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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

HPP Grantee Pioneers Active Shooter Response Training

Gun shots ring through the emergency room. Do you run screaming from the building? Run toward the sound? Take cover?

In an active shooter situation in a hospital, the last thing you want is for the hospital staff to freeze. The staff needs to know what to do and how to respond in different situations. Protecting themselves or their patients can create gut wrenching dilemmas.

Local law enforcement officers also need to know how to get around community healthcare facilities and who to talk to in an emergency.

To help hospital staffs plan and train for active shooter events, the California Hospital Association Hospital Preparedness Program (CHA HPP) developed an active shooter response class. Funded through the California Department of Public Health by ASPR’s Hospital Preparedness Program, the class may be the first of its type in the nation.

The concept grew from feedback collected during an annual statewide disaster preparedness conference for hospitals sponsored by the California Hospital Association. Annual attendance at the two-and-a-half day event averages more than 800 people.

The association worked with University of California San Diego to offer an active shooter response workshop at the annual conference, but hospital staff said additional training was needed. Working for the CHA HPP, two association members from local hospitals conducted extensive research to develop an eight-hour active shooter class. The research showed, nationwide, there was nothing of this nature available based on hospital operations and there is no standardized way to train on this threat.

The class places participants in a traditional classroom setting for part a day and then in break out exercises for the remainder. They walk through how to plan for the situation, why it’s important, what’s unique about an active shooter in a hospital, the tactical response of law enforcement, and how the situation differs in a hospital versus in a school or other public venue. They also discuss run-hide-fight principles, the latest research and statistics on hospital based events, and tactics employed by law enforcement and hospital staff who will be responding to an active shooter event.

Instructors and participants talk about protecting employees as well as patients and visitors because hospitals cannot evacuate patients quickly enough to protect against an active shooter. They learn how to barricade in room, how to distract or incapacitate the shooter, and how to minimize a shooter’s movement through the hospital.

The association conducted five pilot classes and then began offering the class to California hospitals, from CEOs to security staff to volunteers. County public health, EMS and law enforcement officers also have participated in order to learn the unique aspects of an active shooter situation in a hospital, although hospitals receive priority seating.

To date, the association has offered the class 17 times, including the pilot classes and 2 classes out of state. Approximately 60 people fill each class.

Students are encouraged to use course materials to train further within their organization. Large hospitals and health systems have begun using the course’s videos for internal training, too. They are also encouraged to plan with law enforcement.

HPP funding also allowed the California Hospital Association to develop an emergency preparedness website with tools and resources for hospitals. All hospitals in the state all are welcome to use the material and attend the training. The CHA Hospital Preparedness Program staff provide subject matter expertise to hospitals and counties throughout the state.

  • This page last reviewed: November 20, 2013