how do I get out of an active-shooter drill at my office?

A reader writes:

In two weeks, my workplace is hosting an all-day active shooter training, conducted by law enforcement. We haven’t been told what it will entail, but it’s seven hours long and we’ve been instructed to wear comfortable clothing. I’ve asked for a more specific agenda but I’m not sure I will get one. We have not been told the training is mandatory, but when I asked my boss and expressed some preliminary discomfort, he said we all need to participate.

I cannot begin to explain how much I am dreading this training. Even reading the emails about it made me so anxious that my hands started to shake. I am in my twenties, and I grew up in the modern era of mass shootings. I’ve been participating in active shooter drills since high school, know about run-hide-fight, and have friends who have lost siblings to gun violence. I already think about mass shootings every single day, including every time I’m in a crowded public place, and while I would be happy to read about the hiding protocol or do a self-defense practice, the idea of experiencing a full-scale active simulation makes me feel physically ill. If there is valuable information being conveyed, I want to know it, but the toll on my mental health if I do this training is going to be immense, and I cannot imagine what content they will be teaching that I haven’t already heard and internalized many times before.

For additional context, I am the only woman in my very small department at a larger organization, which overwhelmingly skews much older. My boss, who is also the only person to whom I report (no grand-boss applicable), is much older, which I mention because I think he’s just coming at this training from a totally different perspective. When I voiced my concerns, he made a few jokes about how he would simply redirect the shooter to a younger person, then asked if I was saying I “wouldn’t be able to take it.” Absolutely nothing about this is funny to me, and this made me feel even more alienated. He’s a nice person but has very deeply entrenched ideas about mental health, anxiety, young people, and “triggers,” and I don’t want to have to disclose my own mental health diagnoses to him, make him think I’m simply not tough enough to handle it, or come across like a millennial snowflake, etc. He does not understand the psychic toll that shootings have taken on many people in my generation and does not understand that anxiety means something more than just “sort of worried about something.”

There isn’t a traditional HR department here, and this is an office where we’re really subject to the dictates of our boss. The closest thing we have is the second-most senior employee, who has an easier time taking up issues with him because of their long-standing relationship. Sometimes I go through that employee if I really want to raise an issue, but I can’t always count on their support.

Assuming I can’t get additional details about the itinerary — or assuming I do, and it includes a simulation or other modules that I know will be extremely triggering to my mental health — what do I do? Can I skip this seven-hour training? Is there a way to get the instructional content without going to the most triggering parts, which I cannot imagine will outweigh the psychic cost this is going to take on me? What I really want is to skip it entirely — but if I can, how do I explain this request/decision to my boss without disclosing my mental health struggles, explaining (in vain) the anxiety I feel about this training, or looking like the only person not tough enough to participate (as the only woman in my department)?

You should absolutely be able to opt out of the training.

There’s not much evidence that active shooter drills even work, and in some cases they can cause more harm than they prevent. Regardless of that, though, opting out should be a reasonable accommodation for anyone with cause to believe the training will have mental health ramifications for them.

As for how to do it, realistically you’ve got four options:

1. You can go the formal accommodations route. If your employer doesn’t want you to opt out of the subject matter entirely, they can provide alternatives to a shooter simulation — like reading training materials or creating an individual safety plan. (You say you don’t have traditional HR, but in a large organization there’s probably someone you’d go to if you needed to request medical or religious accommodations, report harassment or discrimination, or turn in paperwork for FMLA. Use the same contact for this.)

2. You can approach the second-in-command, if you believe that person will be more receptive than your boss. This is a reasonable thing to take to someone in that sort of role, and if they’re decent at their job, they should handle it for you — or at least advise you on the best way to proceed. Make sure to tell them that your boss has been dismissing your concerns and you don’t trust him to handle mental health issues with any seriousness.

3. If you feel you need to address it with your boss directly, you could do that while being vague. For example: “Due to some past history that I don’t want to go into at work, I am going to opt of out Tuesday’s training.” If he again says something ridiculous like asking if you “wouldn’t be able to take it,” you could say, “Yes, so I won’t be attending.” If he tells you it’s mandatory and you need to attend, you can say, “Then I need to request a formal, legal accommodation to opt out. Who should I talk to for that?”

If he mocks you or implies you’re a delicate snowflake, consider saying: “You and I are coming to this with a very different frame of reference. I grew up in the era of mass shootings. I’ve been participating in active shooter drills since high school, know about run-hide-fight, and know people who have died from gun violence. I am happy to review written materials, but I will not be participating in a simulation.”

Other language you could have on-hand to use if necessary: “This isn’t about mild discomfort. It will not be possible for me to participate.”

I know you said you don’t want to look like the only person not “tough” enough to participate, particularly as the only woman on your team. But if you feel all roads lead to a conversation with your boss, this is the best way to handle it.

4. You could call in sick that day. Really, you could. It’s a little trickier because you’ve already told him you’d rather not attend, but if this is the easiest of the options for you, you can do it.

I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

{ 391 comments… read them below }

  1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    Call in sick is what I would do. And if my boss gave me grief about it I’d jump straight to calling a lawyer. There is no excuse for him to be joking about this, calling you names or otherwise mistreating you. I’m so sorry this is happening to you.

    1. duinath*

      i would also call in sick to this. and if i got any pushback i’d say it was a mental health day.

      i hope you get out of this smoothly op! this situation is hard enough without your boss being insensitive.

      1. Smithy*

        I’d call in sick, but if I felt there’d be any room or worry about grief – I’d schedule a doctor’s appointment for that day in advance to get some kind of note related to headaches, gastric distress, bad allergies or any other kind of generic ailment that could be having a flair-up. For this office, I would avoid a mental health day and really focus on something physical.

        I’d either lean into something genuine and chronic (back pain? asthma? dental?) or say you’d been experiencing extreme menstrual/PMS symptoms. Whatever. None of these excuses should be used regularly, because inevitably the second you say you need time off for dental work because you have a job interview, you then also need time off for dental work. But for moments like this and in workplaces like this where there isn’t a great way out – this is what these lies, excuses, or pivots are for.

        1. RunShaker*

          oh no, you’re coming down with a bad cold the day before & have to leave early & advise you’ll won’t be in the next day. I’ve done that, although, not often but it works & it doesn’t look suspicious when you call in next day. But Alison’s advice is great.
          I’m older woman, early 50s, white, living in Texas where no permit is needed to carry a gun. In last couple of days coming home from work, I see what appears to be potential road rage & it scares me. I’m looking around to get away cause I’m scared of gun being pulled. It’s in back of my mind when I go to various stores. And I don’t live in bad area….. Not minimizing the OP’s fear but I relate to it.

          1. BaskingInMyWindowlessOffice*

            This! I would not call it a mental health day and I would consider missing a couple of days so it does not outright look like I skipped the particular day.

            1. fantomina*

              same, but I would leave early on the day before because of said flu/stomach bug/whatever, take off sick the day of the training, and take off the next day, too, to avoid the followup chatter around the office, and maybe mitigate some of the “where were you, you missed it”s. Assuming there’s no policy requiring a doctor’s note for more than 1 consecutive sickday. In that case, the advice to advance schedule a dr appointment for that day applies.

          2. AmyintheSky*

            As an Australian, I cannot fathom living life like this. Is it even living, or is it just surviving?

            A colleague is American and was home over the Christmas holidays. The day she got back to the office, there was news of multiple mass shootings in the States and she was so unaffected. Not because she is a cold person (quite the opposite) but because it’s as common in the States as hearing about a traffic accident in Australia. I asked her if she was scared of being involved in a shooting at any point during her trip and she turned to me and said “every time I was in a space with more than 5 people I didn’t know. It was on my mind constantly”.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              It’s one of the reasons (not the only one, but one nonetheless) I don’t teach anymore.

              1. AmyintheSky*

                I have 2 young children, not quite school aged. Frankly, it’s upsetting enough leaving them behind at daycare 4 days a week even though I know they both love it, and they are extremely safe…. The idea that I could be leaving them behind AND as a result, might never see them again because a twit with a gun he should never have had access to shot up their school is utterly unfathomable.

                I personally couldn’t be a stay at home mum, as I love my career but I think if I lived in the US, I would very, VERY seriously consider homeschooling.

                1. Perfectly Particular*

                  It gets so much worse! My kiddos are teenagers now, and several times a year we get a school communication (simultaneous call, text, email) that there has been a threat to their school. Sometimes the messages are after the fact, to let us know that the school was on lockdown, but everything is ok now. But the last one was letting us know that there were rumors of a violent event being planned for the next day. It was investigated, law enforcement believed it was just a rumor, and there would be extra police presence at school the next day. As a parent, what do I even do with this information?! I don’t want to teach my kids to be afraid, but also don’t want to misjudge a safety situation.

              2. Reluctant Mezzo*

                My husband once sat in a darkened classroom with his kids hoping not to die once. He had no sense of humor about such things.

                (everything turned out all right and he actually used the time to talk about chemical reactions, Because Teacher, but it was not a happy day for him).

            2. Jack Russell Terrier*

              I grew up in the Seventies and Eighties in the UK with the IRA. Bomb threats were a constant fact of life. My father came close to being blown up in the Marks and Sparks Paris bombing. My friend who worked at Harrods was in the Harrods bombing. She was fine, thank goodness.

              I can’t tell you the number of times roads and tube stops were closed off and we’d mutter – not another bloody bomb threat and turn around.

              It’s crazy – there are plenty of places in the world with constant random violence. The US is particularly bad because of its gun laws. I live in Washington, DC

            3. mf*

              Honestly, we (Americans) have become desensitized to it. It happens so much and there’s nothing we can really do about it (other than vote and organize), so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

              1. AmyintheSky*

                I am not quite old enough to properly recall the gun buyback of 1996. I’m now almost 36 and I’ve never held a gun, and aside from police (who have it bolstered), I’ve never seen a gun in real life.

                I totally get the desensitisation though; It’s a self-preservation measure. If you felt deeply about every shooting you hear about as you did about the first, you’d be in a padded room.

              2. Indigenous American who's sick of it all*

                there’s nothing we can really do about it

                We can, but we won’t, because US Americans generally refuse to take responsibility. It’s always on “the government” to do something, never on the 99% to effect change by living up to their “rebel ancestors” they sure do love bragging about. Yelling about justice on the Internet and casting anemic votes isn’t going to work. (Voting to change policies CAN help, but not the way we’re doing it.)

                1. libellulebelle*

                  Asking not to be contrary but because I’m genuinely curious what you mean by this comment. What are you suggesting Americans do to combat gun violence and the wide availability of guns, other than voting and organizing?

            4. MSU strong*

              When I was 12 I pretended to be a dead body for a drill run by the local police. I got volunteer hours and free pizza, and I was 12 so I was very excited to mess around with fake blood and brains. But looking back, that was not normal. Why was a child being asked to pose like a dead body for the police?????? This was a school-sanctioned event!!

              Anyway I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently because of the Oxford and MSU shootings. I knew people involved in both. Children. My 18 year old brother called me in a panic because his girlfriend was in one of the buildings they thought the shooter was in, and I’m pretty sure the panic in his voice is going to stay with me for the rest of my life.

              I’m just so tired of worrying. I totally relate to the letter writer. I don’t think I could do a drill again. And you know they’ll treat it all as a big game because it’s all “fake” anyway.

              1. pandop*

                I am not sure why the school wanted you to do this, but the drills are a regular thing for Emergency Services. My Dad was a St. John Ambulance volunteer when he was younger, and was a ‘casualty’ in drills more than once.

            5. MM*

              I think it varies both person to person and generationally. I’m probably among the youngest USians not to grow up with these drills; Columbine happened when I was in high school, and at that time we regarded it as an awful but anomalous event–we had no idea what was coming. Additionally, I grew up in a part of the States that has very little “gun culture” to speak of; I wasn’t around guns at all, didn’t know anyone who owned one, never touched one till my mid-30s.

              I don’t worry about gun violence in my daily life, like, ever. In public places, in crowds, out and about…it’s not a risk that’s on my mind at all. I suppose on some level I feel like, there is nothing I can do to prevent it if it’s going to happen, and I don’t have the reflexes that drilling would train into me to be assessing or thinking about what I might do if it did. So it just doesn’t arise as a thought in the way that, say, the possibility of sexual harassment or sexual violence is always part of my situational awareness. It’s not that I don’t care or think it’s fine: I feel very grim when I read about the latest shooting(s), in a “f— this country” way similar to how I react to new abortion bans or anti-LGBTQ+ bills, and I hate the online active shooter training module I have to do yearly for my job. But in terms of “living vs. surviving,” it doesn’t affect me at all in the way LW described.

              I’m sure I’d feel differently if I had kids who were being repeatedly traumatized at school this way.

            6. Bopper*

              The problem is some people say “This is horrible, we have to do something so kids don’t get shot at school” and suggest, to them, reasonable ideas like getting rid of automatic weapons or raising the age of gun ownership, etc. Their representatives propose these changes.

              Some people either don’t want any gun laws modified as they think that is the start of taking away all gun “rights” and also now there is such hatred for the political partyso their representatives vote against it.

              So yes, after a while you realize not much will change and there is nothing you can do about it and you don’t understand why people don’t care…and you never see any photos of dead children so it is almost theoretical and what can you do so you just get numb

          3. Taketombo*

            I’m mildly/moderately allergic to a common food that nobody else is allergic to. It gives me hives. On my stomach lining, which makes me puke, nearly immediately.

            When I was at job from hell, looking at a full day meeting from hell that would solve nothing and put me in a similar place to the OP, I seriously considered getting takeout with my allergen in in, dramatically puking in a trashcan, and leaving for the evening/next day. (Enough Benadryl cures the symptoms, so I could have been “better” by the evening)

            I chickened out. I feel similarly to the O0: If it had been an active shooter drill I would have eaten the takeout

        2. WillowSunstar*

          Yes, absolutely, get a doctor’s note so you have backup. That way, you have the documentation if you need to go to HR.

        3. k*

          Honestly since you’re the only woman in the office, if you normally wear makeup just don’t the day before or after to confirm the sick story. They’ll probably be asking if you’re okay the second they see you. It’s stupid and sexist, but it works.

          1. VermiciousKnid*

            I have done this several times throughout my career. Without fail, some jackass tells me how terrible I look. And just like that, my butt is covered.

            1. nobadcats*

              Works a treat every. single. time. There’s always That Guy who feels the need to comment.

              I’ve even had to go so far as to use a very light dusting of a slightly purple-y matte eye shadow to emphasize the dark circles under my eyes for one job (company was populated by a LOT of ex-military).

                1. nobadcats*

                  You don’t even have to do it well! Small brush and matte eye shadow that even slightly matches your under eye circles, like taupe. I’m very pale, so my under eye half moons have a purplish tone.

                  Another pro-tip for basic make up: if you want to pick out a lipstick/tinted lip balm that will look good on you, apply the sample to the tip of your middle finger then pinch your finger just above the first knuckle. The blood that rushes to the tip of your finger usually matches the tone of your lips. Never had a garish, clashing lip color since I learned that trick years ago when I worked in department store cosmetics and was a model for make up/hair when my friends went through state boards for their cosmetology licenses.

          2. Massive Dynamic*

            Dear god I have done this too. Depressing, yet so effective.

            “Her eyelids don’t SPARKLE today! Her lashes aren’t jet black! Send her home before she kills us all with her germs!”

            1. Butterfly Counter*

              I rarely wish for a “like” button. But this comment made me want a like button.

          3. Smithy*

            If you have blond eyelashes and typically wear mascara – skipping that…..they’ll think you’re on deaths door.

            1. Noblepower*

              And if you have a top in a color that washes you out, that will help if you’re younger or have naturally fabulous eyelashes, or if you normally wear no or minimal makeup.

          4. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            Also, skip the hair routine, finger brush it out. Less than perfectly shiny styled hair is practically a sign of leprosy. If you also skip the second cup of coffee your ability to be perky and focused will fade through the day (confirming that the dreaded “no makeup flu” is getting worse!) By 4pm, societal standards really will have done all the work for you. Just be careful not to cough or sneeze or they could actually suggest a hospital visit.

          5. COHikerGirl*

            Can confirm, this works well. I didn’t wear makeup one day because I didn’t feel like it. The number of “are you feeling ok” questions made me never skip it again.

