Gun Regulation and School Safety: Accountability vs Survivability

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.

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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.

 www.CoursenSecurityGroup.com

www.SpencerCoursen.com 

Info@CoursenSecurityGroup.com

 @SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity

https://www.linkedin.com/in/spencercoursen

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Identifying Safe Havens | Spencer Coursen

A Safe Haven is a location which will provide food, shelter and communication for you and your family to spend an unknown period of time in conditional safety with reasonable comfort. For most of us, the best Safe Haven will be our homes. However, whenever we are more than running distance away from home, it is good practice to identify alternate locations which can suit your needs as early and as often as possible.

Restaurants serve as excellent venues of opportunity. They are easy to identify, they are accustomed to hosting large groups, of people, they will have food and water, shelter, and hard-lined communication equipment like phone lines and internet to communicate with friends and loved ones should cell towers no longer be working. Police Stations, Fire Stations, Public Libraries, and if overseas US Embassies are also a great options to explore.

If you and your family are on vacation visiting a local attraction, identify a restaurant near your area of exploration and ensure that everyone in your family knows the name and location so you can all regroup at a known location should you be separated by natural occurrence or crisis.

When tragedy struck Boston after the Marathon Bombing, the city was full of people visiting town – far from their homes. Almost everyone who could run away did so, but very few knew to where they were running.

When the threat of violence presents itself, it is important to know where you can go to be safe. Knowing where to go, and knowing how to get there is of vital importance to increasing your chances for survival.

Take some time away from your home to identify places in your everyday environment which could provide safety – especially those potential Safe Havens in close proximity to work and school. Include these Safe Havens in your Family Emergency Plan.

Learning something new today, may save you from tomorrows questions of crisis.

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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.

 www.CoursenSecurityGroup.com

www.SpencerCoursen.com 

Info@CoursenSecurityGroup.com

 @SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity

https://www.linkedin.com/in/spencercoursen

Cameras Can’t Be Cops | Spencer Coursen

Since September 11th, 2001, an estimated 30 million cameras have been sold in the United States to be used in everything from counter-terrorism efforts, to everyday safety violations like speeding in traffic.

In the aftermath of last weeks tragedy in Boston, the battle cry for more surveillance cameras once again enters the lexicon of national discussion.

As a security professional, I will concede that there is an appropriate use for cameras in the name of public safety. However, it is important to understand the realistic role cameras play in the security process, and the public needs to have their expectations properly framed to meet their expectations.

Cameras have always been and will always been an intricate part of a comprehensive security program, but this also requires an understanding that cameras work best when employed in concert with other security notification features.

Take an office building for example. A large office building in a downtown Metropolis could have as many as 100 surveillance cameras in, out, and around their complex. However, they may only have a two person security team with the designated tasking of monitoring the feeds provided by these cameras. Even the most ambitious of eyes could not effectively monitor all of the information being transmitted by all of the cameras around the building at all times.

To combat this deficiency, a security plan will incorporate sensors such as motion sensors or pressure sensors or approach beans around the complex to alert the monitoring individual to a specific area of prioritized importance. The cameras can then be focused on that specific area of notification for confirmation. For example; if an alarm goes off indicating an open window in zone four, second floor, room 12, the surveillance cameras can then be focused onto that particular area to confirm the activity.

Cameras also provide a very useful tool to investigators after a crime has already been committed

After a crime occurs, the police are called to secure the scene, and detectives are called to investigate. The surveillance footage will then be reviewed for clues, and then an investigation will be conducted. The surveillance footage may even be shown at trial to reinforce the evidence used by the prosecutor to make the case.

All in all, cameras are a silent and unbiased witness that rarely prevent crime outside of their deterrent factor. Even in a scenario where an attack is imminent, the employment of cameras may provide you with enough time to get yourself to safety, but will not realistically ever be used to thwart the attack they have identified.

Failures of Facial Recognition

Despite the riveting displays of drama on television, where our secret agent uploads a photo to a database and the suspect is quickly identified and tracked. The real world application still leaves much to be desired.

