Event focused on health care facilities, held at the Crookston Inn. was conducted by Northwest Health Services Coalition.

    For several hours on Tuesday, much of the Crookston Inn & Convention Center was transformed, in a simulated sense at least, into a health care facility so local health care professionals and law enforcement personnel from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office could be trained on how to handle “active incident” scenarios that unfold in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, mental health centers or other health care facilities.

    The training was conducted by Northwest Health Services Coalition (NHSC), in partnership with All Clear Emergency Management Group, the latter of which helped lead classroom instruction sessions on Tuesday that were followed by various “active incident” simulations that were played out in various locations of the building.

    When the Times was at the Crookston Inn on Tuesday, the active incident scenario being acted out involved a husband coming to a hospital, armed with a handgun, in search of his wife, a nurse who works there, whom the husband suspects is having an affair. The husband, portrayed by training contractor Jeff Kolts, storms up and down hallways with gun in hand, barging into rooms while yelling for his wife. Eventually, he’s successfully taken down and subdued by law enforcement officers using the “swarm” technique.

    Carrie Bergquist of Crookston, who’s been with Altru Clinic in Crookston for 19 years, is also the “regional healthcare preparedness coordinator” for the NHSC, so she played an integral role in organizing and coordinating Tuesday’s training session focused on preparedness at health care facilities.

    Four Polk County deputies participated in Tuesday’s sessions, along with Sheriff Jim Tadman. They were joined by several staff members of Crookston health care facilities.

    “We are fortunate we were able to team up with the Crookston Inn, who allowed us to utilize a portion of the hotel,” Bergquist said. She added that a second, similar session was initially planned for Thursday, Jan. 10, but because of the partial government shutdown, the federally funded NHSC had to postpone the second session.

What it’s all about
    The NHSC’s service area covers a wide swath of northern Minnesota that includes Baudette, Roseau, Ada ,Mahnomen, Detroit Lakes, Park Rapids, Thief River Falls, Crookston, Cass Lake, Bemidji, Bagley, Fosston, Red Lake, Warren and Hallock. In those cities are 15 hospitals and two Native American tribes, Bergquist said.

    Much of what the coalition does, Bergquist said, stems from the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

    Training sessions conducted over the past year have covered things like civil unrest (with representatives from law enforcement, hospitals, Enbridge, tribes, etc. that were present on the Dakota Access Pipeline protest and response); incident command system; social media (how hospitals can get a handle on social media when disasters occur), HAZMAT; Highly Contagious Infectious Diseases; multiple communications exercises; and, Active Shooter Training.  

    “Our main focus this past year has been preparing our hospitals and long-term care facilities for CMS (Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services) surveys,” Bergquist explained. “Basically, any facility that receives reimbursement from Medicare/Medicaid can be shut down, if we don’t follow their rules.”

    The NHSC must adhere to strict guidelines when it conducts training sessions, she added. “The biggie is that we cannot go to each facility to do training, it must be a regional focus,” Bergquist explained. “In anything funded by the government, we must be creative on how we can best spend the dollars and how we can best prepare our communities.”

    Rarely does the NHSC host training sessions in Crookston, so Bergquist said she was especially “pumped” for Tuesday’s session here. The coalition contracts with All Clear Emergency Management of Denver, Colo., and Bergquist said it’s quite an undertaking to bring so many people from so many disciplines and agencies to one location for a single-day training session.

Tuesday’s session
    Four scenarios played out at the Crookston Inn on Tuesday. First, participants learned about them in a classroom setting, and then they had an opportunity to put their new skills and knowledge to the test in the active incident scenarios. The sessions aimed to take the best parts of the “Run Hide Fight” and ALICE (Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate) strategies and also practice different tactics to take down an active shooter. After each scenario, everyone gathered for a “hotwash” to talk about what went well and what didn’t go so well.

    Every participant on Tuesday went home with a thumb drive containing all of the day’s training materials, Bergquist said, so they could go back to the facilities at which they work and share their knowledge with their colleagues. “That’s probably the most important part of the day,” she said.

   One skill the health care field professionals will take back with them sounds very simple, but Bergquist said can be especially effect, and it simply involves throwing available items at a perpetrator in the hopes of stalling him or breaking his concentration. To illustrate the importance of that tactic, participants on Tuesday were given yellow balls around the size of a baseball that they could potentially throw in a real incident.

   "We talk about wherever you are, look for weapons to throw at the perp to distract him and buy yourself a little time," Bergquist explained. "All of the participants were given two balls to throw.  We learned that the shooter will probably react, which might cease the shooting for even a couple of seconds. So, sitting at my desk right now, I’m looking at all the things I could throw...a stapler, books, scissors, hot coffee, etc."