            But I totally have done it when I wasn’t feeling great. Nothing viral, but it was a great indicator that I wasn’t feeling super great and that’s why I wasn’t my usual cheery self!

          6. L'étrangère*

            I learned in boarding school that a very light coat of green eyeshadow around the eyes works a treat to make that puked-all-night aura very believeable. Do that after lunch the day before and you can go home very believably

          7. MCMonkeyBean*

            Lol I was going to say the same thing. It’s amazing how many men who don’t know how makeup works will be like “wow, are you okay, you look tired.”

            Expectations around makeup in the office are unfair so I think it’s reasonable to use it to our advantage on occasion :P

          8. Bopper*

            My daughter had mono in HS and was going to talk to the guidance counselor to see if she could get out of “quarterly tests”… I told her not to wear her makeup that day and she got out of those tests.

        4. Princess Sparklepony*

          I’ve always thought stomach flu was the best excuse. And make sure to tell them that it’s coming out of both ends. No one will want you near them or ask any more questions.

      2. ecnaseener*

        I wouldn’t outright say it was a mental health day, since this boss almost certainly wouldn’t consider that a valid sick day given his opinions on mental health. You’re under the weather, the end.

          1. nobadcats*

            Didn’t we have one round up/commenter who had a super-nosy boss who wanted to know all the details for calling out sick, and she called the boss as she was praying to the porcelain throne? Intruding boss never asked detailed questions again.

      3. Ama*

        Yup I was going to do this pre-pandemic to get out of a (much more minor) “mandatory fun” activity that happened to involve one of my anxiety triggers because I knew trying to explain why something most people think is at worst annoying makes me shake with nerves was just not worth spending political capital on. Fortunately weather intervened and caused the part of the activity with the anxiety trigger to get canceled, but I absolutely would have called in sick otherwise.

        Oddly enough I think my boss would have been receptive to the OP’s situation and absolutely understood if an active shooter drill was too much for some people but she would have never understood my objection to the mandatory fun (which she was super excited about).

      4. Presea*

        OP shouldn’t give a reason for calling in sick at all if they can possibly get away with it. This boss is unreasonable and is likely to suspect the real reason; the fewer things he can attempt to disprove, the better!

      5. Ellie*

        I’d call in sick the day before as well – better cover story.

        You could also make up a fake relative, or say that you knew someone who died in x major shooting event. And if they press you too hard, start crying. I know you don’t want to do that, being the only woman and all, but I find that sometimes I spend too much effort holding myself together, and an honest reaction sometimes solves the issue.

    2. Blink*

      “Call in sick is what I would do. And if my boss gave me grief about it I’d jump straight to calling a lawyer” …and what should OP say to this lawyer? What action should OP expect to be taken, as a result of this call?

      1. fantomina*

        “my boss is requiring me to do something that will harm my mental health, and has vocally denigrated mental health issues in the past, rendering me reluctant to claim formal mental health accommodations. What’s your advice?”

        1. fantomina*

          also, to clarify, it needs to be an employment lawyer. this isn’t an “I’m calling my lawyer so I can sue” knee-jerk thing, it’s consultation on employment law and options when the obvious ones are made inaccessible for one reason or another.

    3. tina*

      I’d feel the same way. But as long as we expect children to go through this, we adults need to also, don’t we? Instead of a drill, why not just some quick tips on what to do and not do? Minus the psychodrama?

      1. Chirpy*

        I would argue that children shouldn’t be doing these drills, either, and everyone’s time would be better spent working on reducing shootings overall…

      2. Ellis Bell*

        I’m a teacher and have been in charge of children during these drills. I really can’t imagine what benefit they are to adults. They’re valuable for kids because kids suck at hiding, staying still and being quiet. You also get children with really poor emotional regulation (like, toddler level) and they absolutely need the practice. It’s not as full on as what the OP saying, there’s no law enforcement or reenactment. We also don’t call it an active shooter drilll, because we’d have lockdown for any intruder. It’s just telling the kids that if a lockdown gets announced, then we lock this door, hide here, be quiet, the door handle will get tried by the headteacher, and this is the announcement that it’s over. And if we get it wrong, we will talk out ways to stay quiet and not fidget after. But drill arrangements could totally be communicated to adults on an email. A training session with law enforcement might be okay if it was structured like a q&a or generally sought to give information rather than simply a mocked up experience. The whole realistic reenactment thing makes people in charge feel like they’re doing more than they are.

        1. Jaydee*

          That sounds much more similar to fire drills and tornado drills – which can still be scary for kids (I was definitely the kid crying while hunched like a turtle in the hallway of my elementary school a few times) but are generally not long-term traumatic. Like, the drill should be a relatively calm way to practice and build some muscle memory to rely on in case the thing happens. It doesn’t need to replicate the emergency as realistically as possible. No one is filling the hallways with smoke and heating door knobs during a fire drill. No one is bringing in a wind machine and throwing debris around classrooms during a tornado drill.

          1. Noblepower*

            Yeah, the duck and cover drills for nuclear war were equally not reassuring when I was a child, I’m not clear on how those were helpful.

            1. Reluctant Mezzo*

              If you’re outside the immediate blast radius, being killed by a falling ceiling tile is preventable that way. It still felt stupid, though,

        2. Ancient Llama*

          The social aspects of man-caused tragedy (shooters/bombings) aside (which I agree with others that acceptance this is the new reality is wrong, will require better funding for mental health/social support/etc that I can vote for), it has been demonstrated time and again that reading about what to do is NOT the same level of preparedness as drills.
          Every person is different, and in the LW case I would agree she has done active shooter drills, so her choice to do something to avoid and additional drill of this type (talk to mgmt or call sick, I have my opinion but irrelevant to her choice). But drills for fire alarms, tornadoes, shooters, etc are necessary in my opinion. To be clear I am not an emergency response person, so feel free to respond if you are and correct me. But I like this teacher’s perspective that it helps her to ensure her class is ready to allow her to concentrate on the best response to an actual emergency; so I assume emergency responders have the same belief. So to me, everyone should have to go thru emergency drills of some sort as our part to reduce our burden on emergency responders. And 1 drill type is not sufficient: tornado response is different than responses to fire or …; so the more, the better.
          TLDR: I need to do drills so emergency responders don’t have to add dealing with me to their plate; it is my civic duty. This LW has done THIS TYPE of drill so has met her obligation and should have no guilt or issue dropping out of this particular drill.

          1. Ancient Llama*

            I saw on other comments that some, like Snarkus Aurelius, had something presented by non-emergency responders. Agreed those, and other things like kids figuring out to hand out scissors, bother me too. The LW said this drill was being run by law enforcement. Again her choice is individual and different, but I am glad her workplace is partnering with them so that others who many never have had such drills (me included, 7 workplaces over 30+ years and I have at most had video “training”) have that opportunity.

          2. sophie hatter*

            I do agree that there’s a difference between physically practicing something and reading about it (and frankly, at some of my performing arts jobs, I’d have really loved to have even talked through some sort of emergency response plan for an increasingly not-unlikely situation)

            BUT I also think there’s a major difference between walking through “let’s all identify the doors we’d need to lock and the spaces we’d want to hide in [our offices / work spaces we frequent / etc.]” (which is, essentially, the adult version of the fire drill) and an “active shooter drill” (which, in my understanding, usually implies some level of re-enactment beyond what Ellis Bell (the teacher above) was describing as lockdown drills at school).

            I’m a little bit too old to really be a member of the school-shooting-generation (in that I was in undergrad by the time Sandy Hook happened), and my impression when I hear my younger peers talking about it (and from some commenters in threads below) is that the pervasiveness (of both the drills and the threat) is what makes them so traumatizing for many people. (Even those who haven’t had personal connections to any of the many, many mass shootings in recent decades.)

            We didn’t have ours as often, and the threat seemed a little more distant, but some of those early ones were poorly handled–and (given what we’ve read about the boss in question) I think letter writer’s office one sounds like it has the potential to be as well. I still have really distinct memories of what I can only imagine was my elementary school’s first-ever armed intruder drill after Virginia Tech. And boy, was it poorly handled.

            It wasn’t really an active shooter simulation, but for some reason, the approach at the time was “It’s really important to stay silent, so try to imagine that it’s real as you cower in this corner.” (Spoiler alert — 20ish seven- and eight-year-olds are REALLY bad at playing silent sardines, even when the imaginary stakes are high.)

            I remember there was someone (presumably several administrators) in the hallway repeatedly jiggling the locked door handle — and it was suggested to us that they were doing so every time we were loud enough to be heard from the hallway. And then, afterwards, we got the WORST LECTURE EVER from a crying teacher telling us that if this was real we’d all be dead because of our collective inability to JUST BEHAVE OURSELVES and BE QUIET for half an hour.

            I don’t remember anyone ever failing a fire drill, but I definitely went home that day with the impression that we’d failed this one. This particular teacher was really big on collective responsibility for classroom behavior and (even though I’d been pointedly holding my finger to my lips at people when I wasn’t huddled in a very small and silent ball) I just remember feeling so guilty. Like what was really scary about the drill at the time was the impression that if it did happen, not only would we be dead, but worse than that it would be our own (collective) faults.

            1. anon today*

              My apartment building fails fire drills because we have false alarms EVERY GOSHDARN WEEK. Last time, it was 7 AM and only about 10% of the tenants evacuated. Yes, maybe some people had left for work already. But the elderly retired people didn’t evacuate, even the ones who can do stairs. I think we had more on a Friday afternoon at 3 PM, but we also have them at 11 PM and other times the office is closed. So our poor security guard is stuck with trying to clear the error before the fire department responds. They’re about 1/4 mile away, so they usually make it while the guard is on the phone to the alarm company explaining that nothing’s wrong at the sensor that triggered.

              We’ve had enough fires in our building (five during 2020-2021) that everyone knows the fire sprinklers go off and the big problem is flooding. Not the building burning down. And we have false alarms all the time–either people are doing something clueless like venting burned toast to the hallway instead of the windows, they’re pulling alarms on purpose, they’re tampering with the wiring–or the system is just glitching. Which could be related to all the drywall replacement we’ve had to do after the fire sprinkler floods.

      3. Daisy*

        We shouldn’t be expecting children to go thru this. The adults should be taking care of the problem way before our children are in danger.

        Unfortunately, many of our politicians (and the people who elect them) would rather our children live in danger than lose lobbying and stockholders money.

    4. Brooklyn*

      Same here. You have a medical issue – an active shooter drill is detrimental to your mental health. You can opt out the same way you opt out of team trust falls and workplace hotdog eating contests.

      But I mostly just want to call OP out. Your boss isn’t a nice person who is cruel to young people, people with disabilities, and anyone he considers liberal. He’s a cruel person, who happens to be nice to you. You need to see that your fear is that a single instance will make you one of the people he isn’t nice to, and that is terrifying. That he has somehow tricked you into thinking this is okay is horrifying.

    5. inkheart*

      As the first step in run-hide-fight, you totally should call in sick, say you are “running”. (I am not being facetious or flip or glib here – “run” means get away from the situation. That’s what you would be doing.

  2. King Friday XIII*

    4 is not just a valid option but a truthful one. I’m so sorry you’re in this position, OP. If you decide to go with one of the previous options, I wish you luck, strength and eloquence.

    As someone old enough that I had to worry about this in high school and now I have to see my kid doing active shooter drills, I absolutely think people who did not grow up in a similar situation do not understand how very different it is having lived with it much of our lives.

    1. NotRealAnonforThis*

      Same shoes. Even though “technically” I graduated from HS pre-Columbine, guess what? There were two separate school shootings in my district in the time frame that I was middle school through high school. For one we were on lockdown. For the other – literally right over my head on the roof. Again, lockdown, except for the three classrooms that were directly underneath this workplace grudge-match turned fatal, we scurried like hell into the hallway to the next wing’s classrooms.

      My youngest told me as an incoming kindergartner that she shouldn’t but the cool light up shoes for school.

      Because then a “bad guy could find them”.

      Before her first day of Kindergarten.

      This week they’re doing live action “Run Hide Fight” drills in their middle school.

      1. StellaBella*

        I am so sorry for you and your child. I really hope this changes some day in the US.

      2. Squawkberries*

        My 1st grader and her classmates knew all the hiding spots in their school and when they built a model school classroom as a project, insisted they put several into their creation. I escaped HS 2 years before columbine… was 8.5 mo preggo during SandyHook. My kids know no other world and I’m sad and sick (and voting and advocating) for them.

        1. NotRealAnonforThis*

          Two toddlers during Sandy Hook. Literally had preschool orientation for the older one the month after to the day.

          The irony of school kids being taught run-hide-fight when there’s so little that they could use to fight with…at my desk I have tons of makeshift weapons that could indeed inflict great bodily harm if I had to. They don’t even have scissors at their desks.

          1. Chestnut Mare*

            A teacher friend told me she’s never been so proud and so sad as when one of her students went to the supply closet and distributed scissors and protractors to his classmates during a suspected active shooter event. Her students are fifth graders, so ages 10-11.

            1. CaffeinatedPanda*

              I’m a teacher and this comment might be where I have to stop reading this thread for my own mental health. In the last year we had a shooting at another campus in my district, and a lockdown on my campus for a suspected shooter (someone on the street with a gun who did not end up coming into the building). I was home sick that day and watching messages pour in over our communication app on my phone; can’t even imagine being there, but I’ve heard similar things from coworkers. Gathering up glassware in the science lab, students making comments about taking bullets for each other or even their teachers (which, just, no).

              Separately, my cousin’s kid came home from kindergarten sobbing because she thought a drill was an actual shooter event. They’re homeschooling now.

              1. Robin Ellacott*

                Oh god. I choked up reading that and I have no kids and am not in the US.

                I’m so sorry and I hope that things can change, because this is so cruel and unfair to OP, to the kids, to you, to everyone.

            2. Massive Dynamic*

              My 5th grader needs to start practicing scaling the tall fence. At their large school, the directive is that 3rd+ need to get off campus and run out to the neighborhood by any means possible.

            3. The Prettiest Curse*

              This is one of the saddest things that I’ve ever read online. I hope that, some day, no child anywhere will ever have to even think about doing something like that.

            4. Indigenous American who's sick of it all*

              one of her students went to the supply closet and distributed scissors and protractors to his classmates during a suspected active shooter event

              We should be ashamed that we are teaching children to be prepared for violence, and to be prepared to commit violence from the time they are toddlers on. This is horrific. We should be marching and burning government buildings and performing citizens’ arrests of corrupt politicians and 1%’ers over this.

        2. BaskingInMyWindowlessOffice*

          I appreciate that my kiddo’s school practices ’emergency’ in a general sense…here are our hiding spots, could be something weather related or physical security related. But we do talk about it at home. I am glad we did because we learned they fancy themselves a superhero who can run through and put out fires and can stop a bad guy with the power of love.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            My kids’ preschool did this, too.

            Their elementary school had a lockdown one morning when parents were there for an event, due to a situation in the community half a mile away. I was impressed with the tone of the announcements over the PA that communicated to the teachers that they should close their classroom doors, not take their classes out to recess, and so on (I don’t remember the language they used) and the teachers’ just carrying on teaching as if nothing were happening. They were clearly making an effort on all sides not to alarm the kids, and my own kids were totally oblivious that anything was amiss.

        3. Darsynia*

          Gosh, I relate to this so much. We’re in the same school district as the Tree of Life shooting, which happened on a Saturday, and the following week was Halloween–someone called in a threat to my kids’ elementary school that day, and my oldest was in swimming at the time. They were rushed out of the pool without their towels (not time, not with lives at stake) and had to hide in an unheated locker room for 2+ hours afterwards. It was a joke call. It’s been really hard to deal with for them and me as their mom who couldn’t protect them from this happening.

          The kids at that school KNEW A SHOOTING COULD HAPPEN. They’d just experienced one in their community. None of this is a joke, and I’m so mad at this LW’s boss because the drills are meant to protect people and they’re done out of fear but we can’t have TOO MUCH FEAR, mind you, because that’s negative somehow. This knife-edge behavior, scared enough to schedule drills, not scared enough to take it seriously… it has to stop.

