During drills to prepare for treating victims of a mass shooting, staff members at the 12 Sentara Healthcare hospitals in Virginia and North Carolina ask people who are portraying victims to change into a hospital gown, regardless of whether their injuries are grave or minor. The request has nothing to do with providing medical care – rather, it’s a safety measure that would help determine whether any of the people streaming into the hospital is concealing a weapon.
“We have to be cognizant that an [unapprehended] shooter may be among our victims, and we have to be prepared for that,” says Patti Montes, manager of Sentara Healthcare’s emergency management system. “We don’t pat people down; we’re not allowed to search people. We can certainly ask them to get undressed and put on a gown.”
Throughout the country, health care officials are conducting real-life simulations to prepare to treat victims of a mass shooting. For decades, hospital officials have conducted drills to prepare for mass casualty events, like hurricanes, earthquakes and even volcano eruptions. Now, as mass shootings occur with greater frequency, many hospitals and health care systems are conducting drills to prepare specifically for treating victims of a mass firearms attack. Such simulations acknowledge the grim reality that another mass shooting could happen at any time.
“It’s not a question of if it’s going to happen again, but when it’s going to happen again,” says Dr. Scott Scherr, regional medical director for TeamHealth, Emergency Medicine West Group and chairman of emergency services for Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas. Scherr was in charge the October night when a gunman shot and killed 58 people attending an outdoor concert and injured more than 800 other people. Some of the injured were shot and wounded, and others were trampled and hurt as terrified concertgoers tried to flee the attack. Sunrise treated 215 victims that night.
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