Several factors come into play with facial recognition:

1. You first have to know who you’re looking for because cameras only monitor their field of view, and their software must have something to match.

2. Computational variables play a role. The more variables involved, the more difficult the computation. Finding one person in ten is a relatively simple tasking compared to finding one person in a million. Time and distance also play key factors. Looking for a needle in a haystack is one thing, but looking for one straw of hay from a haystack that has been whiplashed by a tornado is another.

3. Quality counts. An ATM camera will easily identify the user of the cash machine, but the quality of the lens does not accurately focus to the field of view across the street. It’s true that many cameras in today’s security program have the ability to Pan – Tilt – Zoom, but if no one is focusing the camera on the one particular subject at the moment of criminal activity, the likelihood of that feature being of value in a real-time monitoring process is muted by its fixed position in the aftermath.

Today’s cameras simply don’t serve the purpose our elected leaders wish them to serve, and while having more cameras helps the investigation efforts after the crime has taken place, they do nothing to prevent the likelihood of the crime at the onset.

In cyber labs around the globe, feasibility studies are currently being conducted in an attempt to merge metadata and data mining with surveillance, but even this endeavor has its own inherent challenges as linking social media, bio metrics and behavior analysis with surveillance may only may narrow the focus on the haystack, but not realize there are more than one haystack on the farm.

Until such time as tomorrow’s future wishes become today’s reality, employing more of the same will only add burden to an already laborious and antiquated methodology for our nations investigators.

At the end of the day, the best identifier of suspicious behavior will always be the civilian on the street. If you see something say something. Give the police as much information as possible to do their job. Let the police decide which leads to pursue and follow up. The role of the police is to protect and serve the public, but they require our willingness to first serve and protect each other.

Safety requires the participation of a knowledgeable public who are unafraid to act, who are willing to defend, and who have the courage of their own conviction.

We don’t need to have the insight of Sherlock Holmes to make a difference, just the willingness to notice a small part of the world around us.

The best cameras in the world are the one’s we were born with – let’s turn them back on.

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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.

 www.CoursenSecurityGroup.com

www.SpencerCoursen.com 

Info@CoursenSecurityGroup.com

 @SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity

https://www.linkedin.com/in/spencercoursen

Overseas Safety | Spencer Coursen

As summer quickly approaches, and your vacation planning begins, it’s important to prepare for both fun and safety in equal measure – especially if your travel plans will take you abroad.

International travel is all about using good common sense. Baghdad may not be the safest place in the world right now, but there are still a few good places to get a great ice-cream cone or some fresh hummus without putting yourself in any kind of extreme danger.

I was in Israel recently, traveling between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. To read the US News those days was to think I was working in a war zone, when in reality, it was just another day in the land of milk and honey. Which is to say, don’t believe everything you read, sometimes media rhetoric coincides with the narrative they have employed (Read: Hagel confirmation hearings)

Still, there is something to be said for traveling smart.

1. Leave the ballcap at home. Nothing says ‘I’m an American’ lounder than your baseball cap. We’ll all know you’re american as soon as you start talking…no need to make it any easier to pick you out of a crowd.

2. Trust your gut. If something feels “wrong” walk away. You’re unwillingness to offend should never be greater than your willingness to defend. You’ll never see any of these people ever again. Simply walk away.

3. If you’re traveling anywhere 3rd world…leave your passport locked away in your hotel and carry a laminated color-copy of your passport.

4. Don’t do anything to draw unwanted attention to yourself. Don’t show off your expensive jewelry or your wad of cash. Have money set aside for tips ($1 and $5 only) in another pocket. If you pull out a roll of $50’s and hand the guy $2, be prepared to do some haggling. Fair warning.

5. Most importantly, have the phone numbers of the US Embassy 24hr hotline pre-programmed into your phone and be sure to test the numbers – sometimes the international dialing codes can be tricky and you don’t want to be figuring out if you need the +1 before the number when you’re in the middle of a crisis.

