NH1 News Investigates Detecting Danger: How safe is your hospital?
CONCORD - How safe do you feel when you go to the hospital? Many are now asking that question in the wake of two deadly shootings.
So we wanted to know what are hospitals doing to keep you safe? We decided to go to one New Hampshire Hospital where they say they are doing everything they can to be as prepared for an "active shooter situation" as possible.
On December 30, 2014 just after 6 am, gunshots fill the air at Wentworth Douglas hospital in Dover. In the end, a husband shoots and kills his wife and then turns the gun on himself.
Three weeks later just after 11 am, another deadly shooting. This time at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston.
A man walked into the hospital and asked to see a surgeon. When the surgeon comes out, the suspect shoots and kills him and then turns the gun on himself.
Shootings at public places, like hospitals, are more and more commonplace. That raises many questions. Most notably, how could it happen?
"It was heartbreaking and it saddened me but unfortunately it didn't surprise me," says John Duval, the head of security at Concord Hospital.
When asked if it's going to happen then it's going to happen, Duval says, " That's a reality." It's a reality that has not happened at Concord Hospital though Duval says that doesn't mean they're not prepared.
"Code Silver is specifically designed to alert employees, visitors and patients of an active shooter," says Duval.
Code silver means an active shooter scenario at Concord Hospital where employees are warned in advance as an officer makes his way into the hospital with a fake gun and gets to the third floor being being caught.
Along the way, he leaves victims behind. It is a mock drill Duval says that every employee needs to be ready for.
"It has to be through individual preparedness, in my opinion," says Duval. "That's where you're going to get your most preparedness."
Duval says it was actually school shootings changed the way many officials thought about public safety.
"All bets were off the table when children became fair game at Sandy Hook and I think folks realized that if it could happen at an elementary school, then why couldn't it happen at a hospital?" says Duval.
At Concord, just like at most hospitals, you can walk right in. There are no metal detectors. There is a warning sign telling visitors and staff that no weapons are permitted on hospital property.
But what if the once unthinkable did happen here?
Concord Police would be one of the many law enforcement agencies that would descend on the hospital.
We asked Lt. Timothy O'Malley of the Concord Police Depart if they would be ready if this were to happen, he answers, "Well, this is the purpose of training."
Lt. O'Malley agrees with Duval in that tragedies at schools, he says, have indeed changed how local law enforcement respond to active shooter and other emergency situations.
"We started training police officers on the street and not surround and call out or wait for the SWAT teams," says Lt. O'Malley.
And once on scene, first responders are told typically not to wait.
"To immediately engage the perpetrators and try to solve the situation immediately," says Lt. O'Malley.
But when asked that some would say that Concord is such a safe place, possibly the safest in New Hampshire, and how would first responders like the Concord Police Department be ready, O'Malley once again emphasizes, Well, that's why we engage in the training."
But every second a shooter is in the building could mean even more tragedy and that's why hospital employees need to be ready.
"You're seeing more and more that the civilians on scene," says O'Malley. "That their reactions can often dictate what the outcome is."
But all in the training in the world can't necessarily stop a killer and most everyone agrees that if it is going to happen, then it will.
"Be aware that things can happen," says O'Malley. "They're low probability but when they do, they're pretty high risk."
Though weapons are banned at every hospital in New Hampshire, there are unarmed security guards and security cameras.
The mock drills, Duval says, will continue so they can get better each time.