Health care workers are vulnerable to workplace violence, including active shooter incidents. Little is known about how firearms could damage monoplace chamber acrylic and whether a breached pressurized chamber presents additional threat to the patient or bystanders.
In a remote area where firearm discharge is permitted, we tested the durability of sections of monoplace hyperbaric chamber acrylic under various firearm discharges. Firearms were discharged at acrylic sections from a distance of 17 feet at 45 degrees and 10 degrees from perpendicular while wearing protective gear. Firearm calibers ranged from .22 caliber handgun to 5.56 mm AR-15 rifle. We also conducted similar testing on a monoplace hyperbaric chamber pressurized with >99% oxygen to a differential pressure of 14.7 psig (2.0 atmospheres absolute at sea level). Handguns were remotely fired at a distance of 12 feet from the chamber (30 degrees from perpendicular), while the rifles were fired at a distance of 60 feet from the chamber.
Higher-caliber handguns penetrated or fractured the acrylic sections only after multiple shots. The tested rifles caused full-thickness penetration and fracture with a single shot. However, the pressurized monoplace hyperbaric chamber required two shots from the AR-15 rifle, separated by approximately 60 mm, to penetrate the acrylic, resulting in rapid depressurization. The chamber otherwise remained intact, with no explosion or conflagration observed.
An intact or pressurized chamber performs differently than stand-alone acrylic sections under firearms testing. In a worst-case active shooter scenario, the pressurized monoplace chamber tested posed no additional threat to bystanders beyond the significant risk of ricochet.
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