        4. Reed Weird*

          I’m late to the post, but you don’t even have to be a kid for it to be all you know. I’m likely close to the same age as the LW, and at the risk of making everyone feel ancient, I was born the year Columbine happened. I’m almost 24. I’ve been doing lockdown drills since kindergarten, which changed to explicit active shooter drills when I was 11. My high school teachers kept hammers and baseball bats in the classrooms and told us where they were when we did ALICE days. In college, we watched Run/Hide/Fight training videos and we all glanced at the massive glass windows in the classroom to the hallway.
          I had to explain this to my coworkers, my age group doesn’t need more active shooter training. I planned out my escape routes the first time I walked into the office and figured out which things on my desk would make the best projectiles by week one.

      3. Guacamole Bob*

        The light up shoes remind me of the fact that it regularly comes up in online forums for parents of kids with diabetes that you can’t turn off some of the blood sugar monitor and insulin pump audible alarms, due to FDA regulations. Parents regularly talk about sending their kids with headphones so they can plug them in and divert the alarms to something much less likely to be overheard in the event of an active shooter situation.

        “You’ve already got a serious medical condition, and now you get to worry that if your blood sugar plummets or your pump fails during an active shooter situation that it will get all your friends killed.” I’m sure that won’t hurt kids’ mental health at all.

      4. Le Sigh*

        I’m so sorry. That’s such a heartbreaking thing to hear and yet, I understand why she’s thinking about it. I also grew up in the earlier era of school shootings, before they did things like training for kids. To this day I can remember everything about Columbine and it felt like there was this huge shift that altered the rest of my school experience.

        My cousins’ little kids all speak so matter-of-factly about the drills. One got a note sent home from school because they were fidgeting and whispering too loudly during a drill — the kid was 6 at the time. It really hit home how different of a world these kids are in even from the one we were in.

        1. TriviaJunkie*

          I think I’m about same age as you. I was 5th grade when Columbine happened, young enough my parents tried to keep us away from it, old enough I knew everything anyway.

          Now that my eldest is in school, I am grateful every day that I married a British man and moved to his hometown. The UK is having a heck of a lot of problems, and every so often we wonder if we’d need to head back Stateside, but active shooter drills keep it crossed off the list. We’d sooner head for somewhere in Europe or Australia (where we have no ties) first.

    2. WillowSunstar*

      I was lucky enough not to have to go through them, although they do make us watch online training videos at my job now once per year. They are however, sadly outdated since most of us are remote workers now. An online training video should be an acceptable alternative.

    3. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

      I’m in my late 40s and Columbine happened very late in HS for me so I must admit…I’d be a person who would not have anticipated this reaction. Hearing it makes me think “well, of course” but I might not have thought of that when telling my staff about it. If my staff had this conversation to me, I’d take it immediately back to leadership b/c my leadership is older than me. And then if they pushed back, I’d advise my staff to call out that day and I wouldn’t question it. Thank you for sharing this; I’m sorry that this has to be a continued topic and continued trauma.

    4. Pdweasel*

      Same. My friends’ kids were FLOORED to learn about the debacle in the House & Senate chambers on January 6. “What do you MEAN they didn’t know what to do?? Don’t they do drills and practice?”

        1. allathian*

          Maybe Congress should have active shooter drills, too…

          I’m in Finland, and the situation isn’t nearly as bad as in the US, but we have had school shootings here, too. My son’s had fire drills, but no active shooter drills.

          That said, we have surprisingly few firearm-related incidents here, given that Finland has the most guns at home per capita after the US and Yemen. Most of them are rifles and shotguns that are used for hunting and kept locked up when not in use, with ammo stored separately, and civilians aren’t allowed to own semiautomatic weapons. That said, carrying a concealed weapon is forbidden, and most cops only carry a taser unless they’re dealing with something like a hostage situation. Even so, the vast majority of cops who do carry spend their whole career without firing a shot except on the range.

          We also have a conscript army, which means that the vast majority of young men and an increasing number of women who volunteer learn to use firearms appropriately. All branches of the armed forces are also open to women, currently our highest-ranking female officers are lieutenant colonels.

  3. Observer*

    OP, feel free to call out sick. I would not talk to your boss in your shoes. He doesn’t sound reasonable, and I don’t think the conversation would go well.

    1. Decima Dewey*

      “He’s a nice person but has very deeply entrenched ideas about mental health, anxiety, young people, and “triggers,” and I don’t want to have to disclose my own mental health diagnoses to him, make him think I’m simply not tough enough to handle it, or come across like a millennial snowflake, etc.”

      Your boss is not a nice person. Full stop.

      My library system makes staff watch Active Shooter Training videos each year, but they’re just videos. After last year’s training, TPTB had to send out an email noting that something the trainer suggested was against the system’s safety standards, so there’s that.

      1. Autumnheart*

        My employer has Active Shooter Training videos, but the intro states that if the viewer doesn’t want to watch for any reason, you don’t have to and here’s a transcript.

        LW’s boss is nuts. Like…never mind the “snowflakes”, what about the combat veterans? Maybe they don’t want to relive their experiences either?

        1. anon today*

          I remember going to a 4th of July party thrown by a combat veteran friend-of-a-friend. Turned out that was the best way to surround himself with friends to help remind him he was safe. We have a lot of jerks in my city who flout the fireworks bans (wildfire risk) and he said the clouds of smoke glowing with fireworks and sunset accompanying intermittent booms and crackles had an uncanny resemblance to firefights where he had been stationed. Even I could tell how hard it was for him to keep it together.

    2. Molly Coddler*

      Exactly. And because he isn’t reasonable you can’t reason with him. Call out sick. When you look back on yourself even 6 months from now, you’ll be glad you did.

  4. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I was irate several years ago when I found out an unqualified emergency management person made his own active shooter drill video and sent it to all staff at my agency.

    Not only was it bad in general, but he had a dumb smile on his face the whole time, using military and law enforcement terminology to make his points. (He had zero experience in law enforcement and the military.) The entire video was him sitting in an empty conference room talking. Oh and he made the video on his phone!

    His video gave at least one employee a panic attack at her desk.

    Pardon me if I don’t exactly trust law enforcement to do your training for one minute let alone seven hours. The problem is you have random, unqualified people thinking they can provide effective active shooter information when that’s clearly not the case.

    1. Kacihall*

      I’ve seen plenty of law enforcement response to school additions. I already know how to do nothing.

      Not-really-jokes aside, call in sick. If you graduated high school in the last 15 years, you’ve done active shooter drills. A FULL DAY training is incredibly excessive and triggering, unless you think people dying is funny.

    2. The Rafters*

      They did this at a local mall. Unqualified boobs who didn’t even notify local law enforcement they were going to do this. On top of that, everyone was ordered not to use their cell phones. BS on that one! I’m so thankful I don’t go to that mall anyway; now I have yet another reason to avoid it.

      1. Observer*

        On top of that, everyone was ordered not to use their cell phones. BS on that one!

        If you needed proof that these idiots have not clue, this is it.

  5. Meg*

    We did an active shooter drill at my organization and I thought it would be similar to the same drills I grew up doing (also a millennial) but it was so much worse than I imagined. It really shook me up in ways I didn’t expect. I’m proud of you for recognizing ahead of time what I failed to, and fully support you doing whatever you need to do to get out of it.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      The fact that we landed on “let’s continually traumatize victims” as a “preventative” measure enrages me.

      There is a solution that has worked just about everywhere else in the world, and it’s not this. Sigh.

      1. MEH Squared*

        Yup. the fact that we can’t talk about that but have to do all this security performance theater instead AND cause additional trauma for questionable results makes me rage.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          “Security performance theater” indeed. This scenario sounds like the boss just wants to live out some of his first-person shooter video games and wants to drag everyone along with him, regardless as to their comfort level with shooting games. He sounds gross.

    2. Unkempt Flatware*

      Yes. In banks they often hold robbery simulations that range from a silent note passed to a teller to a full blown takeover with machine guns. It was horrendous to experience.

    3. oranges*

      My all-women department once went to a shooting range for a super fun “team building” event at one of their self-defense courses.

      Between the GUN SHOTS outside the classroom, and the unbelievably unqualified “instructor” who gleefully talked about all the times his hyper-vigilance protected his girlfriend on the mean streets of our farm state, it was too much. I literally had a panic attack and left.

      (This shooting range has since gone on to have neo-Nazi ties and host fundraising events with certain family members of certain politicians. Because of course.)

      1. Moryera*

        Ah, I bet you live in the same city as me. How are those guys SO obvious, and yet everyone still keeps believing them when they say they’re not Nazis?

  6. Former Usher*

    OP, I’m sorry you have to deal with this. I’m not sure I agree with “He’s a nice person.”

    1. Zombeyonce*

      Yeah, he’s insensitive and unempathetic. Maybe he’s friendly, but that doesn’t equate to nice or kind. I hope LW is able to realize his insensitivity is plenty of cause for reconsidering her stance on him and using all her effort to pushback on such terrible behavior from him.

    2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      A person can seem “nice” on the surface without actually being a truly caring and empathetic person. Creating an outer impression of niceness is not that hard if a person has halfway decent social skills.

      This boss has been giving the impression of niceness, but his reaction to LW’s distress concerning this “drill” has revealed that the niceness is only skin deep with him.

      Someone (I think it was Maya Angelou) said that when somebody shows you who they are, you should believe them. LW, your boss has shown you who he really is. Please believe him.

      I also vote for calling in sick.

  7. Richard Hershberger*

    I jumped straight to calling out sick, well before I got that part of Alison’s answer.

    Also, your boss is not a nice person. He likely is superficially affable, but what you have related is not at all the speech of a nice person.

    1. Reba*

      Yes, I reject the idea that the boss is “a nice person.” I understand that gallows humor is a thing. This was not that, it’s just callous.

      Regardless of what OP decides to do, I don’t think the boss can be trusted to react sympathetically. I think practicing repeating whatever line works for you, to avoid being needled by him about it in future, might be worthwhile. (Like Alison’s proposed “it won’t be possible.”)

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      Agreed, the boss here is an arsehole with a thin layer of affability on top.

    3. Princess Sparklepony*

      But he’s a nice guy …. one of the many lies that people tell themselves and others when they have to work with people who really aren’t that nice at all. It’s all for workplace harmony and best if everyone signs onto it rather than facing the truth. It’s just easier that way, unfortunately.

  8. Pyanfar*

    As someone who has frequently been the only woman on the team, I certainly understand the concern of being additionally seen as “different” if you opt out. Is there any way you could volunteer to assist the people running the drill? That would put you on the other side of the experience, have no surprises, be exposed to the useful material, and feel in control of the day for yourself.

  9. Rainy Day*

    I could have written this post myself. I’ve worked at a college for two years, administrative assistant to a Dean. We have emergency drills several times a year can be fire, tornado, bomb, or shooter; it seems to be active shooter more than half. I lost someone I knew to a mass shooter several years, and have been dealing with anxiety for these types of situations since, with professional help.

    The first time the drill happened, even knowing in advance, I had a breakdown and had to ask my Dean to leave for the day in tears (she knows my history with this topic). She was very kind about it, didn’t even make me use my leave for it, and sent me info to our EAP. I’ve been fine since then knowing in advance it would happen and simply closing my door. But something I didn’t consider is that these were only done virtually due to Covid, meaning there was nothing to act out, you were just meant to talk over with your coworkers/students how you would act.

    Two weeks ago, we had our first ‘active’ post-Covid drill, meaning we were meant to act it all out. There were public safety officers walking around with labels as the shooter, and they were “shooting” people, meaning they were telling them that they were shot. I did not encounter any of the officers because I immediately closed my door when the drill started, but my Dean and several coworkers who were standing in the hallway right next to our office did encounter one. When the drill ended, they came back, all laughing how they had been shot and if they were “dead”, could they go home for the day. I got upset, started crying, and had to ask to leave.

    I am lucky in that my dean is sympathetic. She realized after they should not have made those jokes where I could hear them (though I understand you sometimes need dark humor to deflect your own discomfort). I told her that going forward, I would like the opportunity to work remotely on the days of drills or just use my leave entirely and she seemed open to it.

    I understand how are hard this is and can’t imagine having to deal with a unsupportive supervisor on top of it. Wishing you all the best with this difficult situation.

    1. Purely Allegorical*

      Oh my god. Laughing about that is wrong on so many levels, regardless of whether you’re in hearing distance of someone or not. You’re very charitable in your interpretation of dark humor, for me that’s a line that shouldnt be crossed. I wish people understood that our country has to do this because literally people (and lots of children!) are being killed. It’s not a video game.

      … and rejoicing that you get to go home for the day is messed up too.

      1. Boof*

        I had a stalker threatening to kill my family / loved ones for (years? I think? Before things finally came to a head). Yes I laughed about it a lot, even when we were hiding in a hotel room. It was redic overall and yes it is a way of coping.

      2. Although*

        I’m going to put out there that people often laugh in situations like this to diffuse discomfort and emotionally distance themselves from the situation. It’s similar to gallows humor. I don’t think this automatically makes them unfeeling people.

          1. Sharpie*

            As ex-military, this. So hard.

            OP, I am so sorry you’re in this situation with insensitive unthinking people. Take the day off if you can – call in sick if you need to. Look after yourself.

        1. Rainy Day*

          Pretty much this. Dark humor and gallows humor is very common in my family and we sometimes get horrified looks from the comments we make (like joking about a 2-for-1 euthanasia special when we were dealing with an elderly family pet and my elderly grandmother going through health issues at the same time). I’m usually okay with this kind of dark humor; but not in this case of a very real and traumatizing event.

          A few days after the drill, I heard from a coworker that several faculty were sitting together in a conference room with the door open. Another employee came in and “joked” that with the door wide open, she could have killed them all if she was a shooter and didn’t they learn anything about locking doors from our recent drill? I was very glad to not witness that or it would have left me in tears again. I already deal with the anxiety on a daily basis; I don’t need someone pointing it out in a tasteless joke.

          1. Minimal Pear*

            As someone who’s been in pretty much that exact situation, your 2-for-1 euthanasia comment made me CACKLE.

      3. uncivil servant*

        They were told that had this been a real event, they would be dead. If Rainy Day was stressed by the drill, think of how they would have felt.

    2. Reba*

      Good for you for advocating for yourself. I absolutely think you should absent yourself from these in future (regardless of how “open” to it the boss, is, call out sick if you need to). I’m so sorry your workplace is putting you through this.

    3. baffled*

      Survivor of gun violence here. I would not be able to control my instinctual reaction to a ‘fake’ shooter. Thanks to experiencing a variety of traumatic violence, I tend to escalate immediately to threat elimination mode.

    4. cloudy*

      As another university admin assistant (also for a dean) who has just spent the last couple of weeks dealing with a real recent active shooting event on a campus: what?!??!! Re-traumatizing everyone is just so very much not the answer here to any of this. Forcing people to pretend they’d died???? My mind is so boggled by the fact that anyone would find this an appropriate and normal thing to do in a public setting where there are almost certainly students, staff, faculty, etc. who have been through it. There are a million other much more reasonable ways to devise a safety plan.

    5. zuzu*

      That sounds awful. I’m so sorry you had to go through that.

      I work in an academic library. We’ve had active shooter trainings, but no drills in any of the universities I’ve worked at (thankfully). My administrations seem to recognize that they don’t actually work. The trainings have been optional.

      Interestingly, this attitude has prevailed even at the two urban campuses I’ve worked at where gunfire outside is a not-entirely-uncommon occurrence. In one, most of it occurred in the park across the street from campus (which was lovely, and we always had to tell new students that it looked nice, but it was Not Their Park), and we’d get a text alert to stay away from the windows on that side of campus. The shooters there weren’t interested in us as long as we stayed on our side of the street.

      My current campus is in a denser urban core, and what my director has decided to do is to ask our public safety team to come in and evaluate our workspaces one-on-one rather than do some kind of generalized training that would probably be of little use.

  10. Massive Dynamic*

    I’m so sorry, OP. Please stand firm on the accommodations that you need. I’ve never done a training myself, but my children have since preschool (note: they are intentionally vague at that age, calling it “bad guy” training). These drills get elaborate – heck, the one at the middle school in my town a few weeks ago had a police helicopter overhead so that the kids knew that’d be a standard thing in the event of a real shooter.

    Point being, opt out. You already know so much more about what to do in this instance than any of us Olds who didn’t do this in school. And I hope that people above your boss can reign in his asshattery towards you.

