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Preparing for 'active shooter' events: Lockdowns

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This blog was co-authored by James Minninger, a security consultant with Sorensen, Wilder & Associates. A retired police sergeant in the suburbs of Philadelphia, he was an operator on SWAT, lead tactical firearms instructor and less lethal munitions operator. He is certified in basic and advanced SWAT operations, hostage rescue, basic and advanced weapons of mass destruction tactical operations and hostage negotiations.

Turn on the evening news and you’ll see regular reports of heavily armed individuals entering malls, grocery stores, movie theaters and schools and shooting indiscriminately at anyone in their sights.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security profiles an "active shooter" as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” In most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and have no pattern or method to selecting victims. Contrary to what we’d like to believe, the reality of an armed intruder or active shooter coming into your facility is all too real. The Pinelake Health & Rehab Center massacre in Carthage, N.C., in 2009—in which eight people were killed and two were wounded—and more recently, the Renown Regional Medical Center shooting in Reno, Nev., in December—in which one doctor was killed and another injured before the gunman killed himself—are just two horrific examples of active shooter events in healthcare facilities.

Most proactive long-term care (LTC) facilities have addressed this threat by revamping their policies and procedures. Does your facility have a written active shooter policy, and if so, does this policy suggest a facility lockdown? Or does it follow traditional suggestions—run, hide, fight—outlined by government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security? Although the run/hide/fight doctrine is a sound approach to increase the chances of surviving one of these horrific events, it does not address a big challenge and concern within the realm of long-term care: the safety of residents.

Read the mission statement and core values for your facility. No doubt they contain statements and ideology focused on compassionate resident care, as they should. Your policies related to active shooter events need to address the balance between the safety of residents and the safety of staff.


If your facility already has policies or procedures in place for an active shooter event, they may focus on locking down the facility. Lockdowns in LTC facilities already are (or should be) an integral part of the emergency operations plan. But what is a lockdown?

A facility lockdown, in the most simplest of terms, either keeps something out, keeps something in or keeps some things out and other things in.

LTC facilities will go into lockdown for various reasons, including both manmade and natural disaster emergencies. A few examples of lockdown events include natural disasters such as an earthquake, flood, hurricane, tornado or erupting volcano; emergencies such as a fire, power outage or chemical contamination; and criminal events such those involving an active shooter/armed intruder, deadly weapon, bomb threat, civil disturbance or hostage event.


Steve Wilder


Steve Wilder


Steve Wilder, CHSP, STS, is president and chief operating officer of...