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Healthcare Providers Targeted by Violence

Physician Shot in Baltimore Hospital...Reminding us that hospitals are Soft Targets.

A lone gunman entered Johns Hopkins Hospital and became upset over his mothers condition. According to, the man pulled out a pistol and shot a doctor. He returned to his mothers room and is believed to have shot her, and then shot himself. Also, according to the original article, the hospital gets 80,000 visitors and has at least 80 doors that makes security difficult.

We've talked about Soft Targets many times before. Anyplace that lacks deterrents to an attack and holds value as a target (ie place of critical infrastructure) is a soft target. Hospitals are locations of critical infrastructure.
"It's important to understand that open structures with multiple access/egress points, isolated utility and services corridors and large crowds are potential target hazards for multi-patient, mass casualty events. Remember, we're not just talking terrorism here...gang activity can cause collateral damage as well as structural collapse, fires, panic situations, and of course, intentional events." (Hospitals, Hotels, Malls - Soft Targets December 2, 2008 Mitigation Journal)
 I wrote the above quote almost two years ago in response to an attack in India (see Why hotels are easy terrorist targets in The reminder has to be that we continue to have locations of critical infrastructure that are open buildings, lacking any deterrent. That is, they're a soft target. Violence against health care workers has been an issue of growing concern for several years. Most cases of violence in hospitals occur in the emergency department, while other less predicable events can occur on any floor.

The recent shooting of a physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital underscores that unpredictability. According to a follow up article from, the shooters mother was paralyzed as a result of recent surgery. It was that bit of bad news that caused the man to shoot the physician, his mother, and himself.

The Johns Hopkins event is only the latest in a growing trend of hospital violence. According to this article, most physicians do not feel safe in their workplace. The rate of attacks and violence is particularly disturbing in emergency departments as noted by in Assaults on ER nurses rise as programs cut.

While there are no simple answers to the growing violence problem, there are non-intrusive countermeasures. We spoke with representatives from Net Talon on Mitigation Journal Podcast (listen to MJ# 187 here) talking about active shooter situations and solutions. You can also read my posting Active Shooter Brief in Mitigation Journal Blog, July, 2010.

The bottom line on all this is that we must harden our soft  targets...including matter how difficult the task. As tragic as the Johns Hopkins and other events are, they could be much, much worse.

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