Child Safety Should Focus On Empowerment

Spencer Coursen of Coursen Security Group discusses Summer Safety Tips

Child safety should focus more on empowering children with an action plan and less on burdening them with fear.  ~Spencer Coursen

No one fears that which they know well. From turning of all the lights at night to jumping from the diving board in the backyard pool, children are at their best when they are empowered to overcome that which frightens them. In that spirit, the following are three simple solutions for parents looking to empower their children with a simple personal safety strategy.

Stranger Danger Is A One-Way Street

The world is full of good, decent, hardworking people who will do almost anything to help a young child in obvious need. Alone and afraid, children should know that It is OK to get help from strangers if they have an emergency and no one they know is nearby.  The 3 F’s of “Family, Food and Flags” are good reminders for where children can go to get help:

FAMILIES – or any adult with young children can be trusted.

FOOD – anywhere food is served or sold is a good place to ask for help. Those selling food are checked and inspected prior to being given a permit. If your child is ever in trouble and they don’t know where to go —> Run to a Restaurant

FLAGS – Flags are friendly. A post office, library, school, or anyone with a flag on their uniform like police officer, fireman, or postal delivery carrier, can be trusted to offer help.

Spencer Coursen of Coursen Security Group discusses The 3 F’s of “Family, Food and Flags” are good reminders for where children can go to get help

It’s important children understand that while it is perfectly acceptable for a child to ask an adult stranger for help, it is not ok for an adult stranger to ask a child for help.  Any adult stranger asking a child for help should be reported to a trusted adult right away.

Practice Makes Perfect

Protecting your child is a cornerstone of parenting, but so is empowering them with lessons they can use for the rest of their lives. Teaching your child on what to do if there is an emergency is just as important as doing your very best to protect them from harm. 

If you take your child’s hand on a crowded street to prevent them from getting lost, take one moment more to ask them what they would do if they couldn’t find you. It’s important to keep in mind that talking to children about safety or just telling them what to do is not enough. Children learn best through active participation. When talking to children about danger, we want to do so without raising their level of anxiety. We want to provide them with simple solutions to problems they can solve themselves. We want to have them be engaged in their own decision making process, to utilize their own problem-solving skills, and then practice those skills in a safe, learning environment. Teaching children about safety on the streets is no different then teaching them about the hazards of fire. We don’t simply teach them that fire is dangerous, we have them practice STOP, DROP, AND ROLL.

The same goes for dialing 911. Everyone knows to call 911 in an emergency, but how many have ever practiced doing it, or rehearsed what to say?  The next time you’re having family time, practice calling 911. In addition to having them dial the numbers, have them rehears what to say, and then stay on the phone. Let them know that It’s ok if they can’t remember the address, or if they are too afraid to talk. So long as they can dial and stay on the line, 911 will be able to trace the call.

It’s ok to keep things simple. You can even have what to say printed next to the phone: “I need help, please send police and ambulance.”

This simple sentence is all that is needed to have help come running.

Whatever scenarios you think are most realistic, talk to your kids about what to do, and then have them practice what is expected. Personal safety skills increases a child’s confidence and competence in an emergency.

Children need a trusted source of information

When it comes to safety, parents should not feel burdened to “know everything.” If your child asks you a question, and you don’t know the answer, saying, “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out right now.” is a perfectly acceptable answer. So is, “That’s a really important question, and I want to make special time to talk. How about tonight at dinner?” This will buy you the time you need seek out the best advice for your child.

This response serves two important purposes:

  1. It establishes the parent as a trusted source of information their children lives.
  2. It removes the fear factor some children have of not asking their parents a questions for fear “they won’t know.”

Empowering your child with the confidence and comfort to come to you with any questions or concerns lays the foundation to foster an open dialogue for future – more challenging – subject matter conversations.

Awareness + Preparation = Safety


Spencer Coursen is the President of Coursen Security Group. He is an expert security advisor, threat assessment consultant, 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.

 @SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity


Path Toward Violence Clearly Observable In Dallas Police Attack

Coursen Security Group. Path toward violence. Van used in Dallas police attack sold as zombie apocalypse assault vehicle.

Years before James Boulware was killed by a SWAT Sniper’s bullet, he was arrested in 2013 for choking a family member and threatening to go on a shooting spree. According to Dallas County court records, the case was dismissed in April 2014 after Boulware met court-ordered conditions.

