How to Run Active Shooting Drills in the Workplace

Gun violence is dominating our national conversation. It seems we can’t get through a month without news of another mass shooting. Private citizens are understandably worried – in 2018 alone there were 27 active shooter incidents, and the number is exponentially rising.

With this in mind, preparing your workforce with active shooting drills could be the difference between life and death. Active shootings evolve quickly, not giving you enough time to think – so you need to have a plan ahead of time.

Read on to find out the most effective ways to conduct an active shooting drill in your workplace. 

Tactical Training is Not for Civilians

Aric Mutchnick, the president of risk management firm Experior Group, explained that tactical training just won’t work for civilians. For tactical training to be effective in the event of a stress-inducing active shooter event, you need to have muscle memory from months or years of constant repetition.

Moreover, there are too many unknown variables during an active shooting. The static strategy to evacuate a building and meet at a nearby business just won’t work. You’re not taking into account the possibility of a second shooter that could be waiting outside.

With this in mind, the best kind of training takes into account the fact that no two active shootings will be the same. It emphasizes the use of intuition and perception.

Run, Hide, Fight

The U.S. government recommends the “run, hide, fight” survival strategy. It’s easy to remember, and follows common sense tactics that your own intuition will tell you when your life is in danger.


Employees need to be encouraged to listen to their intuition. That means running from the attacker until they feel it’s safe to stop. They may see other people hiding and be tempted to freeze and join them, but escaping the situation is the most effective way to save their lives. 

They can warn others as they escape, and let them know where the shooter is located. And when they feel it’s safe, they can call 911 and describe the shooter, location, and weapons.


If they can’t escape the attacker, the next step is staying out of the shooter’s view and being as quiet as possible. They need to avoid bunching in groups. This can make them easier to find. They can then communicate with the police silently through text, social media, or signs in windows. 


Fighting is absolutely last resort, but when that’s the only option, employees need to take swift, aggressive action with a group of people. The more people attacking the shooter, the better the chances of ending the situation with minimal casualties. 

Distract the shooter with makeshift weapons like chairs, scissors, books, etc. They need to focus on causing severe or lethal injury to the shooter with the goal of disarming or incapacitating them as quickly as possible. 

Situational Awareness

The U.S. Coast Guard defines situational awareness as, “The ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening. More simply, it’s knowing what is going on around you.” 

Besides learning the run, hide, fight method, employees need to be encouraged to use situational awareness. This means recognizing a baseline for what’s normal in the workplace, and acknowledging and communicating any kind of unusual behavior or activity. 

It also means being aware of their environment. Where are the exits on your floor and the building? What are the different routes to get there? Jeff Cooper, the author of Principles of Personal Defense, recommends that people stay in Condition Yellow, which is relaxed alert. 

However, just observing your environment isn’t enough – you need to be able to know what to look for. 

Patrick Van Horne, a situational awareness expert and author of Left of Bang, provides six domains of human behavior that civilians can look for to stay situationally aware. Of course, context matters in these situations, and you need to keep the baseline of normal behavior in mind depending on your location and situation.

Dominance/Submissive Behavior

Most people try to get along with others, so they exhibit accommodating and submissive behavior. With this in mind, dominant behavior is an anomaly. Someone acting pushy, authoritative, and overbearing deserves more attention, keeping context in mind. 

Comfortable/Uncomfortable Behavior

Most people look comfortable in their environments. If you notice someone constantly checking behind their shoulder or fidgeting with their hands, this could warrant more attention. This is also true in reverse. Does someone appear exceedingly comfortable in a situation where everyone else is uncomfortable?

In surveillance footage, law enforcement was able to identify the Boston Marathon bombers because while everyone else was panicking, they appeared calm. They knew the bombs were going to go off. 

Interested/Uninterested Behavior

Most of us aren’t situationally aware – we’re distracted and caught up in our thoughts. Individuals who seem particularly interested in a person or object most people wouldn’t be interested in needs further observation. 

Active Shooting Training: Mindful vs Paranoid

Create a plan that focuses on intuition, the run, hide, fight method, and teaching employees about situational awareness. This way, you’re far more likely to survive an active shooting situation. However, it’s good to keep in mind there’s a difference between being mindful and aware, and simply being paranoid. 

Let employees know that they should always take context into account. However, if there intuition is telling them something seems off, it’s important that they don’t hesitate to communicate this.

Ready to learn firsthand the principles and strategies needed to address an active shooter situation? Request a demo with us today!