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Police, hospital team up to train

August 24, 2011
Meg Alexander - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - "Code purple, 202. Code purple, 202. Code purple, 202."

The message was broadcast Tuesday over the intercom throughout Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont, triggering an immediate lockdown as staff and law enforcement reacted to the threat of an armed intruder.

Throughout the afternoon, the code was used five different times, for five emergency training scenarios.

Article Photos

GOTCHA — Observers from Mayo Clinic Health System and area law enforcement agencies watch as Fairmont police officers secure an armed suspect during a Code Purple drill Tuesday in Fairmont. Officers practiced apprehending armed intruders in case the scenario should ever occur for real.

"This is something we have to plan for," said Kevin Burns in public affairs. "We can't take anything for granted."

On scene were Fairmont Police, Sherburn/Welcome Police and Martin County Sheriff departments, using unloaded airsoft guns to emulate the real thing.

"Fix my son or I'm going to shoot you!" yelled a man pretending to be a father upset about the care his child was receiving.

Racing down the hallway, a nurse quickly dialed 911, informing the dispatcher that an armed intruder had hostages trapped in a patient's room at the hospital. She remained on the phone, until she was instructed to let police in a back door.

"Is this the west door?" she asked, looking frazzled.

That's exactly why they do the training, Burns noted. In a real emergency situation, when adrenaline is pumping, people can easily get confused.

Later during the same scenario, a responding officer was advised to move to a better, safer position. While some corrective measures were made on the spot, most were saved for a quick debriefing after each situation was resolved.

"We're here to learn. We're here to make mistakes," Burn said.

As the afternoon went on, the scenarios progressed: Police tackled an irate wife after she learned of her husband's girlfriend when he was admitted as a patient; a man killed his wife and himself after hearing she had terminal cancer; an on-duty nurse got an unwanted visit from her drunk husband, whom she was in the process of divorcing.

All of the scenarios involved handguns, but in the final scripted scene, multiple people were shot after a man retaliated against the hospital for firing his wife.

"There's going to be hell to pay! You haven't met my husband yet," shouted a hospital worker who really got into her role as a fired employee.

When her "husband" arrived - played by a law enforcement official - mayhem quickly ensued, including an officer down. The response from emergency personnel seemed to take a long time, as "victims" lay in the hallway, the shooter taunting them about the trauma team's slow response.

Pops from the airsoft guns rang out when law enforcement arrived, and the shooter was only taken down when an officer surprised him, shooting him from behind after sneaking onto the floor through a different entrance.

Once the man was apprehended, the trauma team rushed in and began offering emergency response to the victims, whose "injuries" were made clear by cards worn around their necks.

"The trauma team was probably here within 12 seconds, but until it was safe for them, until law enforcement secured the scene, they didn't want to create more casualties," Burns said.

The training took up most of the afternoon, but it was only a small portion of the time that went into preparing for the emergency scenarios. Mayo Clinic Health System had worked for weeks with law enforcement, wanting to make the drills as realistic as possible, while preventing any interruptions in patient care.

"It's always beneficial to work on our partnership with not only other law enforcement but also health care," said Sgt. Michael Hunter.

"Officers now know our facility better ... and what may appear to be minor things, actually we can learn from them," Burns said.

While the staff in the enclosed emergency training area - an empty hospital hallway - responded accordingly to each scenario, other employees throughout the facility were also reacting to the code purple drills.

"Everyone in the organization has a role in a code, be it a fire, an intruder, severe weather or mass casualty," Burns said.



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