Hospital’s Active Shooter Drill Puts Agencies’ Response to the Test

Law enforcement enter Good Shepherd Medical Center Thursday night during an active shooter drill. (Photos by Michael Kane)

Just after 7 p.m. Thursday night, the sounds of gunfire and screams could be heard ringing through the hallways of Good Shepherd Medical Center.

Even though it was a pre-planned exercise, the hospital’s active shooter drill had all the sights and sounds of the real thing.

Umatilla County Emergency Manager Tom Roberts, left, confers with law enforcement and hospital personnel prior to Thursday’s exercise.

The shooter, played by one of many volunteers, entered the medical center through the main entrance off N.W. 11th Street which leads to the pediatric clinic.

In Thursday’s scenario, the shooter’s son was seen at the clinic the prior week with a concussion he suffered during a football game. The boy was examined and sent home where he later died.

After entering the hospital, the male shooter stops at the reception desk and asks to see the physician who treated his son. After being denied access to the physician by hospital staff, the shooter’s behavior escalates, and he begins to open fire on clinic staff before proceeding down hallways firing at more victims.

The “shooter” is about to open fire in the reception area after a confrontation with hospital staff.

He is able to locate the physician hiding in an exam room. A confrontation ensues and the shooter opens fire on the physician, killing him and injuring two others that were also hiding in the room.

He then continues throughout the clinic looking for as many victims as he can. Before he can make it through the entire clinic, law enforcement arrives and ends the threat by shooting and killing the man, but not before 20 people had been shot.

Law enforcement then cleared the building and deemed it safe for emergency medical personnel to enter and begin to triage the wounded. The drill tests local agencies’ communication and coordination with all involved.

Thursday’s drill tested local agencies’ communication and coordination. Among those involved included:

  • Good Shepherd Health Care System
  • Hermiston Police Department
  • Oregon State Police
  • Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office
  • Umatilla County 911 Dispatch Center
  • Umatilla County Emergency Management
  • Umatilla County Fire District #1/EMS
  • Morrow County EMS
  • Northeast Oregon Critical Response team

Dean Marcum, the Oregon Health Authority’s regional emergency coordinator for Eastern Oregon, briefed participants prior to the exercise.

After the exercise, a debriefing and review of the drill is conducted.

“We will be testing policies and procedures,” he said. “We don’t test people, but how they react to the policies and procedures. Everybody is going to learn something tonight – guaranteed.”

Umatilla County Emergency Manager Tom Roberts said there is no such thing as a failure in these types of drills.

“The idea is to find out what works and what needs to be addressed,” he said afterward. “If there is a gap, we want to find out how to fix it.”

Caitlin Cozad, marketing and communications director for Good Shepherd, said the hospital was “very pleased with the participation and our community partners’ commitment to preparedness. This was a great first step in working towards a solid response system to meet the needs of our community should we have tragedy like this.”

Cozad said the exercise helps improve general communication between community partners which is needed in response efforts.

“We learned a lot about our capabilities and the capacity to care for our community when working together,” she said.