Hillsboro Community Hospital was evacuated early Thursday afternoon after two employees received an email informing them of a bomb on the premises.
“The request was for us to send them over 20,000 bitcoins. Every bitcoin is worth around $3,510 each so that times 20,000 is what they were wanting,” said Nurse Manager Kelli Olson.
According to money.cnn.com, a bitcoin is a cryptocurrency created in 2009. Transactions are made with no middlemen so no banks are needed. They also make everything anonymous so they can’t be traced.
Upon receiving the emails, the hospital contacted the police.
“The instructions said ‘do not contact the police or we will immediately detonate the bomb’ but we immediately notified the police and we implemented our incident command system which is basically a system of handling immediate emergencies that affect the whole hospital,” said Olson. “We evacuated patients, evacuated personnel, cancelled clinical appointments and cancelled physical therapy appointments. There were a few of us who did stay behind in the building so we would be there when the authorities arrived so we could guide.We really didn’t know for the first three hours or so that it was a hoax happening across the country.”
All involved agreed it wise to evacuate regardless of the possibility of it being a valid threat or not. They felt it best not to take a risk since so many lives were involved.
“What if ours was the one that was not a hoax? We couldn’t take that chance and we had to treat it like it was real,” said Jessi Workman, the highest administrative official of the hospital since former CEO Marion Regier retired in November.
Assistant Chief of Police Jessey Hiebert said, “The emails in nature looked like the typical hoax ones, but the team there decided that they were going to carry it out as serious, which they should. We notified the KBI (Kansas Bureau of Investigation) who asked that we forward them the emails.
“The KBI advised these were emails sent to several locations in Kansas as well as across the United States. It was believed the emails had emanated from outside of the U.S. The incidents are currently under investigation by the Kansas Bureau of investigation,”said Chief of Police Dan Kinning.
While HCH finished making arrangements for their existing patients to be transferred to other places, Hillsboro PD contacted the Kansas Highway Patrol to come in and search the premises with their bomb sniffing dogs.
“Anytime you call the Highway Patrol and tell them you need them to come and search a building, they are more than happy to come and have the dogs out since every time they get a chance to work the dogs, the dogs get better.There were three teams and three dogs that came down and did a search of the hospital. There were no indications of any explosive devices.” said Hiebert.
All parties involved were pleased with how the evacuation went. The teams all worked well together and were able to handle a difficult situation well. They also gained valuable experience they would not have been able to otherwise.
“We train for this and you never expect to use it, but we implemented it, we did it and it worked out perfect. It couldn’t have worked out any better than what it did,” said Olson. “For us and the Hillsboro P.D. and Kansas Highway Patrol, you don’t get these real life drills very often so for them it was good hands-on experience as well as for us. Fortunately for them and for us, we didn’t have any trauma patients that came in at the time.”
Hiebert agreed, “We don’t want things like this to happen, but it’s a perfect training opportunity. Never would you be able to do an evacuation drill to be evacuating patients. It was a great learning experience. There were very few things that we would have changed. I’m super excited to work with those people (at the hospital). Of course, when you are in a small community and you know all of the people that work there personally, things just work better.”
“We had not done a bomb threat drill this year, but we had all of the procedures and policies in place and we worked it exactly the way it was written. I thought that everybody who is involved with our emergency response incident command handled their jobs perfectly.I’m really proud of the team here and the way they all came together to make sure our patients were taken care of. This was important for us,”said Workman. “We had the opportunity to work an evacuation from beginning to end. There are not a lot of hospitals that can say that. We know it works.”