UTMB runs gunman preparedness drill inside John Sealy Hospital

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GALVESTON, TX – Big drama at Galveston’s John Sealy Hospital Wednesday. University of Texas Medical Branch police stormed the Labor and Delivery wing looking for a reported gunman. Luckily, there was no shooter found; it was just a drill preparing staff in the event — God forbid — that a gunman ever shows up at the hospital.

A hooded actor went from one staff member to another asking to see a mysterious “Jimmy John.” When nurses and volunteers said there was no one by that name, he would pretend to shoot them with a red plastic gun.

The scene saw the gunman walk down the hall of the hospital’s third floor, shooting four other folks before mistakenly shooting his own mother and then committing suicide. All through the exercise, doctors and staff were advised at what police and staff should be doing at each point.

The drill continued with police rushing in to assess the situation and make the scene safe for medical staff, who followed to get the “injured” taken care of. To an unknowing bystander, this might have appeared to be a silly exercise. But it’s preparation for something pretty important, according to pediatrician Dr. Joan Richardson, UTMB’s Institutional Awareness Preparedness Officer: “What would we do if there were an active shooter in the hospital in terms of mobilizing our emergency services and taking care of the shooter and also taking care of anybody that might have been injured?”

“We have these drills periodically. This is the first time we’ve practiced in the hospital,” said Thomas Engells, UTMB chief of police. “It’s more realistic than in a controlled training environment, all in pursuit of making us a safer and (more) secure campus community.”

That’s why surgical tech Deborah Warren volunteered to play the shooter’s first victim, “With the way thing are happening here in the world today, I thought that it would be my purpose and my part in life just to show what we can do to eliminate this from happening at this university.”

“We’re trying to maintain and provide the safest kind of environment that we can for our patients,” explained Dr. Richardson. If it takes a little make-believe to achieve that, we say, play on!