OHSU Forms Public Task Force to Evaluate Risk in Responding to a Critical Incident

10/16/08  Portland, Ore.

University seeks to assess risk, preparedness of the campus and its public safety officers in managing a critical incident

Following the tragic school shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois universities, Oregon Health & Science University has been evaluating its readiness to respond to such an incident. As part of this process, OHSU will seek to increase the training and authorities of its public safety officers, including the ability to train at the state police academy. In addition, OHSU President Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A., has established a public task force to consider the university’s risk and whether additional steps are necessary to ensure the continued safety of the OHSU community.

“Some of the concerns that arose in response to the recent university shootings were communication limitations, the training and tools available to campus officers, and the need for a very quick response time when a shooting incident begins,” explained Joe Partridge, OHSU’s Emergency Management program director. “In a relatively short amount of time, a mass casualty incident can develop. Assessments of these shootings indicate that a more rapid first response can save lives, which is why OHSU has joined many other universities in reviewing our risks, response tools and possible needs.”

The task force will include representatives from local law enforcement and government, Portland-area residents, patients and employees, among other representatives. The group will also include a member of the recently created Governor’s Task Force on Campus Safety in Oregon to ensure the two groups are sharing information.
The OHSU group, called the Critical Incident Readiness Task Force, is charged with reviewing the institution’s readiness to respond to critical incident, including an active shooter, at OHSU facilities on Marquam Hill, South Waterfront and West Campus in Hillsboro with the goal of reducing risk and increasing safety for patients, visitors, students, and staff.

Specifically, the task force will consider the following:

  • OHSU’s risk of facing a critical incident such as an active shooter on campus.
  • The university’s ability to prevent a critical incident.
  • The university’s preparedness for responding to a critical incident.
  • OHSU’s crisis communications abilities, including better ways to use technology and methods of enhancing coordination between OHSU and community partners.
  • The adequacy of existing public safety equipment, training, staffing and authorities, including whether OHSU public safety offers should carry firearms.
  • The university’s ability to recover from a critical incident, including how OHSU can learn from past tragic events.

The task force will convene a series of meetings, including public forums, to consider these issues. The group has been asked to make recommendations to President Robertson by Nov. 14. With this review and recommendations in hand, OHSU leadership may choose to take additional steps to ensure the continued safety of the OHSU community.

“The process of reviewing and improving our safety preparedness will be very transparent and collaborative,” explained Robertson. “OHSU serves the entire state and we have tens of thousands of visitors each year. The public, our employees and other stakeholders need to be part of the discussion and the solution.” 

About OHSU Public Safety
Public safety officers oversee the safety of OHSU staff and visitors at three locations (Marquam Hill, South Waterfront and West Campus), two of which receive more than 2,000 patient visitors a day.  Officers patrol all parts of OHSU, including the Emergency Department, hospitals, clinics and research labs – an area covering more than 400 acres. 

About OHSU
Oregon Health & Science University is the state’s only health and research university, and Oregon’s only academic health center. OHSU is Portland's largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government), with 12,400 employees. OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. It serves patients from every corner of the state, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to every county in the state.