The absolute horror of the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., on December 14, 2012 is a day that no American will soon forget. It is a stark reminder that some of our most vulnerable and innocent populations are not immune from insane acts of violence. As investigators try to sort through the aftermath of this senseless tragedy, long-term care providers should remember that these types of situations are not limited to elementary schools, shopping malls, movie theaters and college campuses.
Recent shootings including two separate murder-suicide incidents in Stockton and Torrance, Calif., in October and November of 2012 respectively reveal that seniors are not insulated from violence. This concept was also tragically illustrated in March 2009 when a mass shooting occurred in a small nursing home in Carthage, N.C., where eight occupants of the facility were killed by a lone gunman who was the estranged husband of one of the nurses working that fateful Sunday morning. Seven residents (some in wheelchairs) were very deliberately shot and killed as the gunman terrorized the facility. The eighth victim was Jerry Avant, a nurse on duty who tried to stop the shooter.
Clearly, safety and security is a matter that every type of LTC facility should take very seriously. Assuming that seniors are immune from the type of violence that was witnessed at Sandy Hook Elementary School is a mistake. Developing and maintaining a safe environment of care or providing secure living accommodations to independent senior Americans living alongside the vulnerable population of elderly and frail residents is every LTC providers’ obligation. Whether your LTC campus or facility is big or small, developing and enforcing robust safety and security protocols should be a high priority for every provider.
General preparedness is likely one of the key factors that helped faculty and staff members safeguard all of the other children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In the coming days and weeks, we will hear how this school, like most schools in the United States prepare for unthinkable events. Schools routinely conduct fire drills, evacuation drills, intruder drills and lockdown/take cover drills to help prepare for an emergency situation or crisis that can emerge in a blink of an eye in the most unlikely places, like an elementary school in a quaint Connecticut town.
Here’s a question to ponder with your team: Is your LTC facility really ready for an emergency?