, it’s important to call 911 immediately to report the active shooter to police. Train your team not to assume someone else has already called the police. It’s OK for multiple people to make that call, so it should be everyone’s highest priority after they get to safety. Also let them know that they should follow the 911 operator’s instructions to the letter without questioning them.
Hiding and Fighting Should Be Prioritized After Running
It’s important to reiterate that everyone’s first step if an active shooter enters your practice is to run. If your team members can’t run, then they should hide somewhere. Train them to lock the doors, turn off the lights, and silence their phones so a shooter can’t find them. If possible, block the doors with furniture or equipment and remain as still as possible.
Fighting the shooter should be an absolute last resort. Let your staff know they should try to throw objects at the shooter if they’re face to face with them to distract them long enough to get away. If your team members have no other choice but to get into a physical fight with the shooter, it’s a good idea to try and incapacitate them long enough to get away. Your team’s first priority should always be finding a way to separate themselves from the shooter until the police can de-escalate the situation
To learn more about how to deal with violent patients, check out the online training session, Front Desk Active Shooter Survival Strategies, presented by John White, CPP, CHPA. During the 60-minute training, you’ll find out how to prevent incidents before they start, and how to calm patients who are already upset.
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