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Johns Hopkins Tackles a Tragic Trend

Credit: iStock

From a deadly concert shooting in Las Vegas to more recent tragedies at Great Mills High School in Maryland and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, shootings, such as mass shootings and school shootings, have risen dramatically during the past decade to become an all-too-often horrifying and heartbreaking trend, and these horrifying and heartbreaking catastrophes can happen anywhere.

In 2012, Gabor Kelen, M.D., and Christina Catlett, M.D., both with CEPAR, authored a paper on hospital-based shootings in the U.S. They concluded that hospital-based shootings are relatively rare compared with other forms of workplace violence. However, they also noted that the unpredictable nature of these events can be challenging for hospital security and in developing effective deterrence practices because of the determination of most shooters and because many of these incidents occur outside hospital buildings.

Campus Drills

Johns Hopkins has taken a number of steps to improve the safety of our patients, guests, faculty and staff. For example, both The Johns Hopkins University and The Johns Hopkins Hospital regularly participate in active shooter exercises with the Baltimore Police Department. The Johns Hopkins Corporate Security teams at the respective campuses work with police to develop the exercises, which take place directly on campus. The latest exercise on the hospital campus took place in June 2016 with a simulated active shooter going on a spree in Turner Auditorium and Concourse.

The purpose of exercises such as these is to help familiarize police with our campuses and to continue to build relationships with the teams, says George Economas, interim vice president for corporate security for The Johns Hopkins University and Health System. Economas also says Johns Hopkins corporate security officers are the eyes and ears of the Baltimore Police Department. “Our security officers know how to get to areas of the hospital like Blalock 7 in 10 different ways, where police don’t,” he says.

Run, Hide, Fight

Corporate security has also led live active shooter/assailant training sessions for staff at the university and hospital. At The Johns Hopkins Hospital alone, corporate security officers have done nearly 50 in-person presentations for different departments. The main focus of the training is to teach staff “Run, Hide, Fight,” which has become the national protocol on what to do when a suspect arrives at a location with the purpose of doing harm or killing.

Here are the steps:

RUN: If you can safely get away from the assailant, leave your belongings behind and run. Warn others nearby if you are able. Call 911 once you are safe.

HIDE: If you can’t run away safely, find a place to hide, preferably not in a group. Stay out of the assailant’s view and remain quiet. Lock and block doors, close blinds, turn off the lights, and silence your cell phone and other devices. Stay in place until police tell you it is safe to leave.

FIGHT: Defending yourself should be the last resort when you are in immediate danger. Try to find an item in the room you can use to distract or disarm the shooter, whether it is a fire extinguisher, chairs or other heavy items. Ambushing the shooter with a group of people could be helpful as well.

The active shooter/assailant course is a required online training course for Johns Hopkins Health System faculty and staff. For The Johns Hopkins University, the course has some slight variations specific to the university campus. The course is optional for faculty and staff at the university (beyond the school of medicine, for whom it is required), though it is encouraged.

“We want to ensure all of our faculty and staff know what to do if they are faced with this type of event,” Economas says. “These online courses will teach you the basic skills you need to reach the best possible outcome.”

To take the online active shooter/assailant course, visit the MyLearning section of and search for “Preparing for an Active Shooter” (university version) or “Preparing for an Active Shooter in the Clinical and Non-clinical Environment” (health system version).