To ensure preparedness and to test response efforts, Walter Reed Bethesda will participate in a Code White (Active Shooter) Drill on Feb. 27. The drill will take place in conjunction with an annual Navy-wide anti-terrorism exercise, Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield (SC/CS).
On Feb. 18, SC/CS will begin onboard Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) with a series of anti-terrorism force protection exercises throughout the installation, and will culminate with an Active Shooter response drill, Feb. 27. Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) will participate in the exercise, along with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and Navy Medicine Professional Development Center. Code White is the hospital emergency code to notify personnel of an active shooter and to take shelter-in-place precautions. Installation personnel will also hear an announcement of “Active Shooter/Shelter-in-Place,” via the ‘Giant Voice’ speaker system and other communication tools.
“We’re always trying to prepare and train for something that may or may not happen,” said Chris Gillette, emergency manager for WRNMMC. He noted that in January 2014, there were at least a dozen active shooting incidents at schools and on campuses nationwide. Most recently, in late January, an active shooter incident occurred at the Columbia Mall, Md., leaving three dead. “It could happen anywhere,” Gillette said.
To ensure readiness for any emergency, training is necessary, he continued. Both the hospital and the installation prepare for and participate in numerous of emergency preparedness drills year round.
“The expectation for our patients and visitors coming to this facility is that in the event of a crisis, disaster or active shooter, we know what to do,” Gillette said. “We’re going to ensure their safety while they’re in our buildings. We’re going to take care of them in all facets.”
The installation is required to conduct four major exercises each fiscal year, including a hurricane disaster response drill, known as HURREX, which takes place in the spring, said Janelle Massiatte, NSAB’s installation training director. Massiatte noted the base also recently implemented familiarization tours by inviting local emergency responders inside the facility, such as state and county law enforcement and park police. Should a disaster occur, those first responders will be acquainted with the layout of the base.
“We work in a collaborative environment with our tenants, and try to piggyback exercise opportunities with each other, and make them integrated,” Massiatte said. “At the end of the day, we all have the same goal: to keep our folks safe, secure and prepared.”
WRNMMC is also required to publish an annual training plan, and is required to conduct two major emergency preparedness exercises each calendar year, Gillette said. After all training evolutions, both the hospital and the base assess the exercise, to identify what worked and what didn’t, so they can improve upon the next training, and enhance preparedness.
In the event of a real-life Code White, staff should first ensure the safety of patients and visitors. Whether you’re outside or inside a building, you should immediately shelter in place. If you’re inside, secure the area by locking and barricading doors, turn off radios and computer monitors, close blinds and block windows. Also, silence cell phones and keep yourself and others out of sight by taking adequate cover, behind concrete walls or filing cabinets.
On the day of the drill, as a reminder to patients and visitors, flyers will be handed out at the gates and parking garages. There will be posters throughout clinics, leading up to the event, and on the day of, also as a reminder. During the drill, staff and patients can expect to see police lights and sirens, as well as some law enforcement activity, but should expect there to be minimal, if any, impact on patient care and daily operations.
“Our goal is patient care. Our goal is to be patient-friendly, and to provide world-class care,” Gillette said. He added clearing out hallways, turning lights off and finding safe havens are paramount to the success of the drill. “Our staff are responsible for taking care of patients and visitors here … however, [during the exercise], we do provide patient care, so patient treatments will still continue.”
Even though a drill is taking place, everyone is encouraged, as usual, to report any suspicious activity, by dialing Security, 301-295-1246, or 777 from any installation landline.