A first-responding nurse checks the pulse of Dowagiac Det. Dan Wiggins, role-playing as an active shooter Wednesday morning during a Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital emergency drill. Leader photo/ALY GIBSON

Archived Story

Hospital drill highlights scary reality

Published 2:40pm Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital underwent a frightening — but realistic — emergency response drill Wednesday morning, testing their response procedures during an active shooter scenario.

Collaboration with the Dowagiac Police Department, hospital administrators and Cass County first response teams helped pull off the hospital’s annual emergency drill, which takes place in September during National Emergency Preparedness Month. The drill is used as a tool to practice current procedures and also find areas where improvements can be made. The scenario, which only few involved personnel knew of beforehand, uses volunteers to act out how the hospital, police departments and emergency response teams would react if an active shooter were to walk into the hospital and begin firing. A group of nursing and hospital staff, unaware of the drill’s time or nature, were placed in the community room on the first floor and then thrust into the action.

“It was very realistic and scary,” Karen Myers, hospital housekeeping coordinator, said after the drill was complete.

A series of “gunshots” were set off behind the closed doors of the community room, followed by a shooting victim bursting through the doors to seek help. The group inside was then expected to act quickly by blockading the door, administering immediate medical attention to the victim and getting to a safe place. They also were responsible for calling 9-1-1 and staying inside the room, despite constant knocking outside from the shooter and eventually police officers.

“This type of emergency is becoming more popular in the real world,” Borgess’ emergency management coordinator, Steve Forkner, said. “When we decided on this drill, we wanted to help them know what they can do here and even out in the real world if this were to happen.”

Forkner said with Dowagiac being a part of a rural area where many citizens have permits to carry concealed weapons, the drill was the scariest the hospital has conducted so far.

“When we were planning for this, we had to announce it enough to make sure a regular citizen in the hospital wouldn’t see the drill, think it was real and then try to act heroically and help,” Forkner said. “There was a challenge to make it as real as possible without jeopardizing anyone’s safety.”

After the “shooter,” played by Dowagiac Det. Dan Wiggins, was subdued by police officers, emergency room nurses were then employed to remove the three shooting victims from the scene and get them to the emergency room.

“It went well,” Theresa Kordish, emergency room doctor, said. “It doesn’t matter what the situation is, emergency room nurses and doctors will always react and get it done.”

Dowagiac Director of Public Safety Tom Atkinson, who knew and notified his officers ahead of time, said the drill was a great test.

“We were able to find some cracks (in our procedures),” Atkinson said. “We have to train for these, unfortunately.”

Afterward, all hospital staff members involved were able to identify where improvements have to be made to the procedures and have any questions answered.

“I definitely feel more prepared,” Debora Hagemann, a patient accounts representative, said. “It was scary, but it could happen any day and we have to be ready.”

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