Preventing Weapon-Related Violence in Healthcare

Prevention and detection are key to stopping healthcare violence.

By Jeff Wardon, Jr., Assistant Editor

Violent incidents in healthcare facilities continue to happen, and some of them involve weaponry being used. In situations like this, prevention and detection are critical to stopping these threats in their tracks. 

According to TRIB LIVE, a man was found unresponsive at the H. John Heinz III VA Medical Center on October 10, later being pronounced dead from a gunshot wound to the head. County officials confirmed the man had sneaked a gun into the hospital to kill himself. The spokesman for the Alleghany County Police said the death was not deemed suspicious. 

The hospital let the man’s gun pass through undetected. According to TRIB LIVE, it was not clear if there were any public safety measures in place at the facility. There are tools and devices that facility managers can put in place to detect weaponry, such as metal detectors. 

Another technology healthcare facilities can use is artificial intelligence-based weapons detection. According to WINK News, Lee Memorial Hospital is using sensors, screens and cameras to detect weapons, such as firearms and medium-sized knives.  

However, if a violent situation does occur, there are measures healthcare facilities can take to. The Mayo Clinic, recommends the following to prevent violence:  

Develop a behavior safety plan: If a patient or visitor demonstrates a proclivity for violent behavior, have a plan ready to deal with them. One example of this is to require security to accompany them throughout the facility. 

Form a complex behavior committee: Involve staff and other stakeholders in discussing and setting policy for dealing with patients who have threatening behaviors. 

Perform weapons checks: Security needs to check people entering hospitals for weapons. If found, send them back home or wherever they came from. 

Provide duress alarms and lockdowns: Equip rooms and units with duress alarms or panic buttons, especially in designated higher volatility areas. If something happens, the unit can then be locked down. 

Encourage employees to be alert to threats: Train staff so that they can recognize threats or threatening behaviors. Then, if they see anything concerning, they can alert the proper individuals.  

Take all threats seriously: Give all threats the same level of credibility.  

Determine protective actions for patients: Decide what type of action to take when a threat arises, such as “run, hide, fight” actions.  

Jeff Wardon, Jr. is the assistant editor for the facilities market.  

October 25, 2023

Topic Area: Safety , Security

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