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Farmington Hills

April 24, 2013

Officers receive awards for armed gunman training

Police prepared Botsford staff for lockdown, in case of shooter incident

By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer

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Sgt. Brian Bastianelli, left, and training officer Larry Lutrell, of the Farmington Hills Police Department, recently received Botsford Hospital’s Safety Award for their emergency preparedness work with the hospital staff, which included a pair of armed intruder exercises last year.

FARMINGTON HILLS — Botsford Hospital is a place many people go for medical emergencies, but thanks to some special training, the hospital’s staff is ready for a different type of emergency.

Police Sgt. Brian Bastianelli and training officer Larry Luttrell were recently honored for their work with Botsford, which started in October 2011, preparing hospital staff and administrators for the unlikely case of an armed intruder. The duo was given the hospital’s Safety Award March 20.

“This was the first time. ... Normally, our Safety Awards were for internal, but we thought they were so involved,” said Connie Fleming, Botsford’s director of nursing services and co-chair of their Emergency Preparedness Committee. “In this particular case, we’d been working together for over a year. It was a very collaborative effort.”

Although the emergency preparedness training began with a few simple meetings, including a tabletop discussion among department administrators, it developed into a pair of live-action training scenarios where Luttrell acted as an armed gunman. In the first instance, he stormed the Emergency Room in January 2012. Then, in June 2012, he ran rampant in the hospital hallways, from the ER to the concourse.

“It was very realistic. We did a lot of planning with that,” Fleming said. “Most people don’t know what a gunshot sounds like. When you hear it, you’ll never forget it. We were able to see the benefits. It allowed us to put together a lot of tools for people, what to do.”

In both cases, hospital staff had been pre-trained — and pre-alerted — for the lockdown procedures. Farmington Hills Police had a trained response team that was able to take advantage of the hands-on training scenario after staking out across the street at Vladimir’s. A few nursing students were brought in to act as people injured by the shooter.

“We had a couple of our officers and another officer as a mentally disabled (person), and he disarmed one of our officers right there in the ER, and we fired some blanks,” Bastianelli said. “Every (one) did exactly what they were supposed to do. I really applaud Botsford. Only a few hospitals have stepped forward and said we’re going to prepare for that.”

The hospital and police took several precautions, including signage, extra police presence and several intercom announcements, to make sure the public and patients understood that it was just a drill, so as to not alarm the patients, and also to protect the officers from anyone looking to be a civilian hero. That allowed the hospital to practice the scenario appropriately.

“A lot of these protocols are the same as they are with schools,” Bastianelli said. “We helped them institute some policies and procedures. We worked out all the bugs and reinstituted their policies. What’s different is that you have a lot of people who can’t evacuate. In schools, you can generally get most of the students to have a mass evacuation.”

Bastianelli said he and Luttrell — who have a combined 40 years on the FHPD force — were appreciative of the awards, and he said the Botsford staff really made it an enjoyable training experience.

“It was having the opportunity to work with the staff and administration at Botsford. It was a real eye- opener for me. It was awesome. It was just great,” Bastianelli said. “The night before the award, they had a report of gunshots in labor and delivery, midnight shift. It turned out that they couldn’t determine that gunshots were fired.”

He said all the precautionary procedures were followed in that case, and officers arrived to find the hospital hallways like a ghost town due to the lockdown. The cause for alarm was deemed to be a family argument on the ninth floor.

Fleming said the hospital would like to continue the partnership for training purposes.

“I (think) that we would probably do it again to keep people in practice,” Fleming said. “Farmington Hills is just so responsible, both police and fire. My favorite part was actually seeing we did have an effect on the staff and how they reacted.”

Bastianelli said several hospitals are taking precautionary measures and applauded Botsford for reaching out to do the same. He also said hospital security’s recent addition of Tasers will help make them more effective in keeping the hospital safe.

“This is a first-time thing. There’s been quite a push in the hospitals in our area,” Bastianelli said. “They reached out to the chief to see if there was anything we could do. The hospital has had a few incidents that have occurred where guns have been found. Nothing major yet, thank God.”

Both Fleming and Bastianelli referred to the process as a multi-pronged approach, between the tabletop discussion and the exercise, putting training practices into effect for both hospital staff and the police unit.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Chris Jackett at cjackett@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1110.