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Posted: August 11, 2017 10:25 a.m.
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Richmond Hill Medical Home affirms readiness during exercise

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In partnership with U.S. Army Medical Activity-Fort Stewart, the Richmond Hill Medical Home in partnership with and members of the Winn Emergency management team lead by Wilson Rodriguez, participated in a collaborative active-shooter exercise with the Richmond Hill Police Department and first responders.

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Its 8 a.m., and U.S. Army Medical Department Activity-Fort Stewart, Richmond Hill Medical Home Security Guard Glen Burkhart unlocks the doors to the main lobby of the medical home. Burkhart begins to check patient identifications when a noticeably disgruntled male patient engages Burkhart after the patient is asked to show his identification.

“He came in and initially he started getting irate,” Burkhart said.

The patient paces back and forth during his confrontation with Burkhart becoming increasingly more agitated until finally exploding into a full-on tirade.

 “He made the statement he was going to come back and shoot the place up. At that point my only thought was safety for everybody inside the clinic,” Burkhart said.

Burkhart follows protocol. He locks the doors in the main lobby and dials 911 while the medical support assistant operating the front desk, April Cruz, ushers the patients to safety.

“As soon as the patient made the statement that he was going to blow up the place we got our patients to safe zones,”Cruz said.

Within seconds of getting the last patient to safety, the agitated assailant storms into the main lobby screaming obscenities and firing his weapon erratically. Moments later, the intercom announces code white “Exercise, exercise, exercise.” Outside the facility, U.S Army MEDDAC, Commander, Col. Christopher Warner, assesses the situation.

“Today was about testing and drilling to make sure that our staff were well trained, and that our partnership with Richmond Hill Police and Fire was well established,” Warner said. “So, that if ever an event like that occurred, we knew our staff and the community was ready to respond.”

With readiness being the primary mission for U.S.A MEDDAC, the RHMH and members of the Winn Emergency Management Team participated in a collaborative active-shooter exercise with Richmond Hill Police Department and first responders.

“We were approached by the medical security force,” RHPD Lieutenant Brad Sykes said. “We’ve been planning this for several months; we’ve had several meetings trying to go over logistics and safety issues.”

Sykes, the team lead for the RHPD during the training exercise, understands the importance of participating in joint active-shooter training opportunities.

“With the rise in active-shooter scenarios we’ve been seeing across the country, anywhere can potentially be a target,” Sykes said. “Schools, churches, medical facilities like this, so it’s very important for my officers to train and be prepared if something like this were to happen.”

The participants in the training exercise were assessed on the staff’s response to code white active- shooter procedures. The clinic’s physical security plan, identifying the vulnerabilities, which could lead to immediate harm to staff and patients, and the partnership with RHPD and first responders when responding to an active shooter situation were part of the assessment as well.

Warner said the training was not only beneficial, but it shows the great relationship USA MEDDAC-Fort Stewart has with the surrounding community. He lamented the importance of continuing to foster these partnerships as the MEDDAC team trains to continue to provide a ready and secure team for future training events.

Even though the code white active-shooter training exercise was not a real-world scenario, Warner reminds everyone about the importance of staying vigilant.

“These risks, these unknown threats, you have to be looking for the warning signs, the indicators,” Warner said. “Be vigilant about safety continuously, because you may not have much lead time … if any. The training has to be well established, so it kicks in immediately because the difference of seconds could be a magnitude of lives.”

After the completion of the exercise, Sykes reflects on the commitment of the RHPD and first responders to provide a ready response force if a real-world scenario occurred.

 

“Our officers are highly trained, highly motivated and since this facility is in our jurisdiction, we’ll be the primary law enforcement agency responding. The people here, the patients, the employees can count on us to respond quickly and efficiently,” Sykes said.


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