Last month I wrote about the importance of training as a security tool to support best outcomes in a security event. That post specifically addressed workplace violence and active shooters.
Today I want to discuss two things:
- Our bodies are created for preservation and survival – knowing how it might affect us is important for our wellbeing and best outcomes.
- First responders are highly trained human beings – knowing the role that they are trained to play and how to respond supports best outcomes.
As a security professional, I have had the opportunity to hear about active shooter events from victims and law enforcement leaders who responded. This is a humbling experience that I guarantee will open your eyes. It will make you keenly aware that security training saves lives. As human beings, we are capable of incredible bravery. Last month this became even more personal to me when my niece and her parents became survivors at the Highlands Ranch STEM School.
In my previous post, I focused on the power of training to support best outcomes. Post-event analysis has shown that a trained response is Anxious, Recall, Prepare, Commit to Act while the untrained response is people running around in circles of Panic, Disbelief, Denial, Helplessness. Nobody wants their love ones or co-workers to be that untrained responder, so we have a responsibility to plan and educate.
In this post, I want to share some additional information that I hope we will never need but could be invaluable if we do.
Our bodies respond to fear
Our bodies are created for preservation. We have all experienced that fight or flight reaction to fear. Common reactions that we might expect are during a confrontation or fear-provoking event is:
- Sensory exclusion / distortion
- Time distortion
- Heightened sensory response
- Loss of bladder / bowel control
- Problems with or loss of motor skills
- Loss of near vision
- Scared stiff
- Scared speechless
These responses are well-documented and were also shared by survivors. There may be a sense that things are going in slow motion. Some people report that senses become acutely sharpened or diminished. Some people feel like they can’t move or can’t speak. Others report a kind of out-of-body experience where they feel like they are watching the events from another place.
Overcoming the fear response
There are also things you can do to overcome the fear.
- Remember your training.
- Consciously control your blinking and breathing.
- As your heart rate increases, your control will decrease, so lower your heart rate.
- Take four deep, 4-count breaths to slow your heart rate, lower your stress level and bring your body back under a degree of control.
- Slow your breathing and everything else will be more manageable.
Don’t make yourself part of the problem
Law enforcement and first responders are highly trained professionals. When law enforcement responds to a threat, their first job is to stop the threat. Remember, they are not magic. They have prepared for a host of possible threats, but they may not be familiar with your organization, the layout of your facility, or how to immediately distinguish between the threats and the potential victims.
In the case of an active shooter, it is going to be very noisy. There will be panic. Law enforcement will be actively engaged in distinguishing between friend and foe. First responders are human beings who are prepared to respond in accordance with their training but are also having to manage their natural responses to fear and the unknown.
Things we all need to remember to support best outcomes:
- Law enforcement is here to stop the threat; not tend to the wounded or have a conversation
- Be prepared
- Drop anything in your hands – purses, bags, briefcases, etc.
- Keep hands in view
- Raise hands and spread fingers
- Do not make any sudden movements
- Comply with all instructions
- Wait for their “All Clear” signal
Help is on the way, and first responders will do everything in their power to reunite you with your loved ones as soon as the threat is contained and the injured are attended to. Last but not least, remember that knowledge is power; the more we know the better we can respond.