I have spent the last half of my life as a protector; first of my family, then of my country, and now of the public. In the course of this service, one of the things I have found to be constant is this:
Violent offenders will always find a way to act out violently, and unless we want to regulate ourselves down to the use of toothpicks in the lunch line, it’s time we educate more and regulate less.
It’s the old adage of giving a man a fish vs. teaching him how to fish. Education will always have more of an impact than regulation. Regulation effects the few but affects the many, while education does the opposite.
The application and employment of violence has evolved over the last fifty years, but our mindset and methodologies have not evolved in equal measure. The void between what we once knew, and what we now face has grown into an abyss swallowing our freedoms and our liberties in the name of a false sense of protection.
One of the biggest risks to the safety of our students in the face of violence, is the focus school administrators place on accountability rather than on survivability.
The role of the teacher, is just that – to teach. I am the son of two public school teachers. Both were excellent educators, but neither served in the military, neither were ever trained in mass-troop movement, and neither were trained to escape and evade a static threat.
Parents must take the bulk of responsibility for the safety of their children, and children must know exactly what to do know when faced with danger. Safe Haven’s must be identified as early and as often as possible anytime any of us, but especially children, are farther away than running distance of home.
I have spoken with many teachers and administrators during discussions of school violence, almost all of them have dismissed the notion of giving their class a “Run” command. They fear doing so as being inconsistent with their primary concern of “accountability.” They are told to “Shelter in Place,” to “hide,” to contain themselves in the classroom and “turn off the lights.”
Our natural survival instinct is to “Fight or Flight” …it has never been in our genetic make-up to “hide”
I’ve yet to speak with a parent, whom when given a scenario similar to Sandy Hook, disagreed that a few hours spent searching for their [unaccounted for] child, was more favorable then having to identify them.
A fire is just as violent and as unpredictable as an active shooter, yet we would never hide from a fire in hope it would not find us…we would RUN!
Shelter in place was designed to protect against natural disasters, high winds, falling trees and other non-human dangers. It is an absurd idea for surviving a physical encounter. The logic is simple, you can not outrun a storm, but you can outrun a person…especially one who isn’t chasing you.
Cynics here will argue that you can not outrun a bullet. They are correct, but who is more difficult to hit;
the moving child running away and gaining distance with each step, or the child hiding in the coat closet?
Shelter in place is a by-product of law and order. It helps police contain the threat. Law enforcement officials may argue, “If everyone is running away, the bad guy may run away with them.” I’m just fine with the bad guy running away (though he likely won’t.) Live today and catch him tomorrow.
Understanding the shooter methodology:
A violent offender who chooses to publicly shoot their intended victims will typically plan their action only up to the moment of initiation. They almost never plan for what will come next. They do not expect to escape. They know they will likely be killed or captured, an there is a very low likelihood of them attempting escape. They need to be caught to have their voice heard.
This knowledge is important, because it teaches us something very important. If you are not the first intended victim your chance for survival is increased if you run immediately away from the sounds of the gunshots, or as soon as the threat is recognized. (i.e., you can see the gunman but he has not yet started to shoot)
Having a plan in place will free your mind from additional fear and panic, and in an emergency will allow your mind to focus on what’s most important – getting you to safety. Regardless of scenario or circumstance, following these simple instructions will serve you well in the face of danger.
Basic Survival Instruction:
If you can run –RUN
If you want to live…RUN.
Take as many people as
you can with you…but run away.
Running away should always be your first option.
A moving target is harder to hit and you are gaining time and distance with every step.
If you can’t run – HIDE
Hiding should never be your first level of defense.
Hiding should only be an option when you are too tired to run.
(Your fight or flight response will kick-in when danger is most imminent erasing fatigue)
If you can’t run or hide – FIGHT
This is something that cannot be instructed or taught.
It will ultimately come down to the psychology of the individual at the most critical moment.
Much like, “STOP, DROP and ROLL” is taught in the unlikelihood we should ever catch fire, so too should “RUN, HIDE, FIGHT” be taught should violence come through the school ground gates.
Spencer Coursen helps manage unfavorable circumstance toward favorable resolve. He is a security advisor, analyst, consultant, and strategist who is dedicated to reducing risk and preventing violence. His systems and strategies help corporations, non-profit organizations, private individuals, schools, and at-risk public figures ensure the certainty of safety for all involved.