It’s a nightmare scenario that took place at a North Carolina nursing home several years ago: A shooter entered a facility filled with the elderly and infirm and opened fire, leaving eight people dead.
As incidents of mass shootings appear with increasing frequency in national headlines, New Community Extended Care Facility has taken proactive measures to prepare for the worst.
“Hopefully it never happens,” Robert Smolin, facility administrator, said after the staff of the 180-bed capacity nursing home practiced a disaster drill of an active shooter scenario. Dr. Kathleen Sternas, associate professor at the College of Nursing at Seton Hall University, also brought a group of nursing students to participate in the drill.
Franco Ferrante, the registered dietician at Extended Care who previously worked as a peace officer, played the role of a disgruntled man who was visiting his mother. After visiting his mother on the second floor, Ferrante exited the building and pretended to go to his car to retrieve a gun.
When he returned to the nursing home, the security guard in the lobby saw the gun and fled. Ferrante went back to his mother’s room where three gunshots rang out. He ran out of the room and shot a nurse that crossed his path in front of the elevator. Another staff person simulated dialing 911. When Ferrante stepped out of the elevator and into the first floor lobby, he opened fire on a half dozen staff and residents and then shot himself. The total carnage from the shooting rampage: Nine dead.
“It could happen and that’s what they’re preparing for,” said Sgt. Bert Moita of the Essex County Office of Emergency Management, who observed the drill and provided feedback to the staff.
Extended Care typically holds two disaster drills a year, ranging from fire and smoke to more violent situations. Smolin described a facility such as the nursing home as “a soft target.”
Delores Bynum, front desk receptionist, said the drill reminded her to “be more observant of my surroundings.”
Moita advised Smolin and his staff to create a code word to use over intercom system to alert the entire building of an emergency situation. “It’s good to practice, just in case,” he said.