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On June 30, 2017, a disgruntled doctor opened fire on the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital, where he was previously employed, killing a fellow doctor and injuring six others. This tragic event, more than a year later, has become the case study for active shooter preparedness plans in hospitals across the country.
In some ways, the incident had all the hallmarks of an active shooter event. The perpetrator was an aggrieved ex-employee, the shooting spanned a wide area – several floors – as people ran and hid, and the shooter took his own life rather than be apprehended. But the event was also an example of a relatively new phenomenon: the use of social media by eyewitnesses and bystanders to share real-time details and images of the attack as it occurred.
Dataminr, a company that detects indications of breaking events in social media and publicly available data, provided detailed coverage of the shooting as it unfolded. These real-time alerts came from people inside and outside Bronx-Lebanon Hospital witnessing the attack and provided visibility into the incident as it happened.
Social media posts told of the massive emergency response as police and SWAT teams raced up the Grand Concourse thoroughfare, closed streets, and set up a perimeter. The posts included information about the victims on the 16th and 17th floors. They also contained details of the shooter, descriptions of his attire, and ultimately, they identified him as Dr. Henry Bello.
By 3:24 PM, roughly 30 minutes after the shooting began, Dataminr alerts said that the shooter had barricaded himself in a room. By 3:51 PM, it was clear the shooter was no longer a threat. Four minutes later, NYPD Assistant Commissioner for Communication & Public Information, J. Peter Donald, tweeted that the shooter was deceased.
From the first shots to the all-clear, publicly available data captured every update as it was known, and Dataminr’s alerts delivered these updates in a digestible real-time stream of information so clients could follow each development.
With access to such information, hospitals suffering an active shooter event like this one can harness real-time data to complement their own internal data feeds as well as traditional information streams from authorities and news outlets. Having the best, most current information allows them to respond faster and more effectively. They can make the best decisions to get their patients, visitors and employees to safety, and can ensure their communications minimize confusion. Even hospitals in the vicinity need real-time data to be prepared to take on patients being moved and treat the injured from the attack.
The grim reality is that as such shootings become increasingly lethal, getting the complete picture in real time is an indispensable part of an effective, efficient response that saves lives. As hospitals and healthcare facilities evolve their emergency and active shooter plans, employing publicly available data has proven to be an essential part of this new, more timely approach.