It’s not unusual for schools, businesses and other institutions to hold surprise emergency drills. One minute you’re sitting at your desk and the next you are trying to remember if that shrill alarm means take shelter or exit the building. Surprise drills are valuable in that they replicate a real-life emergency and help identify gaps in planning and training.

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When it comes to active shooter or armed assailant drills, however, organizers might just need to rethink the necessity of using the power of surprise to prepare.

A recent planned active shooter drill at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland caused alarm that resulted in a lockdown of the base when a report of gunmen – who were part of the drill – was called in to authorities. The person who made the call may not have been aware of the preplanned drill, and out of an abundance of caution authorities shut down the base until they could be certain that the gunmen spotted by the caller were indeed part of the exercise.

In another recent active shooter drill incident, a college student was accidentally shot by a pellet gun.

Plans for active shooter or armed assailant drills should always include full, clear communication with local authorities and all those who may become involved. Participants in drills should have the option of opting out at any time during the exercise if it becomes too physically or psychologically intense.

Check out more tips for planning a safe and effective active shooter drill.