News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 19, 2013

Agencies, businesses train for violence in workplace

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Responding to violence in the workplace is a nightmare no one wants.

But being prepared to handle such a violent nightmare is a wake-up call that all businesses are encouraged to make.

Seven hospitals in the Indiana Homeland Security District 7 Task Force gathered Thursday at Terre Haute Regional Hospital to make sure they have the right plans in place to respond if someone with a weapon enters their facilities.

Jay Dotson, a consultant from Lighthouse Readiness Group, facilitated sessions that included a mock drill involving an active shooter in the hospital.

“All businesses, in my opinion, should do a risk assessment,” Dotson said. “They should identify a short list of risks to mitigate. They should have a written plan, and familiarize the staff with it, and evaluate it on a regular basis.”

Hospitals and health care facilities are increasingly becoming the targets of violence, according to the National Hospital Association. During the past five years, hospitals have reported nearly three times as many assaults, rapes and homicides. And 60 percent of workplace violence occurs in health care facilities, according to NHA data. A recent Vanderbilt University study found that 70 percent of nurses are assaulted at least once during their careers.

Participants from Terre Haute’s Union and Regional hospitals, Greene County General in Linton, St. Vincent Clay Hospital in Brazil, Sullivan County Community Hospital in Sullivan and Putnam County Hospital in Greencastle were among the District 7 participants, which began with a tabletop exercise that put people in situations and tested their responses.

“It was to make them look outside their areas and to cooperate with other agencies,” said Gary Brant of Lighthouse. “I think everybody realized how they can actually improve on situations. They must realize they cannot do it all on their own.”

J.D. Kesler, deputy director of Vigo County Emergency Management Agency, said that one thing each hospital must realize is that it needs processes in place to handle violent situations. While hospitals are used to dealing with the aftermath of violence — in patients brought to them — they are often not prepared to deal with violence occurring in their facilities.

The training that occurred Thursday was intended to show deficiencies and where improvements can be made.

“It’s not a pass/fail test,” said Lighthouse facilitator Mike Ellis. “You do it to bring out the best of their plan or the worst — where the holes are.”

And as Brant pointed out, situations don’t always happen Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. So having one shift of people trained is not enough, especially in a hospital.

Dotson said it is his hope that everything participants learned in Thursday’s exercise can be shared with other staff members and also with the public.

“The things that people learn at this session will be taken home by these people, and they will share this information in conversations with their families and friends, and they can share it with the public,” Dotson said.

Interestingly, Thursday’s training was planned in January, long before Monday’s terror bombing at the Boston Marathon.

“We didn’t alter anything from what we planned to do in this training before Boston,” Dotson said.

Emergency response to violent incidents requires having the same plan in place, he said, such as knowing who to call for assistance, when to order more supplies, and which agencies can provide support and alleviate some of the work.

The community will see another mass casualty/active shooter drill today, when the District 7 Task Force uses the former College of Business building at Indiana State University’s Statesman Towers complex on Ninth Street to set up an inter-agency exercise.

That event will commence at 1 p.m. and should be concluded by about 2:30 p.m.

For more information on how to respond to an active shooter, go online to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Active Shooter Pocket Guide at for more information.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.