    1. len*

      I mean, it had a helicopter so that the cops could bill the school board or the city for helicopter deployment. How is including that supposed to change the behavior or perception of the students during an actual event in any way?

      1. SofiaDeo*

        I would imagine that it helps by not being another “unexpected” thing going on (if it came down to it) that might throw off someone even further. Here’s my example: I was working the midnight shift in a chain retail pharmacy. A group of robbers had started robbing this particular chain, specifically. I spent a little time thinking about what I would do if “we” were robbed. We finally did get robbed. As one robber was walking me from the back of the store to the front, with a gun in my ribs, I managed to remain calm enough to figure out how to not get taken out of the store as a hostage. I am not sure I would have managed to remain calm if I hadn’t already considered what would likely be going on, if there was a robbery. I was the first person they tried to take as a hostage, it was “something new”. But having mentally rehearsed what I would do, based on their previous robbery pattern, helped me get through that. So I can see the value of having people exposed to, and not react to, something like a helicopter or other distraction.

        1. anon today*

          In my city, people would probably worry (justifiably) that the helicopter was there to shoot and/or deport them. Not to deal with the threat to the campus.

  11. ThatGirl*

    SEVEN HOURS? Dear god. That’s just totally unreasonable. I had to sit through one video active shooter training at work several years ago, and that was bad enough. I can’t imagine how traumatizing a full day of that stuff, in person, would be.

    1. Rainy Day*

      Seriously, I don’t understand how it goes for seven hours. The drills at my college last about 15-20 minutes. What do you do for seven hours?

      1. What She Said*

        Our local high did one that lasted several hours. Pretty sure it wasn’t the entire day but it wasn’t a full day of school anyways (minimum day). It was a full hands on every emergency agency in our city was involved. Pretty sure I called in sick that day.

      2. Lizy*

        I’m betting they’re planning it for some random time within those 7 hours. So it’s a surprise, but not TECHNICALLY because they told everyone about it in advance. Which is even stupider than forcing everyone to do active shooter training in the first place.

      3. Massive Dynamic*

        In a real event, it takes a long time for law enforcement to secure each room. People in hiding should expect to be there for hours.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I still don’t see any reason to simulate a real event that thoroughly. What possible benefit is there to be gained from crouching and hiding for hours?

          1. Elsie*

            Agreed, why is this training seven hours long? In addition to being traumatic for employees, it also seems like a poor use of time.

          2. aebhel*

            Because they want to LARP like something out of a movie. It has nothing to do with any practical benefit, IMO.

          3. doreen*

            I think what happens is that someone sees the day-long disaster simulation events using those who will be involved in emergency responses (police, fire, hospitals, etc) and thinks day-long training will be useful to everyone. Nope , it’s not. For the most part, the training most people will need in an active shooter situation will much less than a day – people might have to hide for hours in a real event but I’m not sure how much actually hiding adds to watching a five minute video. Certainly when there was a real fire at my office, the quarterly fire drills made things worse – people were going back for coats and purses , stopping off at the restroom and so on because they assumed it was yet another drill. Even though we always we given advance notice of a drill. .

        2. Samwise*


          I was in a lockdown at a conference at a university. Large auditorium. I’d been through a training so I found the safest (not safe, safest) spot in the room and went to it. Most of the others sat around, out in the open, chatting quietly. We were there for hours, literally, while they searched for the possible gunman, then after they caught him, clearing the university to be sure he didn’t have an accomplice.

          Those chatty folks? Some of them screamed when the police and campus security came in with the biggest freakin guns I have ever seen…

        3. KatCardigans*

          Sure, but like, a real fire evebt would also take a lot longer than a fire drill takes, and I don’t think anybody ever suggests that fire drills should be lengthened to be more realistic. I don’t see what’s gained by including all the waiting/hiding time.

      4. Librarian in the middle*

        They make you practice barricading doors. Stuffing pretend bullet wounds in dummies with random cloth to stop the ‘bleeding’. Show you videos of mass shootings and discuss what you should do compared to what the victims did. Run around with fake guns pretend shooting you. It’s a nightmare.

        1. Yoyoyo*

          Yup, my mom had one of these drills at her school and it was exactly as you described, plus talking about how to determine whether or not to try to save a child who has been shot. It traumatized her.

    2. Iris Eyes*

      If its that long I’m going to insist that they outline their full plan for worker’s compensation, life insurance beneficiary process etc in the event of an active shooter situation. Many many pointed questions would be asked, if they are going to make me go through that kinda nonsense I’m going to insist that they are asked as many uncomfortable preparedness questions as possible. Because yes the event itself is life and death but an employer should be held accountable for not re-traumatizing the survivors or the deceased’s family with nonsense about health insurance coverage or pressure to return or paying out of pocket for funeral expenses to be potentially reimbursed later after a bunch of paperwork.

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      I have no idea what kind of training could possible take seven hours. We had one on site drill each year that was conducted by security. It took less than ten minutes and it never referenced any acts of violence. It was a practical tour of the various ways out of the building and a review locations of fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and defibrillators.

      It’s horrifying to me that newer humans get exposed to this from day one and that some people think this is fun and games.

      Call out sick LW. You don’t owe anyone any explanations. Also, your boss is a horse’s ass. He may appear to be superficially “nice” but he is not kind.

      1. oranges*

        I’m sure it’s some “package” a security company sold someone. There’s probably a very long, very poorly formatted slide deck they’ll go over for at least several hours. Self-defense probably included too.

    4. Daisy-dog*

      Guessing they will breakout into groups and tour the building to find “safe” places to hide or ways to block paths. ****WARNING FOR SENTENCES BELOW*****

      except that some law enforcement don’t recommend doing this because in the event of an active shooter, it’s a high probability going to be an employee or former employee. this training means they’ll know all the plans.

  12. disappointmentcaftan*

    Ugh, so sorry OP this is a terrible idea on your company’s part. Your boss is being waaaay too cavalier, he should recognize the possibility of one of his employees having already lived through a mass shooting, had family members affected in a mass shooting, or experienced shooting drills in school, even if he’s not a huge mental health fanatic.

    I think this is one of those things that is worth burning political capital for- it’s annoying to be only woman and the only one opting out, but it’s pretty important to stand up for yourself in this. I like Alison’s phrasing for what to say to your boss, it doesn’t necessarily imply mental health issues, just that you have a past experience that makes this too close to home.

    One last thought- I know there’s no grandboss per se, but is there a CEO or owner? See if you can ask around about who started this training idea. Somebody is implementing this program, and is either intending it to be voluntary (and your boss is going rogue) or intending it to be mandatory and *really* not thinking it through, and either way I would think the CEO/Owner would want to know about it if you can’t get anyone else to listen to you.

  13. Helen B*

    Warning — mentions simulated situation and actual shooting

    My husband’s previous job did an active shooter training at their factory, with different employees pretending to be the shooter, complete with something like a pellet gun or paint gun (I don’t remember exactly what was used).

    Total wild west time — no supervision by an expert or law enforcement. They ended up with injuries when one of the factory guys had a turn at being shooter and took out some aggression on management.

    Husband noped right on out of that and worked from home that day.

      1. Storm in a teacup*

        Thanks for that – i now have the Byker Grove theme tune stuck in my head, which made me think of 90s Ant and Dec and now i’ve also got Lets Get Ready to Rumble looping around in my stupid, sleep-deprived brain!

        On a serious note this post and the sheer volume of responses speaking to this issue as being so common scares me so much. I grew up in an era when everything American was super cool and aspirational. In my 20s and 30s would have loved to have got a job living in NYC and generous vacation leave meant i used to visit multiple times a year. Now the thought of visiting my friends in the US on holiday absolutely terrifies me.

        1. misspiggy*

          It’s extra depressing and pointless when the core training package for a UK-based company with US offices includes active shooter modules. Especially for people with a history of trauma.

    1. Barbarella*

      “different employees pretending to be the shooter, complete with something like a pellet gun or paint gun”


      Whose idea was that?

      “one of the factory guys had a turn at being shooter and took out some aggression on management”

      Oh wait, I think I know.

    2. Calyx*

      This whole topic is not funny in the least, but I have to admit I snort-laughed when I read about that factory worker.

    3. MissMeghan*

      This seems to be a growing problem. Anyone can offer this “training,” and who knows the background of the trainer, if they’ve informed and/or worked with law enforcement to plan and schedule the exercise, or if they have any background in the psychological impacts of active shooter situations, simulated or not (doubtful). There are some heinous examples of training going terribly because it is just some random person throwing a stupid plan together with no idea what they’re doing. Has your boss given you any information on who is putting on this training, what their credentials are, and what evidence they have that this exercise is in anyway effective, informative, or safe?

      I full stop do not trust any training that requires multiple hours and comfortable clothes.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yeah, do an internet search for “Catholic Charities” and active shooter.

      Basically a small org thought they were getting a powerpoint presentation and instead someone showed up with a real gun shooting blanks. Multiple employees thought it was real, panic ensued, injuries occurred, and they’re all traumatized.

      1. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

        Content warning for anyone who (like me) was curious about this and did google for the original news story: many of the top links I found in the google results included detailed descriptions of the fake-shooter’s other, unrelated charges (abuse of a minor).

  14. SMH*

    I work for a a government agency. One year we had an active shooter trainer come in who said anyone in the lobby would be killed right away, including our receptionists (we didn’t have bulletproof glass)! When staff brought this and other safety concerns to upper management, these were brushed away, even though 1) they hired the trainer to come and say these things, and 2) we had violent threats and probably at least 1 or 2 lockdowns per year. While I was there no one was ever hurt, and no one brought a weapon onto the property (one person was once apprehended with a weapon in the parking lot by police while trying to come in), but the callousness of upper-management was galling.

    Finally we learned they had just been required to offer an active shooter training by their insurance. The next year they just showed a video, called “Run, Hide, Fight.” We started calling it “Run, Hide, Die” as a joke, if only because if we didn’t laugh at it we would all have gone insane.

    1. Chirpy*

      Ugh. I have to do the “Run, Hide, Fight” video at work. It’s super stressful and also completely irrelevant- I work in retail, we don’t even have doors that latch, let alone offices to hide in or barricade. It’s a big box store, just a series of giant open rooms! And we allow guns! And we’ve had a former employee fired for making death threats, who did come back to cause trouble at least once, who would know where all the exits are if he was going to do something worse…

      I also have been dealing with bomb threats and shooter drills since middle school. A SEVEN HOUR drill would definitely be too much for me, too, and I’d seriously consider quitting if I was forced to do that (especially if there were pellet guns like another commenter said, that’s horrific.)

    2. BenAdminGeek*

      Amazing- they hire someone to assess risk, then ignore what they have to say about risk to staff in the lobby. That’s so callous.

    3. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

      Is that the one that takes place in a bar? Protagonist is South Asian or possibly Middle Eastern man who is meeting a woman for a date?

    4. RabbitRabbit*

      I work in a large hospital. Part of our run-hide-fight training is a very well-done, professionally-shot video set on our hospital campus. I always break down and cry when they get to the part where it tells you to, if need be, abandon your patients so that you can save yourself and live to help others later. I’ve seen it enough years that I opted to just skip past the video in this year’s training module.

      Health care employees come under a ton of violence/assaults, from verbal to physical to sexual, and generally experience it at a rate that rivals most other professions. Plus employers (not mine, fortunately) discourage/forbid their employees from reporting assaults on their person and tell them that’s part of the job.

      And that’s not even including all the training around dealing with bomb threat callers, with angry patients/family members, with weapons, with baby/child abduction, etc.

  15. old curmudgeon*

    Absolutely call in sick.

    My elder kid went through a shooting at their workplace a few years ago. Several of their colleagues/friends were injured, and the shooter (another colleague) died. My kid survived by diving under their desk and huddling there, shaking, as the shooter stalked the room looking for more targets, listening to the screams of their colleagues who had been shot, and expecting to die in the crossfire once law enforcement arrived. My kid is still dealing with PTSD as a result of that incident, as are a significant number of their colleagues who were also present that day.

    As a result of that experience and the PTSD that it caused, my elder kid takes a sick day any time there is an event or training or other triggering occurrence at work. And I absolutely think you should do the same.

    As a side comment, if you have not yet sought out a mental health professional who is experienced in dealing with PTSD, you may wish to explore that at some point.

    Take care of yourself first and foremost. Sending my best wishes to you.

  16. A Simple Narwhal*

    Echoing others’ concern about this training being from a valid source. We had emergency drill training (which did include a segment on active shooters), and from the get go there were multiple training options presented. They were upfront about wanting to meet everyone’s needs, and they made it very easy to select different options, such as being provided material to review on their own time or in private, write-ups vs videos, or just the option to opt out completely.

    The fact that there is no apparent option besides hands-on training is deeply concerning, as is the length of the training. We managed to cover fire, health emergencies, active shooters, bomb threats, weather evacuations, you name it, all in the span of a couple hours. What could possibly take seven hours to cover for one topic??

    1. Qwerty*

      I interned at a plant that had an annual “disaster training day” where they would pick one scenario and do a full day simulation + training on it. It wasn’t all employees that attended, but a large number of people were part of it. It involved bringing in all the relevant gov/emergency departments that would get called if the situation was real (so chemical spill scenario was complete with fire trucks) and we didn’t have the agenda ahead of time because it was being externally coordinated.

      If its that sort of training day, it would be way more involved the typical quick drill or watch Run/Hide/Fight – they’d be going over all the logistics, what processes to set up to prevent it, etc. The OP could ask about if they’ve done day long trainings on other disasters and how those were handled if that would make a difference, but I’m guessing they’d need to opt out regardless.

      The one I attended was for an outbreak of Avian Flu. Seemed irrelevant at the time, became surprisingly useful 15yrs later when covid showed up.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I doubt random company is coordinating with outside agencies. Those types of drills like you did are really for the outside agencies to practice their plans, plus the company has a specific issue — like chemical spill that they need to practice.

        This place does not sound like. It sounds like they just decided to do an active shooter drill.

        I would call in sick. if your boss asks, just say you woke up feeling too sick to work that day. Which will be entirely true.

        1. Samwise*

          These are done periodically at the large state university I work at. Active shooter, hurricane (southeastern state), chemical spill, fire. Logistics, communications, chain of command, etc. Never did an illness/epidemic one, which is too bad, because the covid response here was pathetically weak for the first year or so.

          Most of the employees on campus did not directly participate, but many of us had to complete a very very long online training.

      2. time_ebbs*

        I have a parent in emergency preparedness who talks about how a lot of these simulated trainings came out after what happened during Hurricane Katrina. The premise is that if all these relevant gov/emergency services drill together that they’ll be better prepared to work together even if the true emergency isn’t an exact match to the drill. Essentially, it is suppose to identify potential issues ahead of time; example, local, state & federal departments all using different radio frequencies and needing to figure out what they would use together in an emergency (this was an issue during Katrina).

        As a result, there’s this whole industry of emergency preparedness which means some are doing useful drills coordinated with governmental departments and some are just selling useless single day trainings so companies can check off a box that says they did it.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          I hope they’ve fixed things since Katrina: that was four years after New York had similar problems during 9/11 with the police and fire departments not being able to communicate because they were using different frequencies.

          1. time_ebbs*

            With Katrina, it was a mix of local ordinances & state laws which essentially banned communications on specific frequencies. It just so happened that these frequencies were what the Coast Guard were using…

            My parent had been at FEMA for a minute & half before being sent to Katrina to provide IT support. As everything that could go wrong did go wrong, they ended up doing a whole a lot more than IT as it basically became an all hands on deck situation. They left FEMA after Katrina to join another agency which was setting up an emergency preparedness team as a result of what went wrong during Katrina. The whole experience just changed the entire trajectory of their career and also the field of emergency preparedness.

      3. A Simple Narwhal*

        This sounds like the episode “Emergency Response” from Parks and Rec, so interesting to hear about a real-life counterpart of it/how true to life that show really was. An avian flu outbreak was even the disaster they had to simulate!

    2. My Cabbages!*

      I don’t even have anxiety on this topic and I would still nope out of a 7-hour training.

      Heck, I would probably nope out of any training that long, regardless of topic. (Unless maybe it was “kitty snuggling training”–might be up for 7 hours of that.)

