“The world is a dangerous place. ‘Although there is danger in the world, one does not have to become resigned to fate and passively wait for acts of violence to occur. There are some simple steps ordinary people can take to help them avoid danger – or at least to mitigate its impact.’”[i] Those simple steps begin the process, or better, the lifestyle called SITUATIONAL AWARENESS.
Knowing what is going on around you is the basic premise. Seeing a man wearing a black mask, body armor, hearing protection and carrying an AR-15 rifle walking into the patio area of your millennial packed bar on a busy street, in Dayton Ohio, is a clue things are about to get ugly. Such was the scenario on August 3, 2019, just about 24 hours before I am writing this blog. In an El Paso, Texas Walmart, a man wearing all black comes in carrying a long rifle. It is time to act. Situational awareness gives you the advantage, the few extra seconds someone, whose face is buried in their Smart Phone, will not have. Those few seconds can save your life…. IF.
I intend to answer the IF, but first, there needs to be a true understanding of situational awareness, what constitutes a threat and what it means to be prepared for an event. The third is the first piece of the IF answer.
When I was first asked if there would be a blog about this weekend’s horrific shootings, my intention was to speak to one of the causal elements for why people go out with the purpose of killing as many other human beings as possible, usually people whom they have never met. Most of the answer to this question is dealt with in my book in sections titled, The Battle for Our Homes, Keeping the Faith, Retaking the Castle and Keeping the Drawbridge Up. Please, take advantage of not just what I write here, but go to our website and order the book. It’s a cheap investment which just might save your life or the lives of your family. The link is simply, www.security-consulting.us and from there you can order the book, “Stretching the Thin Blue Line: Policing America in Times of Heightened Threat.”
My intent is to give you the basic information you need to survive an Active Shooter terror. First, a very short video which will clearly show you, between two cowboys in a cantina, one who is aware of his surroundings and one who is not. You can guess which one is about to die. Go to: https://youtu.be/czb2xfmmJDM
Assuming you viewed the video, provided with SCI’s great thanks to TCM Classic Movies, the clip from El Dorado, you have the basic concept. If the man about to be killed had seen James Caan circling him, he would have had a few extra seconds to act. I’ll give you a spoiler alert, bad cowboy never gets to finish the cigarette he was so intent on rolling. Notice, even the cowboy who watched Caan circle the table did not perceive there was a threat requiring him to act. He read Caan (and, likely, he’d read the script too) and could see Caan’s focus, although worrisome was not on him and, something that was not noticeable in the clip, Caan is not wearing a gun. Our alert cowboy had little reason to act. He was aware enough, however, to act if the need arose. Such speaks to our second point. The question is: “What constitutes a threat?”
Being situationally aware is not limited to seeing the bad guy come in. It is knowing, wherever you are, bar, movie theater or church, where the exits are, where the choke points are, and what your options are. Staying aware of these things, you can gain extra seconds when you can recognize the threat.
The two instances this weekend, El Paso in the Walmart and Dayton at the nightclub patio are obvious threats. The minute they are seen, it is time to act. Not all threats are as obvious. There are a great many profiles on active shooters. The current FBI director was quoted as saying currently, most active shooters in the U.S. are young white males and are often linked to a white supremacy belief system, whether formally or personally.
A couple of years ago, the focus was more on Middle Eastern males with the intent of jihad related attacks. Such profiles can be useful, but not particularly tangible for the average American shopping in their local Walmart, enjoying a drink at a local nightclub or parking in a busy parking garage before a large sports event. You must try to articulate what is setting off your spider senses. We all have them, though not spider bite incurred. We have a God-given ability to sense danger if we tune ourselves into our brain’s proper frequency.
The person who looks so intently focused on where they are going, moving deliberately as if on a mission; unable to make eye contact they seem almost under a spell, for lack of a better term. Those should be watched carefully and, as is always taught in police training, watch their hands. Are their hands visible and what, if anything are they holding? Are their hands hidden? What are they wearing… a long coat in the summer? Something which appears to be body armor? If it is someone you know, have they been articulating dangerous comments on social media? It isn’t a one answer for the total picture, but more like a puzzle, the pieces you put together as you watch the individual. Is there an air of despondency or virulent anger? Put all your observations together in a very quick analysis and prepare yourself, if your internal alarm starts going off, to act.
A recent shooting incident in our small town of Louisville, Ohio began when a person, known by his wife to be violent and capable of assault threatened to shoot her and others. She knew his violent record and how he previously had guns taken from him because of domestic violence. Since he got the firearms back from the court, he was stockpiling large amounts of ammunition and putting them in large capacity magazines long before the shooting incident occurred. She saw the danger signs but waited until he began firing to notify authorities. Two police officers were pinned down behind bullet riddled police cars, a large number of neighboring houses and vehicles were shot. Hundreds of rounds were fired before SWAT was able to secure an arrest. One person was wounded from other than a bullet round but there were no other casualties. The threat escalated over time, as most do, and those who are in such a scenario need to talk to authorities long before the body count begins. Those who could be impacted by a threat must be prepared to act.
While training in Israel with persons from the IDF, we were taught the simple action known to all those regular residents of Israel, particularly in the cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Following many episodes of bombings, the practice of yelling “UNATTENDED BAG” while in public and seeing a package or bag which had no one with it. The people within earshot of the alert will scatter, quickly in every direction.
If you have prepared yourself mentally to act when a threat presents itself, those few seconds can save your life and the lives of those with you. Why is it necessary to mentally prepare? Your first instinct when seeing a threat is to not believe what you are seeing. This cannot be happening here! This can’t be happening to me! You must quickly accept the reality of danger.
If you have opted to carry a firearm, whether it is open carry or concealed, you must be mentally prepared to act. One can say, ‘I have no doubt, I’ll waste the sucker!’ When it comes time to pull the trigger and end another human’s life, you must be reconciled to the fact you are protecting countless others and doing the only thing possible at that moment.
If the use of a firearm is not an option, then PLEASE understand the concept of Run, Hide, Fight. A short video put together by the City of Houston a few years does a great job of explaining it. . You can view this video on our website at: https://www.security-consulting.us/resources
The ONLY person who is absolutely, positively, guaranteed to be with you when danger threatens is YOU. You must prepare yourself to be Situationally Aware, Mentally Ready to Act, and Know Your Options.
May God bless you and may you use all your faculties God has given you to stay safe and keep those around you safe as well.
[i] Riggs, Dr. Ross L., Stretching the Thin Blue Line: Policing America in Times of Heightened Threat, Motivational Press, 2017
(Dr. Ross L. Riggs
is a retired Chief of Police, a lifetime Certified Law Enforcement Executive, a
graduate of the FBI National Academy and owner and president of Security Consulting
Investigations, LLC. He is the author of the book Stretching the Thin Blue
Line: Policing America in Times of Heightened Threat and numerous published
articles on police tactics and security. Dr. Riggs spent over fifteen years
consulting to mission teams in difficult places around the world and has
appeared on radio and television programs in relation to his work and doctoral
dissertation on developing contingency plans for mission groups and agencies.
He may be reached through SCI at 1-888-719-5636 or 1-330-956-9561.)