Defining [active shooter] incidents as situations in which “an individual [is] actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has identified 160 discrete incidents that occurred between 2000 and 2013, in which 486 people were killed and an additional 557 were wounded.6 In the first half of that period, there were an average of 6.4 active-shooter incidents per year; the number more than doubled, to 16.4, in the latter half of the period. The most recently released FBI data reveal that the rate increased to 20 incidents per year in 2014 and 2015.It turns out that hospitals are a fairly popular place for this to happen. And people can't just run and hide. At any given time, some people are in surgery, others are unable to get out of bed and are even tethered to machines. And their caregivers can't flee and abandon them.
These authors suggest that hospitals should at least consider restricting access, making visitors pass through metal detectors and X-ray screening, and limiting them to specific areas with color-coded wrist bands. Few hospitals do that now, I'm happy to say, and I think it would be an overreaction. These incidents aren't exactly rare -- 154 in ten years according to one cited study -- but there are about 5,500 hospitals in the U.S. so your individual risk is low. Somebody who wants to shoot one up isn't going to worry about the metal detector, it seems to me.
But their other recommendations are almost as disconcerting. They want areas within the hospital where there are patients who cannot flee to be secured with automatic barriers. "Most shooters will not be equipped with the breaching equipment, such as a battering ram or explosives, that can overcome secured entryways, and they will most likely simply move on from barricaded areas." That's comforting.
And, "Facilities also need a notification system that will allow personnel at the point of initial contact to trigger an alert that is immediately disseminated to the entire facility." There's more -- pre-planning with the police, psychological first aid, on and on.
Kits containing essential supplies for hemorrhage control, including tourniquets, gauze, and gloves, should be located inside all these areas. Arguably, these kits would also be installed in all public-access areas, just as automated external defibrillators have been. Efforts should be made to train all hospital workers, whatever their area of expertise, in basic bleeding-control techniques.
This is just incredibly sad. Do we really have to turn hospitals into fortresses because there are so many lunatics running around with guns? Yes, they have to do that in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan -- war zones. But otherwise, only in America. Maybe the leaders of the NRA will slither back under the rocks they came from.