MARSHALL – No one can predict when a violent act might occur, and even the safest-seeming environment might turn dangerous.
“Being prepared is essential, so that’s why Oaklawn’s leadership staff participated in an ‘active shooter’ training drill, said Jess Kingston, the hospital’s emergency preparedness coordinator.
The four-hour drill Aug. 11 was conducted throughout the administrative areas of the hospital, and involved 50 members of the hospital’s staff. The event was conducted under the auspices of the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department in cooperation with the Marshall Police Department.
“Primarily, we wanted to increase the preparedness of our staff in case we ever had a real shooter event, which could happen at any time to anyone,” Kingston said. “The knowledge gained during this drill will be shared throughout the staff and eventually reach everyone, so they can be better prepared.”
Kingston said staff members learned several self-protection techniques, chiefly involving barricading behind closed doors by using heavy objects.
Det. Steven Hinkley of the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department said such training is essential because of the split-second decisions that are required when such emergencies occur, especially because it may take several minutes for law-enforcement authorities to arrive on the scene.
“Everybody did a great job at Oaklawn,” Hinkley said about the training exercise.
“With active shooters being more prevalent throughout the United States, health-care centers, worship centers, schools and day cares – everyone is very interested and looking for what they can do,” Hinkley said. “They’re inquiring about building security assessments and assessing their buildings,” he added.
“A lot of the things we’re doing are minor security changes, but one of the main things is educating the worker on what to do, how to handle the situation, and planning,” Hinkley said.
“Sheriff Matt Saxton supports this program and is prepared to bring it free of charge to those who want this training,” he said.
In fact, Hinkley has been involved in several other such sessions throughout the county, advising participants to use heavy objects such as tables or chairs to barricade doors, turn off lights, strive to remain unseen in room corners, and be prepared to fight.
“We’ve been involved in educating several thousand people already, and we’ve been getting a very positive feedback from everyone,” Hinkley said.
“This training was necessary, important and extremely informative,” said Oaklawn President and CEO Ginger Williams, who was among those who participated in the training. “In cases involving hostile use of weapons on innocent civilians, knowledge of what to do results in saving many lives,” she added.
“Our thanks are extended to the sheriff and police departments, because now we are more prepared, should such an incident ever take place here,” Williams said.