Workers learn how to deal with ‘active shooters’

WHEELING – After attending a seminar about how to deal with an active shooter in a hospital, nurse Cheryl Bee looks forward to participating in more training.

Bee, a nurse at Wheeling Hospital, described the stories relayed Thursday about past shootings as interesting and informative.

”What sticks out in my mind is that there’s a lot of planning involved. We need more hands-on training,” Bee said.

She was among the many health care workers and first responders who attended the session conducted by Spokane, Wash.-based Center for Personal Protection and Safety. Held at Oglebay’s Wilson Lodge, the event was sponsored by the West Virginia Hospital Association.

In addition to emergency managers, firefighters and law enforcement, participating hospitals included Wheeling Hospital, Wetzel County Hospital, Reynolds Memorial Hospital, Ohio Valley Medical Center and Weirton Medical Center.

During the lunch break, Carol Gallaher, a nurse at Wetzel County Hospital, said the seminar was informative.

”It was interesting and very helpful, I believe,” Gallaher said. ”I think we need a little bit more protection for our facility. I think everybody could benefit from this. Every workplace could benefit from this.”

Lena Palmer, a lab technician at Wetzel County Hospital, said she used to think if such a situation arose she would be ready, ”but actually we’re probably really not.” Palmer said now she will be more alert and thinking ahead about what could happen.

Dave Benson, executive vice president and principal of CPPS’ Global Security Operations, said the purpose of the session is to teach hospitals how to be aware of pending shooting situations, how to respond during a shooting and how to recover afterward. Planning and practicing scenarios with local law enforcement, he noted, is essential.

”Is it likely or probable that this will happen in your area? Honestly? Not really. The probabilities are higher than they have been in the past. But active shooter events still remain an improbable, extremely high impact event,” Benson said.

”That means it may not happen, but you better darn well think about it. Because if you don’t and it happens, it will rock your world like nothing else ever has,” he added. “And you will lose a portion of your building, a portion of your ER and lose your entire campus for a period of time. … The sooner you all understand that by working together we can get our arms around some of these dynamics, the better the circumstances will be.”

Jeff Ewing, senior adviser for CPPS, said the best advice he has for visitors or patients during a shooting is to listen to the hospital workers, who should be guiding people to safer areas with doors that lock or barricading rooms to keep the shooter out.