The worst emergency preparedness exercise ever?

Whenever I am asked to speak about the lessons of the 7/7 bombings or emergency preparedness generally, one of the points I make is about the importance of exercises that test the effectiveness of emergency plans and enable different agencies to get used to working together under stress conditions.

However, my attention has been drawn to an article in the Las Vegas Sun which describes an exercise conducted by the  St. Rose Dominican Hospital.  This was intended to test the emergency preparedness of hospital staff, but I think most people would agree that hospital administrators may have taken things a bit too far.

According to the article, the exercise started when

“an off-duty cop pretending to be a terrorist stormed into a hospital intensive care unit brandishing a handgun, which he pointed at nurses while herding them down a corridor and into a room.”

Only then were they told that it was a training exercise.

And as the article explains:

“The staff at St. Rose Dominican Hospitals-Siena Campus, where the incident took place Monday morning, found the exercise more traumatizing than instructive.

Hospital employees would have been justified in fearing for their lives.

Just last year, Henderson police shot and killed an armed, hostile man in the emergency room. So it would make sense that security and emergency preparedness have been a focus at the hospital.

But in Monday’s incident, which occurred in a unit that houses the hospital’s sickest patients, nurses, patients and their families did not know it was a drill.”

The hospital’s director of public policy and external affairs has apologized for any distress caused by the incident; saying that there was an

“ongoing effort to try and make (emergency preparedness drills) as realistic as possible.”

And went on to say:

“the goal is not to scare or harm anyone.”

So that’s alright then.

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