Eight people were killed Sunday March 29, 2009 when an armed gunman went on a shooting rampage in a North Carolina nursing home. This included seven residents of the nursing home and a nurse who was on staff at the time of the incidence. Police have that armed man in custody at this time.
This was one of my biggest fears as a former nursing home employee. I come from a relatively small town where this is a remote possibility but as the world grows smaller, I realize that it could happen here as well. However, there are other emergencies, which could happen in a nursing home that are scary.
In my training, as well as the two nursing homes that I did work there never was any training given to the employees on how to handle a gunman. I do understand that we cannot always train for all the emergencies that may occur, but we do train for the most common emergencies that do occur in a nursing home.
I primarily worked on the night shift as a certified nurse’s aide, and once a month we practiced R.A.C.E. I know the acronym means nothing to of the public so I am going to share exactly what that acronym is with you. It means rescue, activate alarm, confine the fire, and evacuate per the charge nurse or extinguish the fire. Each employee on the night shift as well as the other shifts were expected to know this acronym and how to accomplish the tasks when dealing with this type of an emergency.
The rescue part of course means to move all the residents or patients out of the immediate area so that they are out of harms way. At times it is as simple as pulling them out of room if the fire was in a room, we would also remove the residents from their rooms on either side and across the hall from a room.
Once we knew for sure that the residents were all safe from harm we would then activate the fire alarm, which would shut the fire doors and notify the fire company at the same time automatically. We were told that where the fire doors are there is also a firewall dividing the rooms and that if there were a fire to firewalls, which contain it, as would fire doors.
As to confine the fire sometimes, it was as simple as shutting the door that had a fire behind it, and hanging red piece of paper on the door. I really did not understand this part because paper burns and if there was really a fire behind that door of the paper would burn as well. However, the nursing supervisor at that assured me these firewalls would contain the fire behind the door at lease for a house to get the residents clear.
Evacuating was something that we would have to do if the fire was out of control and this is when things would get blurry for me as a caring individual. If a fire were to break out, we would have to move the residence beyond the fire doors and take those residents down the steps. Anyone who has ever written in an elevator has seen the signs that say do not use in case of a fire and the elevators will automatically shuts off when the fire alarm is activated. Therefore in the case of a fire the residents were ambulatory are the ones that would get rescued first. If the resident could walk down the steps those are the ones we took first.
It is easy to tell when you walk down the hall to the nursing home who will get rescued first. All nursing homes in the country have a color code system, which dictates to the staff which residents are rescued first. They say this is for the greater good for everyone involved.
This color code system is standard in all nursing homes across the United States. You will see outside the residence individual rooms little colored circles and this is that system. Green is for go days are the residents who can walk on their own or with the aid of a walker. Yellow is for the residents who need to be in a wheelchair to be transferred, while the red circles are the bed ridden patients who need to be moved on their beds or a stretcher. Because those people with a red circles are more time consuming to move and often require 2 to 3 staff members for transportation these are the last residents to be rescued.
The race acronym is standard in nursing homes and hospitals across the nation, and it is part of the OSHA fire safety standard. More information about pack can be found within the national OSHA website, which is included in the resources section of this article.
Nursing home safety is always a big issue when something like a shooting happens like the one in North Carolina. Even though this article is not about shootings in nursing home it is about nursing home safety and perhaps this can alleviate fears that family members have concerning their own family members within the nursing home setting.