    3. Guacamole Bob*

      I was thinking this, too. Emergency response training can be very useful because the correct thing to do can vary for different scenarios and in different buildings (go to x interior room in a tornado, versus get out of the building via the stairwell in a fire, call campus police first and then 911 or vice versa for a medical emergency). But what on earth could take 7 hours for active shooter training alone that would actually be useful? What kind of work does this company do that they think there’s such heightened risk of a mass shooting in their workplace that this over-the-top training is necessary?

    4. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      Oh, I just had a horrible thought. What if they’re going to do it several times? Like, first drill, then feedback, then second drill, more feedback, etc? I could see someone thoughtlessly approaching it like “rehearsing a play”…. (gag).

    5. Ace in the Hole*

      For context, I work at a facility that stores large quantities of hazardous materials. The kind of situation that can easily develop really complex emergencies that take skilled professionals to safely respond.

      Our annual emergency response/operations training for chemical hazards is 8 hours. We cover a LOT of material in one day. That’s a totally reasonable length for something so complicated and so intertwined with our everyday work, especially where we may be needed to provide specialized assistance to professional EMS/Fire personnel who have less experience with the particular hazards involved.

      I can’t fathom why that level of training would be required for active shooter response. There’s just not that much to cover. It should be the same level of training they get for things like earthquakes, fires, or hazardous weather: how to recognize a situation that requires action, where you go to evacuate/shelter and what to do if a problem arises, how/who do you notify. I can’t see how this should take more than half an hour or so at most.

  17. LifeBeforeCorona*

    Oh Heck no, no, no. I would go with calling in sick the day of the drill. If you get any pushback, then escalate it to whoever has authority. Joking about the shooter choosing another target is horrifically awful. When my grandkid was 5 their school was involved with an active shooter, luckily, it was resolved fairly quickly, but thinking about how it could have happened still makes me shake.

  18. What She Said*

    I can barely handle our yearly training video on this let alone a full day. Also, we do have accommodations for those who can’t watch the video. I vote to call in sick. I know I would.

    1. AnonAnon*

      Agree. At my old job, most people didn’t watch it. They played it in the background or had it up during lunch and walked away in order to get credit for “watching it”.

      1. No Longer Gig-Less Data Analyst*

        I did the same – put it on mute and played it in a separate tab, then checked every 5 minutes or so to advance to the next chapter.

  19. Ex-prof*

    I hope she takes option #4. Honestly, the boss… I’m going to take her word for it that he’s a nice guy, but he’s clearly demonstrated that as far as he’s concerned, failing to participate is just going to be a sign that she’s everything he probably secretly believes about women and Gen Z. She has nothing to gain, and something to lose, by trying to play it by the book.

    Call in sick.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Given that she’s already on record as not wanting to participate and the boss’ reaction, this might be the first time I would ever consider advising someone to just no-call no-show and eat the occurrence.

      Something tells me the response on the other end of the phone won’t be “get well soon.”

      1. Nameo*

        I’m worried that would get her fired. Even if it doesn’t, she would still have to face a conversation about it the next time she shows up to work, so it doesn’t help the problem any.

        If she calls out sick, she can just insist “I’m sick; can’t come in” regardless of what the boss says. I personally would quickly follow it up with “oh no, hold on *RETCH* I really have to go *RETCH*” and hang up. But I like a little theatre

    2. Devo Forevo*

      Call in sick. Any time this has come up at a job, I’ve just had stomach flu the day of. No questions were ever asked.

    3. Decima Dewey*

      The site ate my previous post, so I’ll do a shorter version.

      OP, your boss is not nice. Full stop.

  20. WantonSeedStitch*

    SEVEN HOURS of active shooter training? SEVEN HOURS? I’m gobsmacked. We watched a couple videos at my office, and had some PowerPoints. That was about it.

      1. aebhel*

        ^^ this is the kind of thing you get when absolutely everybody involved in planning thinks this is a fun game to role-play like you’re in an action movie.

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        Yup. I’ve heard a couple of guys who have played too many FPS games talk about how they’d save the day.

    1. WillowSunstar*

      Not to mention, what are people with physical disabilities supposed to do? It’s very ableist to assume that all people can crouch/somehow hide for hours at a time without feeling pain. Or what about the people who have to eat food/take pills at certain times of the day because of health conditions? Did no one think any of this through?

      1. metadata minion*

        Nope, apparently we’re supposed to magically ignore our actual needs as well as whether you can actually do any of this running and hiding in the building/area we work in. /lolsob/

    1. Clarbar*

      My middle-schooler had one this week. Previous years, the school sent an email ahead of time to the parents and I would keep my kids out that day. I didn’t have notice of this one, and I think the most disturbing thing was that my kids have been conditioned to just accept that someone trying to kill you is a situation they should prepare for. My middle-schooler was completely ho-hum while describing how their orchestra room is actually the best place to hide because it doesn’t have any windows (to deaden sound.)

  21. Lizy*

    I would call in sick, but I’d also plan on having a doctor’s note ready. Heck – see if you can schedule an appointment JUST FOR THAT DAY. And then you can tell your boss in advance that ou have an appointment you just cannot move – that day is the ONLY day available. Doesn’t matter that the only reason that day is the only day available is because you told the office to schedule it only on that day….

    1. Smithy*

      I do think that similar to an ask for PTO – that saying it’s an appointment that can’t be moved might still get pushback or be viewed as disingenuously.

      However, if the OP schedules an appointment with their GP in advance for the day of the training – they can use that appointment to discuss anything they’re dealing with. It could be anxiety/PTSD or something else, regardless – it puts them in a place to have the sick note for work if there’s any pushback.

  22. Lisa Simpson*

    I worked somewhere where we had to do Run-Hide-Fight training. It was brief, watch the video and discuss. It took maybe 30 minutes total.

    We were located in an area where street violence was a significant risk. One of our locations had had an employee shot and murdered in the block between the facility and the bus stop: another experienced a shooting in the street while an adjacent outdoor facility was full of children and families. This came up in the meeting: Run-Hide-Fight includes an active shooter inside the building targeting us, but what do we do for a shooter who’s outside targeting someone else? Criminals have bad aim and bullets don’t discriminate. Should issue directions? Rush inside? Move away from windows?

    We were left on our own for that. No one in management cared. The active shooter training was performative and to tick off an insurance requirement.

    1. Not a SuPURRvisor*

      Same with mine; “customized by law enforcement” but the only customization was “Oh yeah all your doors are glass so hiding isn’t an option! Hope you don’t get cornered!”
      Took a grand total of an hour and I was crying furiously by the end. So far there’s no talk of a repeat but wow.

  23. MelMunny*

    I have a perfect non-attendance record for the last 10 years of active shooter training at my firm.

  24. The Person from the Resume*

    I would take PTO.

    I wouldn’t call in sick as I would let them know in advance I’d be out. I could possibly be out all day for medical reasons planned in advance, but that wouldn’t actually work for the specific reasons I have to list (medical appontment or illness dor myself or a family member).

    LW didn’t really mention it as an option, though, so I’m wondering if both her PTO and Sick leave is limited.

    1. JTP*

      Since OP’s boss says the training is mandatory, any pre-submitted PTO requests would probably be denied.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Maybe, or maybe he just meant you can’t opt out if you are at work. Since the official communication didn’t call it mandatory I’m guessing it’s not “deny PTO”-level mandatory.

        1. The Person from the Resume*

          That would be my guess too, but we can’t know.

          I bet too many people at work would opt if they could (even just for “if I’m going to be at work I have actual work to do”) and make it not useful training.

          1. Francie Foxglove*

            See, that’s what I wonder about. Seven hours at work, doing not-work — how much of a backlog will there be the next day?

  25. Lils*

    I started a new job recently, one where I wanted to impress and have significant imposter syndrome. I didn’t want to go to the active shooter training (not a drill, a presentation) but went anyway to be a team player. I felt so absolutely enraged and panicky by the first 5 minutes of this asinine presentation by a law enforcement officer that I just left. No one ever said anything to me. I will never, ever attend one of these again–it is worth *any* political or professional price I might pay.

    Also want to say: I hear that there are differences between younger folks’ experience and us middle aged people who grew up prior to mass school shootings being so frequent. But in my opinion, your older colleagues have ZERO excuse for not empathizing with your concerns. They know what has been happening and also–if you say you don’t want to participate, that should be good enough. Teasing you and demanding you attend is NOT appropriate, no matter their age. I am old and also infuriated on your behalf.

    1. Agile Phalanges*

      Also want to say: I hear that there are differences between younger folks’ experience and us middle aged people who grew up prior to mass school shootings being so frequent. But in my opinion, your older colleagues have ZERO excuse for not empathizing with your concerns.

      This. I graduated high school a few years before Columbine, but can still completely empathize with what people who are younger than me have been through. I had a young kid when Sandy Hook happened, as many of us “old folks” did, but even those who are childless should at least be able to imagine the trauma these drills can cause. And as others have pointed out, experts question whether they drills really help anyone anyway.

      Sure, have trainings on the specific places at your workplace that you should go for various disasters (and which types of scenarios you should evacuate the building and which you should shelter in place), but the training should encompass various disasters, and there is absolutely NO need to have live-action “drills” to simulate such a traumatic experience.

      1. JustAnotherKate*

        Agree — late 40s without kids, and I can totally picture this being really hard. I’d never treat a younger person badly for refusing this. (That said, I worked at Planned Parenthood and we had bomb scares, which I know isn’t the same but was pretty creepy until we realized it was the same wingnut calling in the threats from hundreds of miles away.)

  26. Doc of the Town*

    Professor at a college that had a mass shooting. Lost colleagues and students. There is zero reason to be doing this training.

    There is an entire industry built around mass shootings. The vultures swoop in when a shooting takes place, pretending to offer support as they build their trauma resumes and then move on to profit from death, offering lockdown training and recovery services. Combine that with the militarization of police, and these trainings are an abusive nightmare. The prurient excitement exhibited by those conducting the trainings—and folks like OPs boss—is a sickness in our society.

    OP, go to your primary care provider. Get the paperwork in place for legal accommodations.

    Take more than a day off—I suggest you take the following day off, too. Go somewhere—a hike, a spa, a museum—on that day.

    It can be scary to speak your truth. But it’s a good skill to have that will serve you well in your career. I have no polite words about your boss. What a jerk.

    Sending you a big hug.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Yes, such a good suggestion to take 2 days off. Then you can avoid the worst of the after-event commentary.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Seconding the idea that there is an industry built around these things.

      “Anything for a buck” is pretty disgusting sometimes.

    2. Emily (she/hers)*

      I love the advice to take two days and do something restorative. I’m sorry you have personal experience with this.

      LW, I know you’re worried that your boss will call you triggered or a snowflake or otherwise weak, but it is in fact very strong – a brave – to calmly stand firm at your limit.

    3. Some words*

      Thank you for this post.

      Our society (U.S.) has gone around the bend and it’s valuable for reasoned voices to call it out. And law enforcement is the last group I’d trust with my safety.

  27. AnyaT*

    You say he’s a nice guy, but …
    “When I voiced my concerns, he made a few jokes about how he would simply redirect the shooter to a younger person”
    I really don’t know what to say to that.

    Call in sick and don’t ever apologize for it.

    My only other thought is, that if this simulation might happen more than once, it could be useful to go the formal accommodations route so you have a standing reason to not attend any sessions.

    1. pope suburban*

      I can say that I’m unsurprised, and that that’s an attitude that explains a whole hell of a lot that people write into this blog about, like flat wages, exploitative culture, and the constant fear of losing a job and not being able to afford food/exorbitant rent/anything else that was once upon a time attainable. I’d almost respect that he said the quiet part out loud, except that the quiet part is so thoroughly and totally repellent.

    2. J!*

      This is what I’m stuck on. What in the actual hell? I would be looking for another job immediately if my boss said that to me.

      This boss is not ok, and you deserve better.

  28. Eldritch Office Worker*

    This is awful, and overboard, and I want to have some firm words with your boss.

    But really, call in sick. Save yourself the heartache and the stress. Don’t worry about not looking tough. Maybe there are social consequences to that, I don’t have enough context, but they won’t be more severe than triggering yourself to this extent.

    Seven hours jfc.

  29. Pick A Little Talk A Little*

    I’m a survivor of gun violence and I’ve lost a loved one in a mass shooting. When my former workplace held an active shooter training, they said it was mandatory and no one could opt out. My direct boss fought it and tried to get me excused, but her boss was firm that it was required. I called my doctor and explained the situation, and she wrote a letter stating that attending the training would be detrimental to my health, with the recommendation that I be excused. I didn’t end up having to attend the training, but I was never able to respect my grandboss in the same way after that.

    LW, your boss is being extremely blasé about his staff’s mental health. Take this as the valuable information about him that it is and think about how long you’re willing to work for someone who is totally okay with causing you this kind of harm.

    1. Felicity Lemon*

      I’m sorry for the loss of your loved one and for your own experience too. And sad – no, more angry, I think – that you had to go to such lengths to get excused from that training.

  30. HearTwoFour*

    OP, pick whichever option works for you, but I would think explaining yourself in a firm, unwavering way would not only be empowering to you, but also eye-opening to your boss.
    If you call in sick and they run this drill again in a year or two, you’ll be in the same position, and making yourself sick with worry. Standing up for yourself now gets my vote. Good luck!

    1. ecnaseener*

      Empowering for LW, maybe. Unfortunately I really doubt the boss is going to be at all receptive to having his eyes open, just based on the description of him. This isn’t going to be the first time someone tries to tell him that people have traumas and mental health needs.

    2. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      OP, if you were to talk to your boss, and he says again “you wouldn’t be able to take it” or something else similarly egregious, you can use the time-honored response, “I’m not sure what you mean.”

      This pretty much forces your boss to explain his awful thinking. It might possibly get him to realize the ridiculousness of what he’s saying, but even if it doesn’t it gives you a great and specific springboard for explaining to him why his assumptions are way off. It is also a less confrontational and frightening way to approach those issues, putting the onus to explain on him rather than on you.

  31. Problem!*

    Seven hours?! That’s insane. As someone who has been in an active shooter situation all the training you do doesn’t mean anything when the threat is real and all that “training” is going to do is disrupt the workday and traumatize employees.

    My workplace does building-specific workplace shooter training and it lasts maybe 30-45 minutes tops. It’s basically go to X room if you can, use Y furniture to block the door, use Z panic code on the phones to silently call law enforcement to your location. That’s it. It’s probably the post practical workplace safety training I’ve had since the generic mass produced run-hide-fight videos are worthless in a real situation.

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

      we had to watch those run-hide-fight videos at the old job and the entire time I’m like how is this going to work for us. I worked in a call center. there were no office doors to close and we had no escape roots beside the main hall, so we would be trapped. Also on the 7th floor so it’s not like we could break a window.

      From my recollection, they never talk about people’s legit reactions in the moment. I think many people would freeze. They also talked about throwing things like your chair or a pencil (?) what about people who cannot lift a chair? And WTF is a pencil going to do against someone with an AK47

    2. merida*

      I’ve never had (or heard of before now) building-specific active shooter training – which is really sad… because that would be so useful!

      Now that I think about it, my workplace gives “building-specific” info for other types of emergency preparation – i.e., I know where we’re supposed to evacuate and gather in the case of a fire, I know where in the building we should shelter in the case of a tornado/severe weather, but the active shooter training module was only a generic video with a generic office building showing fear and the run/hide/fight scenarios. I worked here for over 6 months before I finally found a colleague who knew the phone extension for security… I couldn’t find the security phone number anywhere, and no one else seemed to know either (I wanted to commit the number to memory for emergencies). But I watched the required active shooter training video so I guess that’s all I need… <- sarcasm/ Oof. We need to do better.

  32. Playing With Puppies And Kittens All Day*

    I’m sorry about your boss, OP. Reading your letter, I immediately jumped to the “call out sick” recommendation. I think it’s 100% okay to stonewall/lie/be vague about your symptoms to protect your privacy if your boss pushes back.

    My workplace recently made kind of a big deal about a mandatory training (DEI, not active shooter). I had to call out that day for a family emergency. It turned out nobody really cared that I wasn’t able to make it to the training and nobody mentioned it ever again – so hopefully your absence will be a non-issue.

  33. More Training Needed*

    Repeated training hones the reflex actions needed in terrible situations. This training is insufficient for that goal but it’s not worthless.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

    2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Each person should be allowed to decide the risk-benefit of having the training versus the impact on their mental health. This LW has already had a lot of training.

