“My Boss Wants to do a Full-Scale Active Shooter Exercise”

Exercises aren’t done because “the CEO wants” but because of… (…)
 
You could almost hear the hesitation in his voice. The room fell silent. Two local cops, two State Police Sergeants, the head of EMS, my partner and I all squirmed and hoped one of the others would break the silence. Finally, the State Police First Sergeant asked,
 
“Does he really want us running around your hospital with our weapons out?
Because that’s what ‘full-scale, active shooter’ means.”
 
“What capabilities does he want to test?” I asked. Pointing to the cops across the room, I suggested, “These guys probably don’t need more practice shooting bad guys. They do that all the time. And your Emergency Department probably doesn’t need to prove they can sew up wounds. They do that all the time. So, what does he want to test?
 
 
Slowly, gently, we helped the hospital’s Preparedness Director peel back the layers of mistake built into his opening statement:
 
  • Exercises aren’t done because “the CEO wants” but because prior incidents’ after-action reports (AARs), prior exercise improvement plans (IPs), compliance audits, grant guidance, the Hazard Vulnerability Assessment (HVA), and/or a Multi-Year Training and Exercise Plan (MYTEP) have recommended a particular exercise. Scenarios are NOT the foundation for an exercise. We test capabilities, not scenarios.
  • Scenarios are just enough fiction to keep the exercise players focused in a particular direction. It doesn’t matter whether the bad event is a tornado, fire, or violent actor; medical staff need to be prepared to decide whether to shelter in place with patients, evacuate the patients, or, God forbid, abandon their patients and flee for their lives.
  • We don’t launch into full-scale exercises, involving multiple agencies who don’t normally work together, with a plan that has just been published. After sufficient training, we might start with a series of “run-hide-fight” drills in different departments of the hospital. A table-top exercise can work out communications and interface glitches between agencies. A functional exercise, conducted in real-time but without actors and victims, would be the next event. Finally, after all the conflicts have been resolved, and people know their roles, the plan can be tested with a full-scale exercise.
 
This is why it’s important to consult with independent, unbiased planning and exercise specialists, so you can rely on their experience and credentials to give you plain-spoken advice that’s based on national standards. It’s far more cost-effective than you think (especially because it can shield your facility from lawsuits and penalties from compliance agencies). Exercises, conducted using HSEEP guidance, and part of an overall plan that flows from the HVA, build real preparedness and a more confident, resilient workforce.
 
Ask the exercise and planning experts at CPR how you can turn a potential disaster into real opportunity.
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