Oh Crap, Code Bravo! Code Bravo!

So I’m going through security at the Seattle-Tacoma airport and I’m about 7 seconds away from collecting my things from the X-ray machine, when I hear this woman from TSA (The US Transportation Security Administration for airport security) yell Code Bravo! Code Bravo!

I’m thinking okay… so what the heck is a code bravo?

Well, I was about to find out.

Suddenly the doors to the security areas slam shut.

All X-ray machines grind to a halt.

3 TSA guys start sprinting after a passenger that just left the security area.

The lady in charge looks extremely upset. She’s on the phone frantically and checking the 8 video monitors.

Suddenly 6 “suits” (aka a bunch of overweight middle age men with security badges, come running into the security area).

3 cops with guns show up and start following the 3 TSA’s that went running off into the terminal.

They are all looking extremely nervous pointing at monitors and discussing things in a hush-hush manner amongst themselves.

Ahh, okay so THIS is what a Code Bravo is…

And pretty soon my closest 300 “friends” stuck in security with me come to realize that Code Bravo is not a good thing and you definitely do NOT want to be the guy who cause the darn thing.

As far as I can tell, someone who went through security, had the little alarm go off and instead of waiting for a secondary screening decide to run and catch his flight.  That is a seriously a bad idea.


For the obvious reason that you’re acting like a terrorist.

20 minutes later, best I can tell the 3 TSA agents and the 3 cops caught up with the guy… they called “All Clear” and the Code Bravo was officially over.

And this is where I think things get interesting.  I think the TSA process broke down. They called the Code Bravo about 15 seconds later than they should have. The potential terrorist should have never made it out of the security area.

I think that was why the head lady was freaking out.

#1 she let a potential terrorist through her security area on her watch…

#2 she and her team did catch the mistake… but they caught it late

My guess is they will be doing an “after action review” to figure out where their process broke down.  And as they should.

Well, I finally did make my flight after an all too exciting trip through security. And it got me thinking about the processes in our respective businesses.

When a process in my business breaks down, a client gets confused by something or is slightly inconvenience… but at least nobody dies or causes an international incident.

But if you want to REALLY hone your business processes (along the lines of Six Sigma, Kaizen, Deming, Continuous Process Improvement), it’s not a bad idea to have a “Code Bravo” of your own.

When a process breaks down, do you assemble your own swat team to troubleshoot the process, improve it and make sure it never happens again? Or do you let is slide?

Way too many CEOs let things slide. Sure they correct the mistake such as handling a client complaint, but many don’t actually do a “deep dive” to figure out WHY the mistake happened in the first place.

Think about everything that went wrong in your business this past week.  Were they “one time” events or were they recurring problems — which is indicative of a breakdown in a process. It’s useful to distinguish between the two as you solve them very differently.

The absolute best CEOs I know — those who run businesses with $500 million or $1 billion in sales area incredibly good at two things.  1) strategic “big picture” decision making, and 2) super detailed “deep dives” on execution areas… the equivalent of doing a process evaluation after a bungled “Code Bravo”.

So, were there any Code Bravo’s in your business this past week?  If so, what are you doing about it? Or did you let it slide…?

4 thoughts on “Oh Crap, Code Bravo! Code Bravo!”

  1. Excellent article, thanks. And it did make me think of a slip up I should really take a good hard look at how to prevent. Thanks for the nudge.

  2. You are so creative Dave. Thanks for this issue. This 'Code Bravo' does apply to my business life, my life and family life in general.


  3. I’m wondering if First Amendment protections will save a civilian who decides to yell “all clear!” arbitrarily just to monkey wrench their operation..

  4. As I sit hear waiting to enter through the other side of the yellow tape. I, too, frantically googled what the heck is “code bravo”

    The same airport where you experienced this, is the same airport I’m sitting at typing this.

    Perhaps it’s the same issue as you experienced. But, the feeling of being on a movie set was what I felt. TSA rushing out of the office screaming, “code bravo” as they rushed to shut down security and all flights were halted.

    What in the dragons breath is going on. For the time being, I will enjoy my Cinnabon for the time being.

    Thanks for sharing your story. We will see how long this lasts. Safe travels!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *