Safety and OSHA News

Active shooter training worked: Walmart employee helps lead 150 people to safety

Unlike other types of safety training that employees use every day, active shooter instructions are the kind that you hope they’ll never have to depend upon. In the case of the mass shooting at the Walmart in El Paso, TX, active shooter training may have saved dozens of lives. 

Long-term Walmart employee Gilbert Serna was working at the El Paso store on the day the shooter killed 22 people.

Serna says he heard, “Code brown, run quick,” in a panicked voice on his two-way radio.

In the moment, he didn’t remember what “code brown” meant. But Serna did remember that a list of codes was on the back of his employee badge.

When he turned the badge over, that was the first moment he knew there was a shooting. Then he started to hear gunfire.

Serna led about 100 customers and employees through a fire exit and told them to get inside four shipping containers. After making sure the people were safely hidden, he went out into the store’s parking lot.

There he heard people yelling that there was a man with an AK-47. Serna then led another 50 people in the parking lot to safety in the nearby Sam’s Club store.

Serna says Walmart teaches its employees “ADD: Avoid, Deny, Defend,” when it comes to active shooters. Deny the shooter access, block a door, defend yourself as a last resort. (This is a variation on the Run, Hide, Fight active shooter recommendation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.)

Walmart credited its mandatory active shooter training for employees with helping to save lives during the El Paso attack.

Some takeaways from Serna’s story for all employers:

  • As he said, in the panic of the moment, employees may not remember parts of their training
  • That’s why pocket cards, wallet cards, stickers on the back of badges, etc., that provide reminders can be effective, as they were in this case, and
  • Safety training works.
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