    3. Onward*

      There have been several studies that have shown that the methods used in many trainings end up causing PTSD and trauma. Also for people who have been IN mass shootings or have experienced gun violence, these trainings can be very psychologically damaging.

    4. Lils*

      Also, you’re making some broad assumptions here about the quality of “training” delivered in all workplaces. The trainings I have had have been locally-created garbage not based on evidence. That is worse than no training at all.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        And a quality training, I cannot stress this enough, does not last seven hours.

    5. Pick A Little Talk A Little*

      You know what would be more effective than repeated active shooter drills that traumatize people and trigger trauma responses in survivors? Doing what it takes to make these shootings stop happening.

      Because somebody who had no business owning a gun was able to get one, I almost died. My friend DID die. I’m so sick and tired of people acting like there’s no way to stop the shootings and we all have to just learn how to not die when they happen.

      We shouldn’t have to live like this.

          1. Middle Aged Grad Student*

            Agree. I have two high schoolers, my spouse is a professor, and I work at a university too. I do not feel safe.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        One does begin to wonder how much change could have been wrought if instead of drills and training we had opted to spend that time protesting or in political action.

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        No amount of training can mitigate the danger of letting anyone have a gun. Somehow, the “solution” is always more guns.

    6. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      You’re talking about the kind of training that professionals receive. Where the repetition is frequent, not annually at best. And where the training is done by people who are professionals *in the topic they are training*.

    7. aebhel*

      the vast majority of these trainings rely on terrorizing people and teaching absolutely nothing of practical value other than ‘you sure might get shot at work! something to consider! :D’

    8. Chirpy*

      Seven hours of “training” is far more likely to be a poorly designed hands-on training that will only cause stress, fear, and trauma, possibly leading to worse outcomes if there ever is a real shooting.

    9. Sandals*

      Precisely, More Training Needed. I’m surprised at the number of commenters who seem to reject calibrating reptilian-brain thinking. I’ve been there on a college campus, and, as such, soak up all the training I can get, especially because it’s a good way to find out about new data, like the fact that run-hide-fight might not be useful; that it’s good to keep a supply of water nearby; and to not hide in restrooms anymore.

      Thanks for your practical, even-minded comment.

      1. Sandals*

        Wanted to add that I agree the real problem is in the proliferation of guns and the lawlessness favored by…certain politicians…

      2. Chirpy*

        There’s a difference between practicing things so you can do them in an emergency, such as CPR, and traumatizing people so they’re more likely to panic when confronted by real danger. The two are not the same.

        And, even calling 911 can be difficult in a real emergency. I’ve been through multiple safety courses (as in, semester long professional courses, not one-day training) and I still froze with a phone in my hand the one time I had to do it for real.

    10. Daisy-dog*

      ****Horrific statement incoming:

      It could also make the shooter more effective because it could very well be an employee in this training that becomes the shooter. They’ll know all the doors to block, all the hiding spots, all the “weapons” to hide.

    11. Cimorene-turned-Morwen*

      The statement “Repeated [high-quality] training hones reflex actions” is true. The idea that active shooter training is effective at reducing deaths and injuries in the event of a real active shooter is not. I have a PhD in firearm violence and injury prevention, and while I won’t say that there isn’t training that could be beneficial, I will say there isn’t any solid of benefit. If you’re curious I can expand on that, but I don’t want to derail the thread.

      1. AABBCC123*

        Hey really curious, since I am in a tangentially related field; is the same true for fire drills, earthquake drills, etc. or is there something unique about this type of training?

        1. Ring of Fire*

          Not sure if you can find information about it in English, but here in Japan we have frequent fire and earthquake drills; there is also a very loud and scary alert that goes from the earthquake detection center to your cell phone. There is a debate you can maybe find evidence of online as to whether this is effective. Some say that it is helpful to have even a few seconds of warning, and that the sound should be loud and trigger serious caution. Some say that the siren is extremely loud and frightening when it goes off suddenly, sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes when there is no earthquake, and that the sound/experience itself is traumatizing.

          Personally I think if there are ways to prepare people that don’t involve trauma, then we should do those. We don’t need to be afraid, we need to be prepared.

          1. anon today*

            My apartment building has so many “drills” (false alarms) that maybe 12 people out of 102 units (some with 2 people, so more than 102 tenants) bother to evacuate when the alarms go off in the apartment AND hallway. We’ve had some real fires, but unless the sprinkler system fails, the building will just flood instead of burning down. Everyone is tired of climbing down multiple floors of stairs to stand outside in the cold in their pajamas. (Funny how this rarely happens when the rental office is open; some hapless security guard has to try to decode the alarm system fault codes and tell the fire department what happened.)

            1. anon today*

              I am fairly traumatized by all this, because what if it IS a fire and/or flood this time and not just a glitch in the system? And I’m autistic, so the alarms and strobes are hard on my nervous system.

          2. AABBCC123*

            But if you don’t know what the siren sounds like, how are you going to know what it is?

  34. Wren_Song*

    We had a workplace training at OldJob that was a full day. The active shooter training was a short part of the overall agenda. The session before it was about what to have in your desk emergency kit in case of an earthquake. The cop who did presented on active shooter protocols casually started discussing a mall shooting in another state part way through the training. I had been there. We remembered the event very differently. I wish very much I had opted out. Call in sick, OP.

  35. Ace in the Hole*

    Seven hour long training/drill? That sounds wildly excessive – that’s the kind of time spend on drills for issues you deal with every day, like chemical release training at a chemical storage facility. Is there something about your workplace that makes this a particular concern? Otherwise… wow.

    If this were a short (10-20 min) drill, I’d say you might be out of luck. The employer would be viewing and treating it like drills for other types of emergency. If they wouldn’t let you out of a fire drill, they’d be unlikely to let you out of this, and I don’t know how things would shake out with saying you need to skip important safety drills as a reasonable accommodation.

    All-day training puts it in a very different category. Unless responding to active shooter scenarios is a commonly expected part of your job duties, there’s no way this training is a reasonable requirement. What could they possibly need seven hours to cover?

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      Yeah, our local transit agency shuts down a station occasionally (usually several hours on a Sunday morning) so all the emergency service people can run a training exercise. That kind of multi-hour practical drill strikes me as very useful. Seven hours of active shooter training for ordinary office employees? Heck no.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Exactly. I’m a big proponent of safety drills. I think they’re useful, I’ve seen them work. Not only does a well-designed drill help participants remember what to do in a real scenario, it gives you the opportunity to identify critical issues before an emergency. For example, an evacuation drill might reveal that the intended exit route is actually inaccessible because it’s blocked by blackberry thicket (true story), or a fire drill could show you that the fire alarm isn’t audible in one part of the building (also true story).

        I’m not against well-designed, appropriate active shooter drills… but I can’t believe this one is well-designed or appropriate if it takes so long. Do they also do a seven hour fire prevention and response class? All-day first aid training? If not, why is this particular emergency getting such outsized priority?

        1. anon today*

          We had a minor fire in our building when it was new, and management discovered the hard way that the alarms didn’t sound on most of the 6 floors. They had to go door to door knocking to tell people to leave. Shortly after this, one of the fire stairwells smelled like dead rat. I suspect he died chomping on a fire alarm wire.

  36. Mellie Bellie*

    Jesus. How did we let our country get to this point? Given the reaction you’ve gotten from trying to push back, I wouldn’t bother trying to explain why this is a problem. Just call in sick that day.

  37. Onward*

    I feel you, OP. I wouldn’t be able to participate in one of these drills either and I HATE that they exist. I know you said your boss is normally nice, but he’s being a bonehead, insensitive jerk about this if he doesn’t allow you to quietly bow out.

  38. Clovers*

    I second Alison’s phrasing of opting out as a prediction of the future, not as a request: I will not be participating, so how should we proceed?

    Also if this bunghole tries to make you feel weak for not being up for it, remember that standing up to him is a strong choice in itself.

    Also also- there is no way in heck a seven hour (!??) training is going to be useful, sensible, or anything besides a nightmare.

  39. Rage*

    How awful. I hope you are able to easily opt out, OP.

    I’m sort of lucky, in a way, because the school I work at is a non-public school serving children with Autism and Intellectual Disability. Our population is very low-functioning, so having them do an active shooter “run-hide-fight” type of drill is pointless. Many would not even know to run if we told them; they cannot comprehend the danger. And hiding or fighting is just not in the cards. A year or so before COVID, our state decided to mandate active-shooter drills for schools. There was a lot of push-back, not just from us, and now we simply have to do “crisis” drills (which could be anything from active shooter to chemical spill to emergency lockdown to student elopement) – guess what we don’t do?

    For staff, we simply review our active shooter “policy” at our annual inservice – which mostly amounts to “lock-down and hide and pray”. No sense in reminding them of the futility of it all on a monthly basis as well.

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

      In cases like your school its more important that the adults know what to do than showing kids what to do/where to go.

    2. Chirpy*

      At one point as a kid, my state or school district mandated *monthly* emergency drills in schools. My school responded with “we’re going to ring the fire alarm at X time, don’t go outside, it’s too cold and this is ridiculous anyway.” Thankfully it was a cold winter and after a few temperature reports to whoever mandated it and a lot of angry parents (especially at other schools who did make kids stand outside on a day that was probably -10F), that stopped. One of each type of emergency drill a year is plenty.

      1. Sharpie*

        My school ran its fire drill annually, in the autumn term when the weather was still nice enough that we could reasonably stay outside for a bit without freezing.

        We never needed to do it more often than that, and I am so thankful we never needed to do any other type of drill.

        I was eighteen when Columbine happened and we’d had Dunblane here in the UK only three years before that. I cannot fathom how it has happened that even young children are expected to learn to react to someone with a gun. I feel for all of you who’ve been affected by this, any of this.

  40. Jenny*

    I’d call in sick. I’d develop a “migraine” toward the end of the day before and call in the next day. Do I normally condone lying? Nope. But you’ve already established your workplace isn’t likely to be reasonable.

  41. 2023, You are NOT Nice.*

    Not a drill, but my church employer, with school and preschool attached, had us all watch a video of a shooting simulation at a school. I cried, honestly, because even though it was very low key and not big budget, it was very effective at showing what it’s like, to have a normal work and school day completely turn on its head.

    And I am of the generation that didn’t have mass events constantly, I’m 51. But that was just about 30 minutes, not anything we had to actually do. Seven hours is unbelievable, but sounds more like a training event for the police than your workplace. I guess they need more real time training.

    1. Anonymoose*

      “Seven hours is unbelievable, but sounds more like a training event for the police than your workplace. I guess they need more real time training.”

      This sounds exactly right to me.

  42. amanda_cake*

    As an educator, we do these frequently.

    What are your suggestions for educators and/or students who have to do these trainings, especially those who have been affected by a real situation?

        1. Chirpy*

          But does it require the full drill, or can you do a security discussion instead? My high school got around a mandatory monthly fire drill by claiming it was too cold, and just ringing the alarm for a few months until enough parents complained that the rule was recinded.

        2. Onward*

          You might still be able to get them to modify how they do the drills, and who they choose to be the instructors, etc. Everytown has some resources regarding that as well.

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

      I would say that the same principles apply as the LW. They don’t have any problem with reading anything, its the simulations.

      If a teacher or student has an issue then they should be removed from the situation.

      1. amanda_cake*

        When you are in charge of leading a class of kindergarteners into a hiding spot for their drill it’s a little hard to be removed from the situation.

  43. NW Mossy*

    Best practice is to allow people to opt out, for any reason. You just don’t know what people can and cannot tolerate with this kind of thing, and it’s best to let them decide for themselves if it’s appropriate.

    Some years back, my company was adjacent to an active-shooter event – it happened at another organization that rented space in the same building. In response, we offered one of the most common run/hide/fight trainings (via video).

    At the time, I had an employee for whom the video would be too much. This individual lived through a civil war in their country of origin and understandably was not keen on the idea of triggering difficult memories in a professional setting. It was a no-brainer to help them with the very small procedural hurdle to opt out.

  44. JustMe*

    I’m also just really curious about why the boss wants to have an active shooter drill given how cavalier he seems to be about it. Are there board members who are pushing for this? Are they tenants in a building that is having this training for all businesses? Do they work in a higher-risk area or industry? (ex. I once worked in a building owned by a community college even though my office was unaffiliated with the college, and we would go into lockdown when the rest of the community college did so.) Some of that context may help OP decide how they want to push back.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      It’s probably an insurance thing. “Do this training or your insurance rate will go up.”

  45. Green great dragon*

    If you do want to be up front about not being willing to do it, saying you have too much personal experience of gun violence is not disclosing anything about your own mental health, and it’s a blunt way of pointing out that it’s your circumstances that are different, not your resilience.

    Some places would accept that and back off, others would, horribly, demand details. So not really a recommendation, and honestly I think the sick day route (or just a day’s vacation) has a lot going for it, but something to consider if you do want to have the discussion.

  46. Seal*

    My workplace had an active shooter training session prior to COVID that included several drills. The university police ran the session and they were very professional yet laid back, which made the training far less stressful than it could have been. But ours was completely voluntary and staff were told multiple times prior to the session that they could opt out if they weren’t comfortable attending. That made a huge difference in everyone’s mindset regarding the training.

    OP – call in sick if your boss continues to be a jerk about this.

  47. Marna Nightingale*

    This is a terrible approach in many ways and I genuinely hesitate to suggest it, but if you feel that #3 is your best option, when I had bosses like that the times when I could manage to, I guess, meet their style, went better than times I couldn’t.

    I mean, there are so many reasonable and sensible and logical ways to respond to being told to toughen up, and they’re all better than this, but sometimes “If you’re making me do this I want it in writing that when I forget this is a drill and deck somebody you pay my legal bills and I don’t face any disciplinary action whatsoever” is the way to their dear little dinosaur brains.

    1. Marna Nightingale*

      I actually now feel I did not stress enough that this is an exceptionally dysfunctional and terrible approach, and should only be used if a) LW’s knowledge of their boss says it will work and b) they’re out of other options.

  48. Your Social Work Friend*

    There is no value in a seven hour training for something that would last from 5-30 minutes, realistically. I work in a school and I think our staff training maxed out at like an hour, and half of that was about identifying and preventing threats.

    Look, I’m a school employee, a military brat, and an LEO wife. My husband can’t eat in public with his back to the door. He has to fly armed. There are contingency plans in our family if we were on a plane during a hijacking. A seven hour training would be insane for any work place that isn’t on a military installation or the Capitol/Pentagon/etc and EVEN THEN it would be bananapants crazy. Heck, my dad worked in the Pentagon post 9/11, D.C. Sniper, and Virginia Tech and threat training was like an hour.

    Take the day off. Hide in your house or go to goat yoga or whatever helps you. Take the next day off too. And if that fool makes another joke, look him in the face and say “Did you just try to joke about me being murdered to save yourself?” There is no generational excuse. He remembers Columbine and Virginia Tech and Aurora and Sandyhook and Parkland and Pulse . He’s a crap human being making light of real human lives like that.

  49. Anonymoose*

    My kingdom for sensible, trauma-informed, non-security-theater workplace safety training. I asked for active shooter training at my current workplace because our current safety training is very spotty – think staff not knowing the nearest exits or how to lock doors.
    I was out the day the training happened, but apparently it was just a cop lecture interspersed with scary videos. None of it was tailored to our facility. We still have not done a full security training or, to my knowledge, incorporated safety training into new hire onboarding. I work for a public-facing government agency.
    My last workplace did the “hide in your office” training, which was lackluster in different ways – I definitely found it mildly triggering due to experiences I’ve had, and we received no training on how to protect our customers. (They literally had us hiding in our offices while the public was still in our spaces – creating a safety hazard while doing safety training!)
    Workplaces do need to do security training, but it should not be hard to provide training that is specific and actionable without turning our offices into a badly-planned cop LARP. It is such nonsense. (And imo no child should be doing in-depth active shooter training beyond “here’s the exit route, here’s how to lock the door,” but I’m not a parent and I know this stuff is tough.)

    1. Minimal Pear*

      Ugh you mentioning the scary videos just reminded me that my old job’s (fairly long) active shooter training involved straight up showing us footage from Columbine.

  50. Insert Clever Name Here*

    I’m so sorry to hear about the stomach bug you got the day of this drill. What poor timing!

