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Never make assumptions about a suspect

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March 04, 2010

Never make assumptions about a suspect

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PoliceOne Staff

In light of a recent incident where a Conn. man opened fire on a nurse at a hospital, it's important to be aware of any and all threats that hospital patients might pose. Remember, age does not directly correspond to level of risk. Neither does setting. Take a minute to candidly consider where your level of awareness and preparedness would fall given the elements of the following incident.

Here’s what you’ve got: An 85-year-old man who’s described as “very mild-mannered” in a hospital setting. No criminal record. No apparent reason to suspect explosive violence. Then...the shooting begins.

Surprising? Sure. Out of the realm of belief? Unfortunately, no.

Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself to prepare for the next attack:

Are you ready for anything, at anytime and with anybody?

This isn’t to say that you should be constantly paranoid and on high alert every minute of the day. Just be ready. Be sure you have considered the fact that you might be faced with a crisis situation at any time and, unfortunately, in virtually any place and with any individual.

A survival adage to live by: Never make assumptions. Don’t assume that no one around you is armed. Don’t assume that just because you’re in a hospital or a school or a church – or even in your station parking lot, as illustrated by the recent reports of assassination attempts on California officers – you can completely let your guard down. Don’t assume that just because someone is elderly, or young, or small in stature, or have a meek demeanor, etc., they don’t have the potential for being a risk to you.

Are hospitals in your area educated and prepared?

Although it’s common for some to consider hospitals “safe zones,” law enforcement personnel – and hospital personnel, for that matter – can’t make that assumption. Read “Tips for dealing with incidents and suspects in hospitals” for more on that point.

It’s important to make sure that hospital personnel are made aware of the potential for violence in their work setting and that they’re advised to believe, remember and plan for that. Take the time to talk to hospital personnel including, of course, security officers and educate them on what to watch for, including common pre-attack behaviors, clues to watch for that can help you spot a hidden weapon, plans for dealing with attacks, protocols to follow, etc. If they’ve got plans in place, consider taking a look and see if there’s any additional insight that can be offered. Pre-planning can saves lives.

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