Staff at Loma Linda (Calif.) University Health were shaken after the Dec. 2, 2015, shooting at a public health training event and Christmas party in San Bernardino, Calif., that left 14 people dead and two injured. The academic medical center accepted five of the shooting victims and feared the attack might spread into the hospital’s corridors. The perpetrators, a husband and wife, were killed in a shootout with police.
Dustin Smith, M.D., a professor and residency director of emergency medicine at Loma Linda University Health, said they succeeded in their work, despite those fears, partly because of the hospital leadership’s actions during its response to the shooting. He offered other hospital execs these three tips if they find themselves in a similar situation:
- Their presence should not be felt for the first time at the time of a disaster. So, when our leadership came down, it wasn’t the first time that I had ever seen then or met them. I had been working with them on initiatives and I understand kind of the mission goals, and I think they understand our perspective as well, and that ability to have a bit of a relationship made it easier for that tragic day, to be able to rely on each other.
- The other thing that I would say was effective on their part was asking what was needed, as opposed to coming down and pulling a disaster plan off the shelf. Now, obviously, we have those. We drill with those regularly, but, at least I believe, their assumption was that we knew what we were doing, and they’d augment if something wasn’t falling into our disaster plan.
- And then the final thing was that, as there’s a grey zone and you don’t really know how many patients you’re getting or what the next steps may be because there’s a lot of different paths that that can take, it was good in that there were touch points with people coming and saying we will get you what you need. The head of our blood bank made sure that we knew that we had appropriate blood products on hand and, equally important, whatever we needed, they would figure out a way to get for us, and if that changed, they would let us know.
Editor's Note: This segment was left out of H&HN's March cover story on mass-casualty incidents. Be sure to read the rest of the piece, and for more on how hospital's are addressing this issue, check out the American Hospital's Associations resource page.