    I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this, OP, and that your boss made a joke about directing a shooter to you. Officially remove “he’s a nice guy” from the way you think about June because he is, in fact, not.

    (And as a 6th grader at the time of Columbine…oooof I am so sorry for all of us that literally nothing has changed since then)

  51. Tyra*

    I’m so sorry. This is all scary and horrible. Definitely take the day off. It can be a good time to start getting migraines – I genuinely get them and I can’t even look at a screen to email / call in. They don’t have to be genuine for you.

  52. Eether Eyether*

    I was voluntold to participate in my company’s active shooter drills and I said straight out NO. A friend from high school was sentenced to life in prison for committing one of the first, and worst, workplace shootings in Massachusetts.

  53. ermthebookworm*

    CW actual mass shooting event

    We just went through a mass shooting event at my university, and I can tell you the only information we really needed was to follow campus alerts, and to know the safe locations in our building to lock down. Nothing can really prepare you for this. The shooting didn’t follow most of the normal “scripts” for these things, so it was mass chaos anyway. I have heard some people talking about more training as a “solution” to prevent a similar event in the future and it makes me want to scream. I’m sorry you are going through this, OP. Your boss sounds like an as**.

  54. Anon for this*

    Seven hours?! That’s ridiculous!
    A few years back someone actually did bring a gun into our building, attempting to commit suicide by cop. Afterwards, we did a Run/Hide/Fight video, talked about some specific places for it in our building, and listened/watched some videos from an actual active shooter event from a few years before, as the video showed what police response would actually look like.

    This took an hour, and I work in law enforcement! Even ignoring personal history, seven hours is enough to upset anyone!

  55. PsychNurse*

    I’m sorry, but it’s an all-day event? That is absurd. My workplace has fire drills, tornado drills, etc. I used to live in a country that had earthquake drills. All of these take about ten minutes. I can not imagine what possible justification there is to spend an entire workday on this.

  56. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    If you have the sick time I would call in sick the day before the training as well. It makes it less obvious that it was about the training

  57. Butterfly Counter*

    I definitely think I’d go the “call in sick” route.

    When watching the movie “8th Grade,” the main character (and the rest of the school) was so nonchalant during the active shooter drill, I cried a little. Columbine happened when I was in college, so I was incredibly lucky to have missed those kinds of drills as a young person.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

  58. Jay (no, the other one)*

    About 12 years ago I was medical director of an inpatient facility and we had a family member come in with a holstered gun visible. The staff came to me and I asked him to go lock it in his car, which he did without question or argument. We then had a staff meeting to discuss their concerns and a number of my staff expressed anxiety about mass shootings, workplace shootings, and what their kids went through with drills at school. It was a tough meeting.

    I had a med student with me and I took her into my office afterwards to check in. I said “That was pretty intense. How are you doing?” She looked at me and said “I went to Columbine High School.” I can still feel the bottom dropping out of my stomach.

    And it’s so much worse now than it was then.

  59. thatoneoverthere*

    We had one at my former workplace. It was a Jewish Organization, and the week prior was the shooting at the Temple in Pittsburgh. We were about 1hr 25 min away. So, emotions were really high the week following. The drill was short, and we knew it was coming. We had to hide in our offices under the desks. It was traumatizing enough doing that and it only lasted about 5 – 10 min. I can’t imagine a full-fledged day with simulations. As most millennials in the US here can attest to mass shootings are incredibly tough subject and quite traumatizing. I would absolutely call in sick. If you have kids use them as an excuse. If not, I would call in sick the day before and after to solidfy the excuse.

  60. A Teacher*

    Welcome to teaching in America! Active shooter drills and lockdown drills are one of the few that my kids take seriously. They used to kind of joke about the fire alarm being pulled and then a school shooting happened where a fire alarm was pulled and kids were shot leaving their classrooms/building.

    We have to go over how to block our doors with baricades if we can’t get out, we’ve figured out how to rip open the rest of our windows if we want out badly enough, the kids know where my roach spray is and where the fire extinguisher is if someone gets close enough in this room. We’ve talked about where to run to and how to get the heck away from our building as fast as possible more than once. It is never a fun conversation but it is a necessary conversation in this era of teaching.

    I am sorry that you have to go through the process of saying no–it should not be that hard to opt out and if they push back, it is wrong on so many levels.

  61. I'm Done*

    Call in sick. Really, have no qualms about it. Anyone who schedules a 7 hour mass shooting drill is not right in their head. Heck any drill fir any length of time, for that matter. I’ve been involved in a workplace shooting and it’s not something that needs reenacting.

    1. Meep*

      What interests me is this is a “mass shooting” drill, not an “active shooter” drill. Most mass shootings happen at schools or venues where there are a lot of people because the shooter wants notoriety. Most workplace active shooters are targeted. I have a hard time figuring out how a small company with no HR jumped to the conclusion they need to train for a mass shooter.

    2. LilPinkSock*

      Same. I don’t need to sit through seven hours of that garbage–again.

      Just send me the information I need to know and don’t make me go through it all again.

  62. Emily*

    LW, I am so sorry. I think Alison’s advice is really good. I agree that I don’t think active shooter trainings are all that helpful, and I may be zeroing in too much on the wrong thing here, but telling you all to wear “comfortable clothing” is ridiculous. You should be wearing whatever you would normally be wearing at work, which just further underlines to me the uselessness of the training other than to provoke anxiety and fear.

    I think Alison’s language about what to say to your boss is really useful. Your boss can think you are a “snowflake” all he wants, but the fact is your boss is being an insensitive jerk.

  63. Elder Millennial*

    Endless sympathy to you, OP. I’m just old enough to have gotten out of high school with very minimal ‘active shooter’ type worries. But last summer I had to attend one of these trainings at work (though much shorter) and I completely melted down. I snuck out between the lecture piece and the hands-on drill to sob in my office and then go home sick for the rest of the day. My supervisor (largest waste of space ever) still talks about how much fun she had getting ‘shot’ at with foam disks.
    Please take a sick day, or do whatever else you need to do to take care of yourself. You should not have to traumatize yourself at work.

  64. bunniferous*

    If you know WHO is conducting the training maybe they could give info about what is happening that day. I like the idea of getting a doc note and or calling out sick but if OP does wind up going to work that day I would simply leave if/when an active shooter simulation starts. (I’d clue in a coworker who could text when that part is over. )

    I’m sorry you have to deal with this. I’m a boomer and if I can understand I don’t know what your boss’s problem is.

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

      It’s not that he can’t understand. Mass shootings have been happeing for years i’m sure he remembers sandy hook, Virginia Tech, etc. He doesn’t care about his employees feelings. he is not a nice guy.

  65. Meep*

    My dad was a teacher for 15 years (+7 as a sub) and never had to deal with an active shooter, fortunately. My mom worked for a large company and has to deal with several (not at her location, thankfully, but as HR she had to deal with the aftermath). Each time, it has been a targeted shooting. I don’t know what field you’re in, but if the pharmacy field where they deal with people’s health/health insurance daily, doesn’t have to deal with it, it seems highly unlikely your field should too if it isn’t education or medical. I am having a hard time seeing why this is even necessary for a company so small it doesn’t have HR.

    I mean your boss sounds “delightful” so maybe he is concerned he may be a target, but the chances of you ever needing to use that mass-shooting situation at work is low. So feel free to call in sick.

  66. Aarti*

    I am well into Gen X and we did an active shooter training and I hated every moment of it. I had to listen to 911 calls, crying children, the lot. It was 3 hours of my life! I don’t want to do it either. I empathize.

  67. MicroManagered*

    As Alison suggested in bullet point #2, if there is a second-in-command at your job, even if you don’t directly report to that person, consider talking to them. I have interceded on employees’ behalf from that position many times, i.e. I’m a manager at the lowest level of our management structure. A peer/fellow manager can say things in a much more direct way than you might be comfortable with doing with your own boss because of the power dynamics in play.

  68. Burger Bob*

    Uggggghhhh. These drills are not helpful! They are known to induce anxiety in participants, and there’s no evidence that they really help much if you find yourself in an actual active shooter situation. There is no active shooter education for the workplace that should take seven hours, unless maybe if your workplace is law enforcement or something where you will be the ones actually dealing with a shooter. Written materials and a review of the building’s exits and safe(r) rooms is more than sufficient. You do not need to hear gun shots or see people play dead or whatever simulated shenanigans people want to insist on. It isn’t helpful. You should absolutely opt out if you want to.

  69. Former Young Lady*

    Call me paranoid, but I can’t think of a bigger threat to security than announcing an all-day “active shooter drill” in advance. If you have one disgruntled employee in your midst, that person now knows there will be a seven-hour interval in which everyone will be expecting what they think is a simulation of gun violence.

    Best case, that employee will now have even more inside information about strategies, hiding places, and escape routes. Worst case, they might show up to work armed, and their colleagues would assume it’s all “part of the training.”

    1. metadata minion*

      When we had to do one I brought that up — that statistically if there’s a shooting there’s a strong chance it will be by an employee or student — and they just handwaved it off. They also handwaved off the fact that we work in a giant glass fishbowl and can’t remotely lock the doors like you can with many other buildings on campus.

  70. WTF is wrong with people?*

    Add me to the chorus of people saying #4 is both legitimate and honest. Just reading the stories in this letter and in the comments has given me nausea. But the other options could be better in some situations. Either way, I’m very sorry you’re dealing with this horrific BS.

  71. June Bee*

    Not sure if this is the case for the OP, but when my previous employer planned a mandatory active shooter drill, they sent a liability release/waiver that we were expected to sign. The waiver was problematic in many ways and I declined to sign it (and to participate). The drill was ultimately canceled after my employer’s legal counsel also reviewed the release and advised that an employer should not be asking employees to sign it.

    This could potentially be another “out” for the OP.

  72. Dr. of Laboratoria*

    I work in a hospital system. Our active shooter training is online, so you can just play the video and ignore it & still get credit. We know which doors lock and we have a plan if there is a shooter in the hospital.

    I work in a clinic that serves LGBTQ+ patients and I live in a state that is very second amendment and extremely not LGBTQ+ friendly. One of our providers is a speaker in an education day for LGBTQ+ providers and there was a threat called in to the event this year. We had a meeting with security at our clinic because now we are also a target.

    I think about my plan a lot bc the patients we serve make us a target.

  73. Chilipepper Attitude*

    I have never ever called in sick for any reason other than actually being too sick to leave my bed. Ever. I would call in sick for this one even though I already asked not to attend. Call in sick and deal with it later. Follow Alison’s advice to talk to someone above her.

  74. Ex-pat US-ian who left before these drills became a thing for schools*

    Could you tell your boss that you already have expert-level knowledge on active shooter drills (and that goading the shooter to kill someone else constitutes a failing grade)?

    If he doubles down, especicially on the threatening to goad a potential shooter to shoot you instead (seriously wtf?!?!?) consider that he might be telling the truth. He might be trying to “joke,” of course, but. That is egregious and worth taking seriously imo. No job is worth your life. No job is worth having coworkers or your boss threatening to put you in harms way, joking or not.

  75. cactus lady*

    Call in sick.

    When I was in high school my best friend died in a car crash. A few months later, my school staged this “surprise” mock car accident to discourage people from drinking and driving. Basically it was a whole thing staged as if some classmates had gotten in a car with a drunk driver and died, involving the local law enforcement, paramedics, etc., and framed as if it was actually happening and not a drill. We didn’t find out until later in the day that it was staged.

    I didn’t know any of this when I went to school that day and it was one of the worst days I can recall (my friend’s accident hadn’t involved alcohol, but the response was almost identical). Please save yourself from living through a trauma unnecessarily. It doesn’t matter what people think. I know your boss is a big influence in your life/career now but he won’t be there forever. You’re going to move on from this job at some point, and his opinion won’t matter so much anymore, but reliving trauma sticks with you. I’m 38 now and I still think about that day with anxiety and sadness.

    1. Minimal Pear*

      My high school did that as well. Ours was a few days long, they played a sound over the PA every [whatever number of minutes it is that someone dies from drunk driving], and they staged the crash on the football field and made us all go look.
      One of the “victims” was “paralyzed” instead of “dying” and there was a lot of stuff about how tragic this was, implications that it was worse than death… Not much fun when you’re a physically disabled teenager being forced to attend this event.

      1. cactus lady*

        I imagine the people who put these together were just as out of touch as this boss. We had a few students around our county die in drunk driving accidents that year, and I imagine it was very upsetting for the parents, but there was clearly NO understanding that these were our friends and peers and maybe making grieving teenagers sit through this wasn’t as helpful as they wanted it to be? I’m betting that this company/boss wants to feel like they are doing something to address the problem and keep their employees safe, but really all it does is make them feel better about themselves.

  76. Fluffy Fish*

    Call out sick. Call out the day before/after if you want to make it look less intentional.

    I work in emergency management and these drills are NOT helpful nor necessary for the public.

    First responders and EM do exercises to improve our side of it. There’s no need for public participation.

    Practicing locking doors/closing windows, leaving the building like in a fire drill, knowing how your employer sends out emergency info and the basics of what to do are perfectly sufficient and are applicable in many situations.

    Do they set real fires for a fire drill? No. Because its unnecessary.

    Scaring the sh*t out of people isn’t helpful.

  77. Penny foolish*

    The last time we had an active shooter drill, HR neglected to tell emergency services that it was only a drill. smdh

  78. Nessie*

    OP Thank you for writing in. I’ve been tasked with figure out an active shooter training for my work and fitting it in with our regular drill schedule, but I just…I get upset every time I go through the materials. This is a good perspective I can take to my leadership to let them know that while SOME of our employees might want this, it could also be detrimental to others.

      1. Nessie*

        I did see those and book.arked them all to read and to support my reasons for making the training optional. Thank you for sharing them!

  79. I don’t post often*

    He joked about directed the shooter to a younger employee?????? I haven’t read all the comments, but this makes me truly ill.

    To be fair, I was already angry on your behalf before reading this letter. Start documenting everything. EVERYTHING this guy says. You never know when that may be useful.

    In the meantime, read through these comments and know we are all standing with you.

  80. Pipe Organ Guy*

    I’ve never been through an active shooter drill. I’ve never been through any kind of shooter drill. That makes OP the expert here, and I’m sorry OP’s boss doesn’t respect that.

    We had fire drills when I was a kid; that was back in the ’60s. Then in my senior year of high school, we all got herded a couple of times out to the track, because apparently someone had called in bomb threats. That was a good fifty years ago. Now, we’re reminded at church that in the event of an active shooter, there are three options, in order of preference: 1) RUN! 2) HIDE! 3) (last resort) try to take down the shooter. From my vantage point at the organ console, there are no close exits; so should I hide behind the console, trapped in a corner??

  81. Rachel*

    Just call in sick. It is not worth the cost to your mental health to try to justify your position any more to your insensitive boss or even, frankly, other people. The self advocacy takes its own toll. Make a complaint or request or whatever afterwards if you feel up to it, but for now just protect yourself by disengaging, and make sure you give yourself lots of TLC and distraction on your sick day.

  82. Francie Foxglove*

    What I wonder is, if you all spend seven hours at work doing not-work, will you have a huge backlog of work the next day? Jeez, people go to work to *work*, not to LARP or to do choreographed dance routines.

  83. HonorBox*

    I didn’t read through all of the comments, so perhaps this is addressed upthread. I’m in charge of working with our local law enforcement to conduct an active shooter training. We’re going to have people sit in a conference room and a deputy will speak. There won’t be chaotic running through the halls. There won’t be people storming into the building. We will be presented with a PowerPoint (or similar) and a handout. And it sure as hell won’t take 7 hours. The timeline itself would be enough for me to push back.

    I would push WAY back on this, simply because there’s no agenda. What are they planning for 7 hours? At most, this should be a 2 hour training.

  84. Silverose*

    Stuff like this is why I’m glad I always bring up early in any employment situation my chronic history of migraines; it’s true, but it’s also a convenient excuse as needed if not used too often in that fashion. I would totally wake up with a migraine that day and never feel bad for a moment. And the ironic part: stress can lead to a higher frequency of migraines, even in people taking a preventative medication, so it would actually be quite possible I might actually wake up with one if I were in OP’s situation.

