Health center takes steps for employee, patient safety
Jefferson County Health Center is in the process of developing a policy and plan on how employees should react in the event of extreme violence, such as an active shooter, in the facility.
“We want to do everything we can to ensure the safety of our employees and patients,” said Jefferson County Health Center CEO Deb Cardin. “Extreme violence is rare, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take precautions.”
To help get administrators and department heads thinking about what should be in the plan, trained ALICE instructors Matt Murphy from the South Iowa Area Crime Commission and Kent Lox from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, met with them Oct. 29.
ALICE, which stands for Alert; Lockdown; Inform; Counter; and Evacuate, is a comprehensive response to extreme workplace violence, explained Murphy.
“It is designed to go beyond a lockdown situation, to increase the possibility of survivability,” said Lox.
The ALICE program was created out of Dallas/Fort Worth law enforcement officer Greg Crane’s desire for his wife Lisa, an elementary school principal, to have a better plan in case of an active shooter event. In 2001, he learned the school’s protocol — standard at the time — was for teachers to get everyone in a classroom, lock the door, turn off the lights, sit in the corner and wait for the police. He decided that made people into easy targets, and that is why so many were killed and wounded in school shootings. He and a fellow officer began developing strategies and running them by his wife to see how she thought they would work.
Now, through years of development, changes and input from other ALICE instructors, the training has evolved into using options-based, proactive survival strategies to help civilians learn strategies that can help them survive an active shooter situation.
The ALICE training was designed for schools, but it can be adapted for any public building, such as large businesses, malls, churches, libraries, hospitals … “We can make it work,” said Murphy.
Murphy, who works in 14 southeast Iowa counties said Jefferson County Health Center is the first area hospital to receive the instruction, but several school districts, including Mount Pleasant, Burlington and Mediapolis, “are on board with ALICE.”
Murphy and Lox said Pekin Community School District has received an information presentation about the program, and plans are to approach the Fairfield Community School District about it, also.
During the two instructors’ meeting with Jefferson County Health Center administrators and department heads, “we gave them some awareness-thinking things they needed to know to develop a policy,” said Murphy. “We walked them through the hospital and pointed out what was good, like the security cameras, and not good, like the unlocked doors.”
“It was extremely … raw, cutting, but it was very effective,” said Cardin.
Now, she continued, a committee has been formed to develop a plan for the health center.
“It doesn’t happen over night,” said Lox. “It can take several months. There’s a main plan, and then all the departments need to come up with their own plans and those have to be incorporated into the main plan.”
Murphy said the goal is for the health center’s plan to be finished in about six months so he and Lox can review it and hopefully have an exercise to see how it would actually work.
An exercise would be an opportunity to train the staff, as well as to find weak points and plans that aren’t going to work so they can be changed, said Lox.
Cardin said she definitely recommends the ALICE training.
“The more people involved in a situation who have the knowledge to survive do survive,” she said. “That’s the premise of why we did the training.”
Anyone interested in ALICE training can contact Lox at 472-4146.