Earlier this month, the Brigham updated its Emergency Response Plan to transition from use of the phrase active shooter to armed intruder to better describe the broader range of potential threats health care facilities might encounter — as not all threats are limited to a specific weapon, such as a firearm.

As Mass General Brigham institutions continue integrating the use of plain language into their emergency communication platforms and systems, particularly the Employee Alert System (EAS), the Mass General Brigham Security Council and Emergency Preparedness Committee made the recommendation to update language in our preparedness policy around active shooters.

It is important to note that while the hospital’s Armed Intruder Emergency Response Plan has been updated to reflect the new terminology, there have been no changes to how staff should responds to an armed intruder situation.

Brendan Russell, executive director of Emergency Medicine and Emergency Preparedness, said while the language change is subtle, it better reflects the scope of potential threats. Russell and his team continually monitor the literature and work with external partners, including law enforcement, to keep the hospital’s emergency response plans and alerts up to date with current best practices.

Kevin Slattery, director of Brigham Police and Security, said it is important for all staff to be trained in how to respond to a report of an armed intruder while at work, regardless of their role.

“We want to familiarize our staff with the possibility of an intruder using a variety of weapons in an attack and incorporate it into our training,” Slattery said. “The term armed intruder better defines an armed assailant, whether it be with a firearm or something else. The possibility that weapons other than firearms may be used by armed intruders is an important part of our training, preparation, activation and response to armed intruder incidents.

In addition to the emergency response plan update, the Brigham’s armed intruder preparedness training video (formerly the active shooter video), emergency response guidebooks, and emergency response posters have been updated to reflect the new terminology. All staff are required to watch the video and complete a knowledge check as part of this year’s HealthStream required coursework. HealthStream courses must be completed by Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.

If you have an emergency response guidebook (red flipbook) or emergency response poster in your location, please contact Emergency Preparedness at BHEmergencyPreparedness@bwh.harvard.edu for an updated version.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact Emergency Preparedness or speak with your manager or supervisor.

Sign Up for the Employee Alert System

Emergency Alert System messages are a critical part of our emergency preparedness and response efforts, ensuring all staff can be immediately alerted about potentially life-threatening situations and other time-sensitive emergency incidents that could arise in our facilities. For instructions on how to subscribe to our Emergency Alert System, please visit The Pulse.