  85. DramaQ*

    I’d call in sick. Say you have cramps and start launching into period talk. A man that “old fashioned” is going to shut you down fast and tell you just stay home. Or deliberately schedule a doctor/dental appointment that day and say sorry it was the only time they could get you in. They you’d be able to get your note without having to have an excuse, you legit had to miss because you had an appointment that day.

  86. Sarah*

    One time my office decided to do an escape room as a team bonding exercise. I know many of them are probably fine, but many are also horror themed. I also dislike the concept of being “locked in a room.” I am a complete chicken- I once got dragged to a haunted house and I had a panic attack and they had to turn the lights on and call EMS.

    I just told my boss I wasn’t going. When he said the whole team was going and I needed to go to, I told him, I hoped they had a great time, but I would be at my desk that day and not participating. When my coworkers started joking about it, I told them if they kept it up, I’d go to HR. In the end, escape room idea was scratched and we did a scavenger hunt instead.

    1. allathian*

      I have mild to moderate claustrophobia, and there’s absolutely no way I’d ever participate in an escape room. Thankfully events like this are never mandatory at my job, so it’s unlikely to come up. I’ve found most team building exercises to be futile for their supposed purpose anyway. Some of them can be a lot of fun if the team already works well together, but I don’t think any of them are useful if the team dynamics are bad.

      When I was at college I had a job at a fast food kiosk in a railway station. The storeroom was in the basement, where the ceiling was low enough for me to reach without standing on tiptoe. It was a labyrinth of shelves, and being the basement, there were no windows. The lights were on a timer. Once I had to go down there to switch to a new bag of soda concentrate, which took a lot longer than usual. So long that the lights went out. I had a panic attack, because I couldn’t remember where the nearest light switch was, and because the space was such a labyrinth I couldn’t see any of the emergency exit signs. I was there for maybe 20 minutes in total before my shift supervisor missed me and came along to investigate. He took one look at me and sent me home, I was obviously in no fit state to work. Afterwards, I refused to go down there alone again, and thankfully none of my shift supervisors gave me a hard time about that. I mostly worked the busy evening shift anyway because I was at college during the day, so there was always someone else who could go instead of me. I don’t think any of my coworkers wondered why I never went to the storeroom again, nobody certainly said anything to me if they did. About two months later I quit that job, but because I really liked most of my coworkers, I sometimes went there and bought a sub or a burger on my way home from college. I was rather pleased when, about six months after I quit, my favorite former coworker mentioned that they’d installed motion sensors to replace the timer switches.

  87. Introvert Teacher*

    I’m very sorry. As a teacher I participated in lockdown drills and in ALICE training, which is the run-hide-fight style that I guess is more popular now, rather than the hide-and-lock-the-door style we used to do. I HATED that we had to do these trainings — it felt like being given a band-aid for a hemorrhage. The messaging was very much “this is the best way to keep you from getting killed, take your own life into your hands and fight back!” And it’s like, well, given the current gun laws, yes, this is my best option… but it felt insulting to be told this. Even worse was what they advocated we teach kids — they expected that we would teach 5-year-olds to run in a zigzag pattern across the playground and show them a safe location to run to (like the next school down the street), or discuss the possibility of an active shooter with them every fall. Again, it’s like, well yes, I want them to have survival skills in this reality we live in. But it’s traumatizing for the kids to practice these drills, and honestly, if we just had some gun reforms, there would be literally no reason we should have to be subjected to this in the first place. My blood boils thinking about it.

    1. Clarbar*

      My university installed “Bleeding Control Kits” on *every* floor of *every* building a couple years ago. Thanks guys! I definitely feel safer that the administration deems it more likely that we need immediate access to bleeding control than an AED. It’s a 5-7 minute trip (if you’re sprinting) to the nearest building with one of those.

  88. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

    I’ve had to listen to presentations or watch video training on this throughout my career, and I always thought “wouldn’t an employee or student who became an active shooter have gone through this training too?”
    7 hours is ridiculous – I’d definitely call in sick.

  89. GreenDoor*

    SEVEN hours??? That is insane!
    But more than that, your boss thinks it would be funny to direct a terrorist or mass murderer to go kill someone younger? He’s that cavalier about mass mayhem??
    Call in sick. Sick of this a-hole you work for!

  90. Tyler*

    Call in sick.

    My daughter’s friend since pre-school was killed in a mass shooting during her freshman year in college. There was a mass shooting at a supermarket at her college town two years later. She can’t even bear to see guns on tv.

    There is NO WAY she could do a 7 hour (!) training like that. And honestly, she’s been doing them her whole life in school. She knows what to do.

    I’m so sorry you have to deal with this.

    Again, call in sick.

  91. Lurking Librarian*

    “When I voiced my concerns, he made a few jokes about how he would simply redirect the shooter to a younger person.”

    That is absolutely inexcusable.

    My former workplace put us through a fairly intensive and realistic training, with one of the trainers shooting off a fake gun. Even though I knew exactly what was happening, my hands were shaking so much that I couldn’t lock my door. Seven hours of that ought to bring him to his senses and lead him to apologize, profoundly, with tears in his eyes, if he has any decency at all.

    Absolutely take a sick day. I’m so sorry this is the world we’re living in.

  92. Allura Vysoren*

    ‘When I voiced my concerns, he made a few jokes about how he would simply redirect the shooter to a younger person, then asked if I was saying I “wouldn’t be able to take it.”’

    I’d like to nominate this man for worst boss of the year for this sentence ALONE. There is not a single f***king thing funny about suggesting you would direct the shooter to kill someone else.

  93. AABBCC123*

    A seven hour training is rediculous, even actual drills for emergency services don’t last that long.

    But I was wondering how can reasonable accomodations include opting out of mandatory safety related training? Would a forklift operator be able to opt out of forklift classes on the same grounds? A chemical material handler from HAZWOPER?

    1. allathian*

      I doubt it. But safety training for a forklift operator absolutely includes accident prevention, and so does HAZWOPER. A person who can’t handle those wouldn’t be able to work those jobs. By the same token, a person who can’t deal with guns being fired in their vicinity is unlikely to be able to work as a law enforcement officer, particularly in the US.

      If you look at the links other commenters have posted, there’s actually little evidence that making people go through traumatic active shooter drills teaches them anything that they can put in practice if it really happens, so the usefulness of these drills is questionable at best.

      Fire drills are better, but even so I wonder how much of them I’d be able to put in practice if I could actually smell the smoke from a fire…

      I’ve opted out of CPR training because I can’t tolerate being on my knees for any length of time (5 seconds is my absolute maximum). If someone has a heart attack in my vicinity, I can call emergency services or run a few hundred yards to get the defibrillator, but someone else will have to start CPR.

  94. Kendra*

    I am stuck on *seven hours.* I am at a loss as to how any sort of effective drill could possibly take that long. That sounds horrible and not at all like a good use of time.

    1. yala*

      Maybe it’s one hour of active shooter drill, and then an additional six hours of getting everyone to calm down, because there is NO way I would be a productive worker after that.

      Or worse, maybe they know it’s going to happen sometime between those seven hours, but not when.

  95. M. Hasbun*

    Your goal should be TO LEARN during the drill, not avoid it. The only way to conquer your fear is to face it.
    Burying your head in the sand won’t change reality. The only practical thing you can do is prepare for the world you live in.

    1. AABBCC123*

      But it’s hard, if not impossible to learn anything when in the throes of a panic attack or PTSD symptoms. That is the point. You are going to cause someone mental anguish for little if any payoff in this situation.

    2. Dystopian Nightmare*

      Yes, it’s a well-known fact that the most effective way TO LEARN is during a state of abject terror maintained over multiple hours. Bullets fired by a mass shooter will actually curve away from people who know that the only way to conquer your fear is to face it.

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      I’m actually a SME in this area and you are so unbelievably incorrect.

      There is no value in this type of training.

  96. Teach*

    I’m a teacher in a state where this type of yearly simulation training is a state requirement for school accreditation (it always happens on an in-service day without children in the building). It can absolutely be traumatizing and upsetting as a participant. Typically blanks are fired inside of the building (sometimes without specific warning) to simulate real scenarios. It may help to know as a 5th option for opt out that the law enforcement facilitators will almost always offer the opportunity for individuals to opt out of simulation portions by self identifying at the very beginning of the training. Generally you’re not asked to disclose why you’re opting out. However, the opt out usually looks like being told ahead of time what will happen and standing with a non involved officer rather than participating. It’s not necessarily as private or discrete as you may prefer, and you’ll still see what’s going on in the simulation.
    You asked about the information parts of the training, and I can say that I have learned some first aid in these sessions that provides a little peace of mind (wound packing, improvising a tourniquet, etc.) Otherwise, it’s always a really hard day. Take care of yourself!

  97. Jill*

    I’m so sorry you are dealing with this. I’ve been a high school teacher and used to absolutely dread the mandatory yearly training on school shootings we do in the week before school begins. For some unknown reason, my school decided to get all the “terrible feelings” trainings done at once, so we’d be subjected to trainings on school shootings, teenage suicide, and abuse and neglect issues all in a row.
    If there’s a way you can make a suggestion for future years, our district moved to virtual trainings that we now have the ability to complete over the summer on our own time. We have to let the videos play and take multiple quizzes to get a certificate, but I’ve now done them enough that I can let the video play while not really paying attention, and my anxiety has disappeared over the trainings. But you should definitely follow others’ advice about skipping the upcoming one- this is just for future years to push for online ALICE training.

  98. just another queer reader*

    This sounds absolutely awful.

    My work has a (pretty upsetting) active shooter training video they play at new employee orientation. I ended up going through orientation like four times, and in later ones I just stepped out of the room for that part.

    But seven hours? How horrible. And a huge waste of time too. I’m sorry.

  99. WheresMyPen*

    I’m sorry that anyone has to deal with this. I’m so grateful to live in a country where this isn’t a thing. Having worked near a major train station in London, we had briefings on what to do in the event of a terrorist attack, invacuation training etc. but never a real simulation. And seven hours long? That sounds ridiculously triggering and excessive for anyone, let alone someone with anxiety. I hope you can push back on this and would hope they’d realise that it’s inappropriate for it to be mandatory, but at the very least, please call in sick and protect yourself, OP <3

  100. 30 Year High School Teacher*

    Teachers aren’t allowed to opt out. Many of us tried and we were told we would be written up if we did not attend. Make sure your office doesn’t do retaliatory things like this.

    Also: Now after 30 years, trying to get out of teaching.

  101. Gingersnap*

    Ugh I feel for this OP. My office recently did the same thing. Except the trainings are ongoing so new employees can take them and so we keep getting emails. I lost a dear friend to a campus shooting and every time another “Active Shooter Training” email pops up my stomach drops. Thankfully my boss was fantastic and made sure I didn’t have to attend an actual training.

  102. yala*

    Yeah, at the last staff meeting, there was some talk of replacing our annual “watch this decades-old video” active shooter training (which…I hate that video so much. It’s about 80% victim-blaming) with an actual drill, and…I would not be able to. Just flat out no.

    I’ve done Portal of Safety Drills in martial arts when I was younger. I know the whole flight/fight/freeze thing. I’m aware of the exits on campus, and my personal area is chock full of hiding spaces. I do NOT want to LARP a shooting.

    My heart goes out to you, OP. We’ve at least got an HR. Your boss sounds like a huge jerk. I know he isn’t *always* a jerk, but he’s really being a jerk about this. Take care of your mental health first.

  103. SaffyTaffy*

    I was forced to go through an active-shooter training despite protests, and when a group of us were able to push back as a group, I used the word “consent” a lot. “My ability to consent to this work activity was removed,” and “I repeated to Jerkface that I did not consent, and he said that was fine but I had to do it anyway.”
    I got good feedback later about the power of the word, so maybe try it. And don’t give up.

  104. Sad*

    *Deep breath* Many triggering statements made below, please be advised.

    My organization has gone through several stages.
    1) Won’t happen here–we are nowhere near the big city where these things happen.
    **Person kills a cop and a security guard and ends up next to the organization waiting to engage law enforcement, he was caught.–law enforcement response was disorganized due to lack of large scale practice. Law enforcement starts working together on active shooter drills–my organization does not add training.
    2) Probably won’t happen here…right?
    **Large scale mass shooting at organization. Law enforcement response was more organized and confronts shooter relatively quickly.
    3) Train everyone! Training as part of orientation. Alerting system for all employees and associated people created. Local law enforcement trains other law enforcement organizations.
    **Several other events over a long time including the loss of a police officer in the line of duty at a traffic stop at the organization, a murder at the organization, a supervisor I knew dealing with a suicidal worker (despite all of his training, I had to order him to inform the police) and many false alarms.
    4) Events start to fade, we don’t want to be known by that one day, we can slack off on training. Training taken out of orientation, alert system stays. Law enforcement continues to train others and practice drills.

    And despite having been through all that, my organization has never had a seven hour training for employees. Seven hours with comfortable clothing can only mean a drill that could be appropriate for law enforcement to have the muscle memory of what to do and where to go. Shorter, optional training for those who have not had experience could be useful for those who might need to think through where they would go and how to react. Our organization lost one person in the large event because they couldn’t believe it was happening and went to go see. You don’t know how you will react until you are in a situation, but a one-time seven hour LARPing of a horrible situation will not help you and certainly can traumatize you.

    Call in sick, OP, please. And your supervisor is totally wrong about saying that you “can’t handle it” and are weak. I would discount everything that he said about you and take away what he said about himself, namely that he would sacrifice your life for his. Sometimes the truth comes out when people pretend to joke.

  105. Calamity Janine*

    it’s kind of a variant on calling in sick but honestly, recruiting a trusted accomplice is what i would do. that way it can be perceived far more easily as you being responsible in caring for family, and not you personally flaking out. then you can divert questions with details also to the “oh no, i’m afraid it’s a private matter, they asked me to not divulge all the details…”

    so what i’m saying is

    you should pick up the phone and gp

    “hey mom, would you like to have an emergency where you slip and fall and twist your ankle next tuesday…”

  106. Immortal for a limited time*

    100% agree with Alison’s statement that active-shooter drills are counterproductive. I work for state government and am my agency’s safety coordinator in addition to my regular, full-time role. As part of the largest department in government, our pre-Covid safety meetings were 2-hour wastes of time with 30 agency coordinators listening to nonsense from the person in charge of occupational safety. (I mean, safety is great, but this person is hilariously the most accident-prone person we all know, and always has a story about falling down the stairs or getting a ticket for speeding on the way to work. No joke, they slipped and fell WHILE managing a video shoot for a safety video, resulting in yet another work comp claim.) Yet this person always wants the group to come up with brilliant ideas to keep people from having normal human accidents, such as twisting their ankle or getting a door slammed on their hand by some other careless person. I told them the way you prevent that is to click their heels together and wish real hard. (Joking, of course, but trying to make a point.) All we can do is raise awareness, look out for safety hazards, and hold fire drills and practice our escape routes once in a while. Which brings me to active-shooter training. After much hand-wringing, the law enforcement liaison finally convinced this person not to develop such training. They pointed out there is no way to think of and train for every scenario, and doing so could create a false sense of safety, not to mention costing a lot of money and raising anxiety among staff. This letter-writer already knows the most common-sense run-fight-hide advice. Everyone knows how to call 911. We no longer politely hold the door open to let a stranger into our secure building. We report anything that looks suspicious in the parking lot. And so on. That’s about all you can do to prepare for such a horrifying, unpredictable event.

  107. Tired but happy*

    I found out by accident that our in person Non Violent Intervention training at another facility was PHOENOMENALLY triggering for me and I am keeping all of these in mind because I would have to get an accommodation.

    (I was not told there would be role-playing including people pretending to be people with ptsd or other mental illnesses who NEEDED TO BE NON VIOLENTLY RESTRAINED. I have ptsd. I left the room and the trainer told me if I didn’t participate I wouldn’t pass the course. Wtaf. When I commented to occupational health or whomever mandated the training with feedback about this needing an alternative, a trigger warning or both I was also brushed off)

    1. AABBCC123*

      Just FYI, likely the accommodation would be “You don’t have to complete the training, but then you have to work in an admin role/non-direct care role”.

      For anyone to work in a position where they may have to do non-violent restraint and not have hands-on training in a controlled environment is INCREDIBLY dangerous and would open your facility to a huge amount of liability, both civilly and criminally.

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