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Concord police, hospital staff to act out active shooter training exercise

The Concord Police Department will act out an active shooter scenario at Concord Hospital, putting hospital staff and emergency responders to the test by simulating a crisis they all hope never to face for real.

The exercise, which will take place this spring, is funded by a $23,300 grant from the state’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Chief Operating Officer Joseph Conley said the hospital re-evaluated its own safety policies after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.

“It seemed a prudent thing for us to think about, and when we started to think about it a little bit, we realized we could probably be more prepared,” Conley said. “The probability of something is pretty low, but the consequences of having something happen are pretty awful.”

So the hospital began to revise its “Code Silver” policy, or how staff are supposed to respond to an active shooter in the building. Concord Hospital management has been working with the police department to come up with a plan – and now, they will practice what nine months of training has taught them.

“We’ve been spending the last year or so really designing policies and procedures in every area, educating staff in every area, reviewing the procedure in every area,” Conley said. “And the purpose of this exercise is just to train that. Let’s see how we do.”

This exercise will also help emergency responders test their own skills, Sgt. Michael Pearl said.

“Having the chance to conduct additional training will only enhance our officers’ confidence and tactics for the betterment of the community’s safety,” Pearl wrote in an email.

Conley and Pearl said the exercise will not disrupt either patient care or police activity. The city does not have to match any part of the grant; the exercise is covered entirely by money from the state.

“This is about our learning,” Conley said. “This is about our practicing for an event that we certainly hope never happens.”

Part of the training has been to teach hospital staff how to respond to a shooter depending on where he or she is located in the building, and they will act that out during the exercise.

“We prepare for emergencies all the time,” Conley said. “That’s part of our job. Heart attacks, trauma. This is another level of preparation for us. It’s one more thing that we have to think about.”

And while the police and the staff will hopefully never put their training to use, Conley said he would rather be prepared.

“If you’re in a public building – and obviously we’re a public building – and you’re a caregiver, if you think about it, you feel exposed,” Conley said. “You’re saying, ‘Why couldn’t that happen here?’ So I think when we talked to staff, they’ve been very supportive, even grateful.”

The active shooter exercise will take place in early spring.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

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