As all of us know, exercise is good for one’s health. It gets you in shape. It improves your game. It gets you ready for whatever play may come your way. Whether it is sports, emergency drills or military maneuvers, the adage of “how you train is how you fight” describes the benefit of being ready for anything.

It’s a shame that a group of exercise organizers in Nevada did not think of that adage and apply an ounce of common sense to their recent exercise at a hospital in Henderson, just outside of Las Vegas.

As detailed in an article from the Las Vegas Sun, “an off-duty cop pretending to be a terrorist stormed into a hospital intensive care unit brandishing a handgun, which he pointed at nurses while herding them down a corridor and into a room.  There, after harrowing moments, he explained that the whole caper was a training exercise.”

An active shooter in a hospital is not an outlandish scenario, and there is significant value in educating hospital personnel in what to do should such an incident like that occur.

An exercise like the one described though is an exercise in idiocy. Violating any premise of common sense and risking greater harm and stress to patients and hospital personnel, the exercise organizers and participants allowed their own “gung-ho preparedness” to cross a line and go too far.

If, God forbid, there had been an armed security guard or someone with a concealed weapons permit sitting in the waiting room that had unknowingly reacted to the exercise by trying to defend themselves and others in the hospital, this story would have a very different and potentially tragic ending.

There is any number of scenarios that could have played out here, but the fortunate one we have is that we can shake our heads in collective disbelief that anyone would play out a scenario such as this in real time in a critical care unit. Besides embarrassing themselves and making themselves the easy target for late night comedians, these exercisers have shaken the confidence of the public they serve.

Instead of sitting down to educate hospital personnel (and others) about these often tragic situations, they chose to scare the hell out of them. I’m sure the citizens of Henderson, Nev. are wondering what good that type of exercise did for them. I don’t have an answer for that one, and I bet the organizers don’t have a good one either.

Rich Cooper blogs primarily on emergency preparedness and response, management issues related to the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector’s role in homeland security. Read More
  • Pure stupidity and ignorance. This type of incident is a foreseeable event and response should be rehearsed, but in a structured and disciplined way! Most wise organizations will practice an active shooter with volunteers, during off-hours, and with plenty of notification to all who have a need to know.

    A hospital is a tough place to do an active shooter exercise, but they can certainly rehearse at another location.

    I suspect there's going to be a lawsuit because of this brilliant move, which is most unfortunate.

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