Active Shooter Situations Increasing in Hospitals

Health-system pharmacists may see an increasing threat of active shooter situations in their hospitals.

Health-system pharmacists may see an increasing threat of active shooter situations in their hospitals.

A viewpoint article published in JAMA referenced that the average number of active shooter incidents in hospital settings has increased from 9 annually between 2000 and 2005 to 16.7 annually between 2006 and 2011. A total of 161 individuals have perished from these incidents.

While rare, the study authors argued that active shooter situations threaten the “all-important sanctity of this benevolent and altruistic enterprise.”

Hospital employees may be able to help. Identifying patients with violent behaviors and reporting credible threats to the police could potentially prevent active shooter events from happening.

Security cameras, accessible panic buttons, lighting, defined emergency escape routes, and gun-free signage are some other suggestions the study authors offered to combat active shooter situations. In addition, hospitals could employ an on-site police department, handheld magnetometers, or metal detectors.

In 2014, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urged health care facilities to incorporate an active shooter incident plan into their emergency operations plans, and it released a planning guide to help them accomplish this. The HHS described health care facilities are “vulnerable targets.”

The study authors pointed out that some states have also passed laws prohibiting individuals from carrying concealed weapons at health care facilities, but elsewhere, states and local governments may be cautious about implementing a law that could spark litigation related to Second Amendment rights.

“Not until such time that greater attention is being paid to access to mental and behavioral health services, and to the human toll of widely available firearms, can hospital-based active shooter incidents be expected to interrupt their apparent forward march,” the study authors concluded.