Thursday, April 14, 2016

Do Not Say Their Names

Most of the work related training sessions I attend deal with some aspect of public safety.  When you're in charge of a facility open to the public, you're expected to know how to handle every situation known to mankind...and a few you've probably never even considered.

These sessions generally occur annually.  Sometimes we know the topic, sometimes we only know the location.  And no, that doesn't always give you a hint of what's to come.  Our session at the Fire Department's Training Facility had nothing to do with fire but with understanding/handling inclement weather conditions.  I have to wonder if the Fire vs. Water thing was on purpose or just coincidence.  Our trip to the Red Cross wasn't about First Aid, but how to respond when your facility becomes an Evacuation Site...and the Red Cross takes over your office.  We do, however, update our CPR training every two years so we have a little medical knowledge.

Today's training began deceptively simple.  Located at our Main Office, when I saw two Deputies wander in, I wondered if we were about to receive an update on our "How to recognize Gangs" training from several years ago.  After introductions the program began with a video presentation.  The first three words which appeared were:

Okay, I'll admit the first thing that came to mind was my current policy on any discussion of Presidential candidates.  My sense of humor deflated as the air was sucked out of the room by the reality of our topic:

What to do when faced with an armed assailant in a public place

My gossiping co-workers stopped whispering and the room grew deadly quiet.  We all looked at the officers as if we'd stepped into the wrong room.  We're in recreation. Senior citizens and kids aged 6-12.  We're not in a situation like Sandy Hook or Columbine or Ft. Hood.  We know these people.

That's when the Corporal told us what we never realized: the shooter in the Mother Emmanuel Church shooting in Charleston lived 15 minutes away from where we sat.

The world has changed.  In my head I heard an old adage from childhood: "Hope for the best but prepare for the worst."

So for two hours we learned what those three words mean.  In a nutshell AVOID translates into, "If you can get to an exit, use it!"  Even though we're wired with "Flight vs. Fight" instincts, there's another one: Freeze.  Many of the victims in the above shootings were killed because they froze.   They simply sat there and waited for what they believed to be inevitable to happen.

DENY does not mean to fall into a state of denial and mumble, "This can't be happening!"  If you can't get to an exit, don't let the shooter get to you...deny him the opportunity. (For you politically correct folks, 98% of shooters are male).  I was amazed to learn that, statistically, when encountering a locked door, most shooters will simply move to the next room.  Lock that door, turn out the lights, line up against the wall next to the door and shut up.  In some instances you may have to barricade it with everything you can find while looking for an alternate exit. 

Unfortunately for some, their only option will be DEFEND.  Let's just say this falls into the category of "do whatever you need to survive", which included the instruction to "fight dirty".  (While it may sound like a 3 Stooges routine, go for the eyes, throat and groin).  One of the deputies,  previously a Marine with a tour in Afghanistan, pointed out, "The only person who ever complains that a fight wasn't fair is the loser."   The Corporal encouraged us to think, "I have to live through this spouse, kids, family, dog."  Whatever it takes to find the courage to live, hold on to that and fight back.

There's one part to these incidents the media doesn't cover: how to respond when the police arrive.  It's simple: DO WHAT THEY SAY!   If you're ordered to put your hands in the air or lie on the floor, don't get huffy and argue that you're a victim.  First, it wastes valuable time in finding the shooter.  Second, the officer has just arrived and has no idea if you're the shooter or an accomplice.  When you're told to exit, GO!  We watched in amazement as a woman came back into a room to retrieve her purse while a gunman held a Board at gunpoint.  Your ability to quickly follow a command can potentially save the lives of those still in the shooter's sights.

When I first started this job, I would've thought this lesson was for big cities. Yet less than 6 months ago, in a gang related incident, someone came to one of our recreation centers with a gun and shot someone.  The Director was standing next to the boy who was killed. 

While much information and techniques find their way into the "Danger" compartment of my brain, perhaps the single thing which stood out was a policy now embraced by law enforcement: Do Not Say Their Names.  Don't give shooters the fame and glory they were seeking with these horrible acts by using their names in conversation about the event.  No notoriety.  Period.

I can do that.  Because the two names sticking with me today are those of the two Deputies who must protect and serve 600 miles of County with limited resources.  Thanks to them, I have the personal ammo I need to not roll over and play dead when the going gets tough.


maurcheen said...

Stay safe my friend.


hope said...

I'll do my part. :) It's nice to have knowledge while hoping to never have to use it.

Ponita in Real Life said...

Although violence seems to be on the rise everywhere, I am astounded by the number of shootings in your country. The number of mass shootings.

I am glad you had this training. I am horrified that it has happened so close to you. As our Irish friend says, please stay safe!

hope said...

One of the deputies looked at me when I nodded as he proclaimed, "I never sit with my back to a door." I had to tell him neither do I...probably from my law enforcement training. I told him I don't look at the world the same as most folks: let's call it cautiously optimistic. Part of my brain is always on guard for's the times we live in. Which is sad frankly.

But I've got y'all to keep the love going. :)

Kim Ayres said...

I'm very aware these things don't just happen in the big cities. I lived just the other side of the hill from Dunblane when a local scoutmaster went into the primary school with a gun and killed several children and staff. Surely not in Scotland. Surely not in a small town in Scotland. Going home and holding my children so tight. So thankful it wasn't anyone I knew. So terrified it was just on our doorstep.

But time moves on. That was nearly 20 years ago. We can't spend our lives living in constant fear for the one in a million.

But sound advice from the deputies is not unwelcome

JeannetteLS said...

I just returned to Blogspot this week after two years... and your post reminded me of how our world has changed in the last few years, here in the USA. And the election season of course, never mind. But I am glad you had some training, but just so unbearably sad that you MUST HAVE that training. I will read some other entries now!

hope said...

Kim: sorry, my comments were in hiding until today. I know the feeling of "this can't happen HERE!" When I was a kid there was a boy 2 doors down; 2 years older than me, only child, quiet to the point it made you uncomfortable. Last I'd heard he'd gone on to become an investment banker with a wife and child. A few years ago he made the news: went home and shot his family, then himself. Shocked doesn't even cover it. Sad that we have to have such "trainings" but at least I learned a couple of things...which I hope to never put to use.

JeannetteLS: I wondered where you'd been! Welcome back. Yep, the world is a weird matter where we live it seems. Yet I still hope. :)