February 22, 2023, 08:37: “Report of an active shooter at the schools.” I was meeting with Dr. Steve Ayers, one of our Emergency Department physicians, when we received this alert. Soon after, we heard reports of shots fired at the elementary school. It was surreal at first and terrifying as the words registered. Dr. Ayers rushed off to the Emergency Department while we stood up “Incident Command” (how we manage large events) and locked-down the hospital to allow us to focus our resources where they could soon be needed. Within minutes, responding emergency physicians, trauma surgeons and staff had created multiple trauma teams who were assembling equipment and supplies in the Emergency Room. For the next 102 minutes, following the initial alert, we were busy preparing for the unthinkable. At the schools, teachers were sheltering and protecting students, and law enforcement officers and emergency medical providers were systematically entering and clearing the buildings as they had trained to do.
As a hospital, and an emergency response community, we were ready. We responded to what turned out to be a highly coordinated, evil and elaborate hoax, but I can assure you that it was very real at the time. The professionalism, dedication and heroism by so many was genuine and inspiring to witness. As it turned out, our community was one of over a dozen in Colorado to have faced the threat for what it was – real until proven otherwise. Even after the “all clear” was announced, to our enormous relief, Dr. Chris Roseberry, our Trauma Medical Director, led our medical professionals in a training exercise. We learned from the experience, and we improved our processes to make our response to any multi-casualty event more effective in the future.
I am sure those who intended to inflict fear and disruption would be sorely disappointed to know that communities and hospitals like ours will rise above the fear and the chaos for a greater purpose – to respond, learn and grow. I hope your confidence in your trauma professionals is even further bolstered as you review this issue of our monthly newsletter and learn more about our trauma program.
Also, we’ll introduce you to Dr. Caroline Mears, our newest internal medicine physician with a passion for women’s health. In addition, we have some delicious and healthy recipes for you to try from our Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, Lauren Mitchell, and we hope you will join us and many community members in celebrating the life and contributions of Dr. Morris Cohen following his passing in January.
Our professionals are ready to help you with the more routine medical, health and lifestyle needs you may have, or to respond to whatever traumas, threats and serious events come our way. That’s what we do as a community hospital with a clear purpose to take care of you in whatever way you need us. Count on us – we’ll be there.