"There is a crazy guy in the hospital shooting people!" screamed volunteer victim Mary Ellen Stephens of Owl Creek.
Stephens exited the hospital to awaiting hospital staff, police and volunteers during an internal active shooter emergency preparedness and response drill Thursday at the St. Luke's Hospital - Miner's Campus in Coaldale.
St. Luke's Hospital & Health Network worked with a number of local police departments and the Salisbury Township Police Department's Critical Incident Management SWAT Team to hold the drill in case of an active shooter or a similar incident would occur at the hospital.
"Like at all our hospitals, this active shooter training simulated a worse case scenario, as most incidents in the hospital are handled between the hospital and local law enforcement," stressed Tony Gatta, Security Safety Management, St. Luke's Hospital - Miners Campus.
Coordinators pointed out that the scenario inside was made to look and feel as real as possible, to include using quiet and safe forms of amunition in drill. They also mentioned that during the three-hour drill, patients were informed of the drill prior and not interrupted.
Alan Lynch, network director, St. Luke's Hospital & Health Network, recalled the 2010 incident at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital, in which a gunman, upset over news about his mother's medical condition, opened fire inside the hospital, wounding a doctor before fatally shooting his mom and then turning the gun on himself.
These situations do happen and are discussed frequently by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Joint Commission (TJC). He added that all six St. Luke's hospital's train staff regularly in preparation for numerous situations, emergencies and disasters.
"We have a robust response plan," said Lynch.
Micah Gursky, director of Development at the Miner's Campus, said each part of St. Luke's growing network of hospitals, facilities and well-trained staff are able to respond during any situation, offering professional resources and assistance; such as mental health, medical care and assisting in police logistics.
"Expertise is really significant," added Gursky.
Officials pointed out that the importance of holding this type of drill was escalated to priority due to the recent layoff of police officers in Coaldale.
Assisting in the drill were about two dozen well-equipped police officers from Coaldale, Tamaqua, Summit Hill, Salisbury Township, Rush Township and others. Ambulance crews taking part in the drill were from Lehighton and Lansford Ambulance.
Also responding were mobile Emergency Management Agency (EMA) command centers from both Schuylkill and Carbon counties.
"Our hospital holds multiple drills to prepare for real emergencies," said Kim Sargent, vice president, Patient Care Services, St. Luke's Hospital & Health Network.
"Without the network and its well-trained employees, we couldn't do this."