Years later, he would lay explosive devices and open fire on a Dallas Police Headquarters Building, thus completing his path path toward intended violence.

Could this tragedy have been prevented?

In a word, Yes.

Effective threat assessment is about a totality of circumstance. This means the focus should be more on the concerning patterns of behavior that occur over the course of space and time rather than the assessment of a specific incident in the context of a singular occurrence. As history has shown, targeted violence is the result of an identifiable and observable process of thinking and behavior that when identified, assessed, and managed has been proven to prevent violent outcome.

In their book, “Threat Assessment and Management Strategies” Frederick S. Calhousn and Stephen W. Weston discuss the observable behaviors threat assessors need keep in mindful when assessing any inappropriate communication.

Attack-related behaviors are best conceptualized as steps hunters must take to carry out acts of premeditated violence. We call this concept the path to intended violence. Essentially, the stepping stones consist of:

“Grievance, which is the motive or reason compelling the hunter to act.”

After losing custody of his son,  “He [James] said, ‘Dad, I have lost my house, my tools, my son. I’m going through every dime I’ve got. I can’t find a job because I got domestic violence on my record.’ He said, ‘I’ve lost everything.’ ”  (Source)

“Ideation, which requires actually settling upon the idea that violence is justified and necessary.”

James Boulware made repeated facebook postings expressing his grievance, and on the page of the judge who presided his case, he also regularly commented on the website Disqus:

James boulware facebook grievance

“Research and planning, which means going beyond the idea to  actually figuring out how to consummate the violence.”

On the pathway to violence, those who wish to do harm must first engage in some form of research and planning to determine the likelihood of success for their intended action.

A key component to to bringing a threat assessment case toward peaceful resolve is identifying the subject’s attack-related behavior. These are the self-identifying patterns on the pathway to violence that include research, planning, weapon acquisition, training, and logistical considerations. The research and planning phase provides the best protective intelligence to determine if the subject poses a realistic threat that is likely to escalate into violence. This phase also offers the most observable monitoring of the time, money, and effort, being invested in the subjects willingness to do harm. This phase is crucial in determining if the offender will continue on the path toward violence or if they will transfer their ideation toward a more easily accessible target.

The Judge said she had been threatened multiple times by Boulware since the custody trial and had increased her security as a result. Unable to successfully get to the judge, It’s likely this made police headquarters a much easier target to successfully attack.

“Preparation, which involves obtaining the necessary equipment,  such as weapon of choice, and taking any other actions required to initiate the plan.”

The research and investment required to purchase a ‘ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE ASSAULT VEHICLE AND TROOP TRANSPORT’ was a clear indicator that James Boulware was escalating in his intent to harm.

This is also the stage of events where James Boulware would have acquired the materials to build and test his explosive devices.


“Breach, which entails initiating the plan by circumventing the target’s security (however primitive or sophisticated that may be) to launch the attack.”

The breach phase is final opportunity for protective elements to stop the imminent attack. As in Boston, when the terror suspect presented the knife before lunging at federal agents there is precious little time to recognize and de-escalate the threat.

Without an effective threat assessment team or protective intelligence assets to assess and monitor the self-identifying behaviors James Boulware displayed, the only opportunity left to the police to thwart the attack on their headquarters came when Mr. Boulware left the protection of his armored van to emplace the explosive devices around the police headquarters building.

“Attack, which is the actual physical assault. “

At 12:30am on Saturday, June 13th, 2015, gunfire is reported outside the Dallas Police Department’s headquarters.

For far too long, over-arching security measures have done nothing more than vacillate between hyper-vigilance and complacency. Safety lies in the middle – a byproduct of awareness and preparation. Protective Intelligence is the process for collecting and assessing information about persons who have interest, motivation, intention, and practical capability to due harm. Rather than promote the invasive efforts of big-brother intrusion, protective intelligence affords a way to effectively monitor self-identifying activity and then manage those potentially violent outcomes toward peaceful resolve.

We as a society can no longer afford to operate in a world where we simply hope that nothing will happen, and then solely rely on the response of others to save us once something does. Doing nothing is a choice. Today’s protective posture require a preventative approach to safety, and the best preventative policy begins with an effective protective intelligence program.


Spencer Coursen is a nationally recognized threat management expert who has an exceptional record of success in the assessment, management, and resolution of threats, domestic and global security operations, investigations, policy authorship, and protective strategy.

Spencer Coursen | Threat Management Expert

Spencer Coursen | Threat Management Expert | Washington, DC