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When guns get into hospitals: How hospitals protect employees, patients, and visitors from gun violence

The horror of gun violence in public places has become all too common in our nation. Active shooter incidents have impacted many in our nation’s public spaces, requiring workplaces, schools, healthcare facilities, and others to prepare response protocols.

Communities depend on their hospitals to always be there to help cope with a variety of emergencies, including disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and man-made incidents and attacks. In hospitals and other healthcare facilities, a variety of unique factors make preventing and responding to an active shooter situation—an emergency that could happen within a facility’s own walls—particularly challenging. For example:

  • patients typically cannot run and hide due to age, injury, illness, or medical procedures already in progress;
  • family and friends often do not know how to navigate hospital hallways, making the nearest exits hard to find, especially when they are in a panic; and
  • doctors, nurses, and other care team members often feel compelled to protect and care for their patients rather than leave them, even in the event of an active shooter.

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities throughout New York State and nationwide remain focused on preventing active shooter incidents and preparing to execute quick and effective responses should one occur.

These prevention and preparation efforts include but are not limited to:

  • risk and impact assessments: Healthcare facilities continuously assess, mitigate, and, where possible, eliminate hazards and vulnerabilities to employee and patient safety. This ongoing vigilance keeps employees aware of the risks posed by active shooters and, combined with other efforts, serves as a key part of every hospital’s prevention efforts.
  • ongoing staff training: Healthcare facilities provide regular training to staff, teaching them what to do in the event of an active shooter situation. Drills take place in many facilities, giving staff the opportunity to walk-through their responsibilities in real-time.
  • security and technology enhancements: Healthcare facilities are constantly evolving their security protocols and upgrading technology to help restrict dangerous individuals’ access to vulnerable patients, as well as alert and protect individuals in facilities should an emergency take place.

Communities depend on their hospitals to care for them should disasters occur. They should feel comfort in knowing that New York hospitals are working hard to prevent gun violence from going beyond the long-standing safety of their hospital doors.