Health Careers Journal

Safety on Campus and at the Workplace

On Thursday, February 14, 2008 shortly after 3pm a gunmen entered a crowded classroom at Northern Illinois University. The gunmen opened fire, killing five students injuring 18 others and eventually taking his own life. In the early morning hours of April 16, 2007, a gunman attacked the campus of Virginia Tech killing 32 people. Unfortunately, stories like these are becoming all too common. For students of health care, the danger is increased due to the vulnerability of hospitals and health care workers. According to Keith Kelly, Director of Security at Ingham Regional Medical Center in Lansing, Michigan, violence in the workplace is on the rise. Most vulnerable are those who work alone, those who work with money and valuables (including drugs), healthcare workers, and women.

While tips such as locking your personal belongings in your car or locker while at class and/or work, never walking alone and staying off your cell phone while walking so you are not distracted, may keep you safe in a personal safety situation, would you know what to do if your school or place of employment fell victim to an attack like those seen last week in Illinois or last April at Virginia Tech?

Being aware of your surroundings is key. We are generaly aware of what our surroundings should look like at any given time. Use your instincts, if something feels wrong it probably is. Make note of it and then take further action, such as reporting suspicious findings to police, hospital security or campus safety. There are almost always “red flags” that are recognized as such too late.

Know the building that you work in or attend class in. Knowing how to get to your floor or classroom and to the restroom or cafeteria is not enough. It is imperative that you know how to escape in case of emergency and you can not do that efficiently (or even at all) if you do not know your building. Make note of all exits, stair wells, and hallways so you could make a quick exit if the need arose.

Hospitals are unique in that they are a place where people can be significantly compromised in health, mental capacity and emotional stability, leading to the greater vulnerability of those who work there. Every workplace (every floor) should have an emergency plan that details procedures for dealing with security issues. The safety plan should include measures for dealing with distraught patients and/or family members, violent co-workers or other potentially volatile situations. Each plan should include a “safe room” for employees to retreat to, information on how to contact hospital security and police as well as a method for alerting other co-workers of impending danger.

Kelly points out that you can have safety, or you can have convenience, but you can never have both. Safety and security take effort and we have to be willing to do our part in keeping ourselves safe.; even if that entails a measure of inconvenience.

Sadly, attacks like those suffered at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech are likely to continue. Knowing what you should do in a volatile situation can save your life. Be aware, use common sense and remember that safety is not necessarily convenient; it is however, essential. Learn more about safety on campus at

1 comment

1 guardyourselfnow { 02.22.08 at 2:15 pm }

The safety of our children in schools is what we need to pay attention to your artical gave me a well rounded information on how safe we need to be even though we know this we need to be reminded every day so we never forget. Thanks

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