Common Mistakes that Employees Make During Active Shooter Events

by | Apr 28, 2022 | Active Shooter Incidents, Active Threat Training, Workplace Violence

Mistakes happen, right? It’s human not to be perfect. Well, we aren’t asking you to be perfect by any means. We want you to be safe from harm when the time comes. With active threats on the rise in the United States, we believe you can’t afford to make a mistake when reacting to a life-threatening event if you can do something about it. Which you can. And we can help.

When push comes to shove, and you need to make a quick decision in an active shooter event, mistakes can not be made. Learn how to reduce errors and keep your employees safe with advice from SaferSite below.


Do you want a real-life example of an active shooter drill poorly executed? Let us detail out the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center incident for you.

Here’s What Happened

The Navy inflicted an accidental active shooter scare in November 2018 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. There was, in fact, a planned drill that day. However, there was a miscommunication between employees, security detail and higher-ups in the hospital. Many did not know if the alert was a test or a dangerous real-life situation they were facing, as workers and patients were afraid and sought out shelter.

“While preparing for an upcoming drill, the notification system inadvertently enacted without containing the words’ exercise’ or ‘drill,'” the Navy said in a statement Tuesday evening.

There was a strong police response that involved SWAT teams in arriving on the scene for this poorly executed drill. Members of the Pentagon were also notified of the incident.

The Facebook account of the Naval Support Activity Bethesda even reported, “There is a report of an active shooter,” and personnel within the building were tweeting on social media their safety status, thinking it was not a drill due to poor communication.
“Those who could walk hastily pushed others in wheelchairs. There was fear,” said a veteran on-site. “Some guys grabbed baseball bats or whatever there was to defend [against a potential attacker]. People were silent and sitting in the dark.”

There was imminent confusion regarding the situation.

“If today’s active shooter investigation at Walter Reed Medical Center was a drill, I did not get the memo, and neither did the other people who were told to shelter in place with me nor did Montgomery County Police and other agencies,” state Representative Dutch Ruppersberger who was at the hospital during the incident tweeted.

… yikes!


What They Did Wrong

We’re going to point out three major components in this situation that could have been improved to minimize fear and damage:

Poor communication across channels – The accidental trigger to not spread the message across that it was a drill causing additional panic and not encouraging patients and workers to be calm and find an appropriate way to safety. Miscommunication between higher-ups and other employees within the company to not relay the same message. Some people didn’t even get the news if it was a drill or not. Communication needs to be aligned before, during and after the event.

No emergency action plan – There was apparent confusion about the whole ordeal. This mainly stems from the miscommunication mentioned above; however, it could have been easily minimized if an emergency action plan (EAP) was set in place already.

An EAP allows for employers and employees to facilitate and organization actions during workplace emergencies. A poorly-developed plan can lead to a chaotic evacuation or emergency response, which can result in injury, confusion or property damage, like in the Walter Reed Medical Center incident.

Inspired fear, instead of confidence –

We aren’t saying a life-threatening event should give you confidence, as it’s reasonable to be afraid when looking at death in the face. However, with proper training and instruction, you should be able to have the confidence to know what to do when the time comes to save lives once danger strikes.

You are expected to react one of two ways when faced with fear – fight or flee. It’s natural for the adrenaline in your body to make you want to run, hide or fight. Whatever your initial reaction is, there are ways to learn to react in the appropriate way that could save your life or the lives of others.

Healthcare facilities should prepare to limit damage and possibility for death these days because, unfortunately, active shooter events are becoming a common occurrence in the United States. Employers should be in charge of preparing their employees for life-threatening situations. We believe your people should be appropriately equipped with the tools, skills and confidence it takes to defend themselves with threatening situations arise.

The Bottom Line

Long story short – the situation could have been handled much better. Especially if active threat training had been taken as a precaution for employees in the hospital. They would be able to know more about what to do in the case of an unplanned emergency arises.

Don’t worry, at SaferSite; we serve many industries; this includes healthcare.


As mentioned above, mistakes like miscommunication, not having an EAP and not training your employees are significant issues that can make an active shooter situation go from bad to worse in a matter of seconds. More common mistakes employees can make and how to avoid them are as follows:

  • Not being aware of red flags. Red flags for a violent incident to occur can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, like stalking or aggressive behavior. It’s crucial to gain the ability to identify red flags and to say something if you see something unusual. It’s better to report off behavior than to not and risk it turning into a sizable life-threatening incident.
  • Not understanding the motivations behind active threat attackers. Understanding the motivation behind attackers can help you gain insight on how to think like an assailant and to act quickly when the situation comes – you’ll know what they’re thinking! You’ll be able to prepare and plan more effectively.
  • Not creating a well-rounded culture of safety in your workplaceWorkplace violence is known to happen anywhere at any time, and many can be caught off guard when it does occur. Employees should be in a workplace environment that has a situational awareness-focused safe and healthy environment.
  • Not having a proper threat response. It’s essential to learn how to respond appropriately during an active threat situation, such as remaining calm, locating escape routes quickly, to call 9-1-1 efficiently and more.


Here is what you can expect with an intense shooter training course offered at ATS:

During the 90-minute active threat training seminar, our instructor will discuss:

  • Statistics of active threat events on your specific industry
  • The concept of situational awareness and why it’s essential to training
  • The categories of active threat events
  • The mindset and preparedness of active shooters
  • The differences between cover and conceal
  • Security measures your business could be taking
  • The Houston Model: Run, Hide and Fight
  • An attacker’s response to disruptions
  • Developing a plan of attack; during and after an active threat event

After this presentation, our instructor will go through the building and discuss any concerns your employees may have, and what the best way to proceed during an attack would be.

Every business from its employees to the building and security is different. That is why our instructors not only teach educational content on how to protect oneself, but they also take employees through their own space to contextualize the training for a more personal approach.


Don’t get mixed up when danger comes in your direction. Whether you’re having lunch with your coworkers or collaborating on a project, you should be able to defend yourself anytime, anywhere. When disaster strikes, you should be equipped with the confidence to save your life and others around you. We want you to know what to do so you can get home safely to your loved ones. This is why we train.

Contact us today to take the first step in creating a safer and mistake-free environment for your organization.