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‘Active shooter’ drill prepares hospital staff, law enforcement

Law enforcement personnel look for a shooter during a mock drill at Scripps Encinitas Hospital.
Law enforcement personnel look for a shooter during a mock drill at Scripps Encinitas Hospital.
(Jared Whitlock)

The blood appeared real, but it was only a drill.

The scene: a volatile man with unknown injuries was escorted into the new emergency room at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas at about 10:15 a.m. on June 6.

After a physical struggle with a Sheriff’s deputy, he grabbed the officer’s gun and went on a shooting spree around the hospital.

Chris Van Gorder, president and CEO of Scripps Health, said the mock shooting identified areas of improvement for hospital staff and law enforcement officials.

“You respond like you train,” Van Gorder said. “For us, I always say we learn more from the mistakes than from the successes.”

Videographers captured the exercise, which will eventually be edited into a training video for law enforcement and hospital personnel, he added.

Van Gorder couldn’t recall any recent hospital shootings in the county. Nonetheless, he said it’s important to coordinate all of the moving parts of an emergency response in case the worst happens.

“An active shooter situation with patients on IVs and in critical condition is very different from evacuating an office building or apartment,” Van Gorder said.

During the drill, medical personnel declared a “code black,” locking the hospital down. After 10 minutes, Sheriff’s deputies arrived. Then came the SWAT team members, who ordered hospital staff and officials portraying patients to raise their hands.

Victims were wheeled outside the hospital for care. But had it been a real incident, emergency personnel would have transported them across the street or to other hospitals if necessary, according to officials.

While the incident was pre-scripted, law enforcement personnel weren’t told where the shooter was hiding. Following an exhaustive search, they later apprehended the man.

The drill was held at Scripps Encinitas because the new ER wing won’t open until July 1, so actual patients weren’t inside.

A public outreach campaign days earlier and signs outside the hospital notified the public a drill was taking place.

For law enforcement personnel, the goal of the training was to practice clearing rooms, as well as rescuing wounded people and evacuating victims.

Encinitas Sheriff’s Capt. Theresa Adams-Hydar was among the officials grading the response. She evaluated how quickly officers gleaned information from radio calls and people at the scene to develop a plan.

Adams-Hydar noted the Sheriff’s Department also conducts mock-shooting drills at schools, but hospitals are new territory.

“In this day and age…active shooters are becoming too frequent, and we’re taking a proactive stance so we have the training and ability to get out there and neutralize a threat as soon as possible,” Adams-Hydar said.

Those with information about a planned shooting are urged to call the anonymous Crime Stoppers tip line at (888) 580-8477.


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