6. Finally, use your resources. Talk to friends who have been there in the past. Use the hotel concierge as a reference. Read the Embassy home page. Google safety tips for the area you’re going to visit, and read up on the local news.

I’ve been blessed with the good fortune of having traveled to 164 of the world’s countries. I’ve experienced something beautiful and memorable in all of them.

Travel safe, travel smart, and don’t forget to take more photos…you’ll wish you had later

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Spencer Coursen is the President of Coursen Security Group. He is an expert security consultant, threat assessment advisor, and protective strategist who is dedicated to reducing risk and preventing violence. His systems and strategies help corporations, non-profit organizations, schools, and at-risk public figures ensure the certainty of safety for all involved.

www.CoursenSecurityGroup.com

www.SpencerCoursen.com

Info@CoursenSecurityGroup.com

@SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity

https://www.facebook.com/Coursen.CSG

It’s not over, until its over | Spencer Coursen

I have spent the last ten years of my professional life as a protector of well-known Public Figures. While most of the time, Public Figures can go about their daily activities with relative freedom and ease of movement, their lives become more complicated when they engage in known appearances where the general public has a reasonable expectation of the participation of the Public Figure at a known time and location.

These may include; book signings, speeches, movie premieres, charity events, or any other events where fans or a paying audience may come to be a part of the experience.

As a protector, its important to understand that events like these have an inherent increase of risk. Every possible contingency must be conceived, planned and prepared, and one thing must always be understood. “It’s not over, until its over.”

The game clock starts the moment the Public Figure begins to arrive in their vehicle and does not stop until the moment they are pulling away.

Each passing second is another moment for the would-be attacker to gain confidence, and as the event draws ever closer to its conclusion, the stakes only get higher as the would-be attacker sees their window of opportunity getting more narrow, and they themselves become more desperate.

It has happened so many times in history; Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Benazir Bhutto, and President Ronald Regan, were all attacked on the way to their cars after their “official program” was over.

As I look to Boston this week, and see the heroic actions of the police and first responders responding to the needs of the injured, I am reminded of the need for vigilance throughout the entirety of the event, and not just the main attraction.

Three hours earlier the race had been won, and perhaps for many of the security personnel involved in securing the race, it was all but over. But almost over is not truly over, and almost finished isn’t finished.

Complacency kills and has no business entering into the mindset of those entrusted to be vigilant.

I remember driving a Public Figure home one evening after a long day with a complicated itinerary.

From the back seat and still forty minutes from having him home I heard him say to me, “It was a good day, today. Good job!”

“It’ll be a good day for me once you’re home safe, Sir” I responded politely.

“You’re right,” he said, “Thank you!”

Anything worth doing, is worth doing right, and doing it right means seeing it through…all the way to the end.

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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.

 www.CoursenSecurityGroup.com

www.SpencerCoursen.com 

Info@CoursenSecurityGroup.com

 @SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity

https://www.linkedin.com/in/spencercoursen

What to do if Boston happens to you

The first rule of safety is to get yourself somewhere safe. If you find yourself out in an open space or public event like the Boston Marathon, you’ll need to get somewhere safe -as soon as possible.

Most of us will feel safest at home, but if you are too far away, identify locations that will offer help, shelter, and communication ability.

“Run to a Restaurant”
Restaurants are great options. They are easily identified, able to accommodate large crowds, and are easy for your family to remember. Restaurants will have food and water, bathrooms, first aid kits, and if the cell towers go down, restaurants will have landlines and internet to learn more about what’s happening and let loved ones know you are safe.

Most of us will never be in a plane crash, yet every time we board an airline we get a safety brief on how to act in an emergency.

Everyday life requires the same preparation.

Anytime you find yourself too far away to run home, it’s good practice to identify locations that could keep you safe in your immediate area.

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.

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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.

 www.CoursenSecurityGroup.com

www.SpencerCoursen.com 

Info@CoursenSecurityGroup.com

 @SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity

https://www.linkedin.com/in/spencercoursen