In November 2014 classes in session at Jewitt Middle School in Winter Haven, Florida.  Suddenly, the teachers were notified to enact lockdown procedures, there is an active shooter in the school.  Moments later two police officers begin entering the classrooms with handguns drawn.

Panicked students begin texting their parents letting them know that there is an active shooter in the school.  Terrified parents begin responding to the school.

A short time later emails start going out from the school to parents letting them know that it was just a drill, not a real active shooter incident.  Understandably, the school begins getting phone calls from irate parents, demanding to know why they were not notified in advance.

In response to the blowback, the Winter Haven Chief of Police told a local news station “It is very important that when you do your drill, you do it without knowing it is a drill.  How you train and how you prepare is how you are going to react when everything goes bad”

A Polk County school spokesperson told the same media outlet “Unfortunately, no one gets advanced notice of real life emergencies”.

Both of these statements drive home the difference between experience and expertise.  These justifications show that they do not know how to safely conduct reality based training.

Just because someone is a veteran police officer or school administrator it does not mean that they are qualified to conduct this type of training.


Sadly, this is not the only time something like this has happened.  The Wall Street Journal published an article that detailed troubling incidents that have occurred across the country.  The common theme is every incident is the training was being conducted by well-meaning instructors who do not how to safely and effectively run reality based active shooter response training exercises.  The common misconception is that just because someone has worked in law enforcement, they know what they are doing.

This is clearly not the case.


Many people think that experience and expertise are synonymous.

They are not!

Experience is basically knowledge that is accumulated from doing something for an extended period of time.  In contrast, expertise is having a high level of skill in a specific, usually pretty narrow, field.

To be an expert, you must have experience BUT just because you have experience it does not mean you are an expert.

A person who has experience in a broad field, law enforcement, does not mean expertise in a specific area of that field, reality based active shooter response training.  To take it even further, just because someone has experience conducting this type of training for police it does not mean that they have the skillset to effectively train companies and facilities in the private sector.


There was  a recent survey of security directors from companies with more than 500 employees.  The survey results showed that  active shooter is the number one security concern for their company.

Many companies and facilities are realizing that they need to prepare for this threat, but they don’t know where to begin.  So they end up reaching out to friend who is a veteran police officer  to see if they can provide the training.  Sadly, the end result is what happened at Jewitt Middle School….

In my next blog, I will discuss what you need to find a qualified instructor.  An instructor who the expertise relay the information in a positive, empowering way.  An instructor who has the expertise to format the training in manner that results in the information being imprinted in the long term memory of your employees.