Always be prepared.

These three words, or variations of, serve as the guiding principle for many groups worldwide – the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the U.S. Coast Guard. It also is a motto observed here at the MGH.

Every minute of every day, the MGH is committed to ensuring its employees are as prepared as possible should any security threat occur on the hospital’s campuses. Part of that commitment includes hosting training events, such as the full-scale emergency preparedness active shooter drill recently conducted by MGH Police, Security and Outside Services and the Center for Disaster Medicine.

“Though life-threatening incidents, like an active shooter, are extremely uncommon, these trainings allow us to ensure that staff are well-prepared for response, that our plans are critically evaluated and opportunities to improve planning are identified,” says Bonnie Michelman, executive director of MGH Police, Security and Outside Services. “We do this to get better and to learn.”

The training – which took place on Yawkey 4 in the Women’s Health Associates office – was held in connection with the Boston Police Department and Boston EMS, and included participants and observers from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Cooley Dickinson Hospital and Wentworth-Douglass Hospital.

Emergency tips and trainings

Because emergency events happen with no advance warning, preparation and being able to be alerted quickly is critical. Employees are encouraged to sign up for the Partners Employee Alert System to immediately receive messages from the hospital on cell phones and other devices should an incident occur. MGH Police, Security and Outside Services also offers several Workplace Violence Prevention trainings – both in-person and online through HealthStream.

Code Silver-Active Shooter Training: This was developed specifically for the MGH to teach staff to recognize potential incidents and to report such incidents proactively. It also addresses the “Run, Fight, Hide” principles.

Security Awareness and Vigilance for Everyone (SAVE) Training: This program is designed to empower MGH employees to recognize and report suspicious individuals.

Strategies to Prevent Workplace Conflict and Violence: This training offers realistic scenarios in the hospital setting and gives employees coping mechanisms to handle difficult situations.

M.O.A.B.: Management of Aggressive Behavior provides strategies for preventing and diffusing aggressive behavior. This seminar empowers the attendees by teaching principles, techniques and skills used to recognize, reduce and manage anxious, aggressive and violent behavior.

“This is our first time ever doing this kind of exercise here at MGH, and despite some areas and design challenges we’d love to improve on for next time, the experience and feedback from participants was favorable,” says Rob Krupa, planning, training and exercise program manager for the Center for Disaster Medicine. “Some things we anticipated and some we did not, but the bottom line is we learned a lot that can help not only the MGH, but other hospitals as well.”

Participants did a good job of hiding and keeping themselves safe, Krupa says, but one struggle that several participants experienced – many of whom are caregivers – was their response to the “run, hide, fight” rule. As providers, many staff are trained to help others, so how should they respond when they need to keep themselves safe as well?

“In a health care setting, we don’t always necessarily know what to do with the ‘run, fight, hide’ mantra,” says Paul Biddinger, MD, medical director for Emergency Preparedness. “We need to translate this into trainings so that we can understand the conflicts that we experience during one of these crises. It is our obligation to make sure we are ready if we are ever in this circumstance.” 

Read more articles from the 01/11/19 Hotline issue.