Avera McKennan and Sioux Falls First Responders Conduct Active Shooter Simulation

Sep 20, 2018

As mass shootings make headlines more frequently, many companies are training their employees for the worst. Hospitals can present a unique challenge if a situation blocks access to the emergency room. On Thursday, Avera McKennan partnered with Sioux Falls police and fire rescue teams for a simulated active-shooter situation. 

Avera McKennan Emergency Management Coordinator Kevin Schlosser explains the situation: a woman is brought into the E.R. after a car crash. Her husband comes to check on her.

“And then that’s when an argument ensued. He went out into the core area of the emergency room and began discharging a weapon," says Schlosser.

The suspect is an actor, and so are the multiple victims positioned throughout the hospital.

“So as the perpetrator went from the ground floor up to first floor, we had casualties along the way that law enforcement and Sioux Falls fire rescue, tactical medics would have to extract and bring back to a treatment area,” he explains.

The active shooter scenario is the first phase of the drill. Staff receive automated safety calls and an announcement is made over the speaker system directing people to take shelter. Law enforcement sweeps the building and sets up triage centers.

Dr. Mike Elliott is the Chief Medical Officer at Avera McKennan. As the administrator on call during the drill, he works with first responders during the transition to the next phase: a mass casualty response.

“Then we switched into emergency hospital mode," says Dr. Elliott. "How do we take care of our victims as well as all the other patients and family in our hospital at that time?”

That can mean calling for ambulance transport to other facilities if the emergency room has become a crime scene.

Emergency manager Kevin Schlosser says regular drills help staff understand exactly what’s expected of them during a real situation. He adds that EAP services are available after all mass casualty drills.

“Some people are like, ‘Oh yeah, no, I’m the tough old nurse or the tough old doctor, doesn’t bother me a bit.’ But then all of a sudden they realize, ‘It does bother me a little bit.’ And having somebody to talk to is huge. It’s very important,” says Schlosser. 

A simulation like this takes months of collaborative planning—a luxury not given in a real-world situation. Dr. Elliott says he’s impressed with the Sioux Falls police and fire rescue teams, and he’s grateful for the Avera staff.

“We do need to be prepared for the unthinkable," he says. "And if something like this should occur, having gone through this drill it’ll be a little more second-nature for everyone.”

The drill lasted just over an hour.