I thought it prudent to follow up my recent post on 7 May 2019, about the School Shooting in Colorado. Check the link yourself, but the short story is this, there was yet another school shooting. It was another kid, shooting other kids.
We know about the situation, what we don’t seem to know are the things we need to share, teach or counsel our children about, in the name of making them safe. Many disagree about the causes, the reasons, the issues that contribute to the unbelievable number of school shootings we have in this country. But I seriously doubt that many will argue against having our children smarter, more self-aware, more situationally aware so that they might give themselves a better chance of survival.
It should be clear, a discussion on what to teach your children about safety is not a comfortable one. But a necessary one.
Brace Yourself, Here We Go:
First: Start from a clear position. Talk to your child. Find out what they know now! Begin with how they explain what the school or the police have instructed them. On whatever topic they used, Active Shooter or any other emergency action. From there you can build on their knowledge base, check on how they understand what is expected of them, and gain insight into how the school has prepared them. You are then in the best position to formulate your advice.
Second: Build from that start to clear up things that stand out for you. For instance. The schools and experts generally give instructions based on a group scenario. By that I mean, all the children are together in a classroom. Or, all the children are on the playground under the watchful eye of multiple adult leaders. In those scenarios the issue of controlling the mass hysteria or panic that the children may have, or on the other hand, the frozen shock of those children.
With all the children in the classroom, the instructions for them is “follow the directions given by the adult leader/teacher.” This is good the best advice.
The playground scenario is similar but with an asterisk. Following the direction of the adults is correct. The difficulty comes from the possibility that some children are out of immediate contact with the group. Picture them on the far side of the playground. There may present a challenge for them if they fear making the possible long run across the long distance of the grounds. Common thinking is that they should make the run. But are they mentally and physically prepared to make it work for them? Only you and your own child can assess that point. Perhaps a physically fit child has a better chance than one not so fit. And perhaps a child that knows their physical abilities and limitations, and that has been further trained, by you or a selected expert, might make a different choice. Should they make their own choice? Only under the most extreme circumstances, I would suggest.
My Take: In the classroom scenario the presumption is that all the children are contained and under the protective wing of their teacher. But what of the child that had to use the bathroom down the hallway, or had to go to the library, etc. Don’t say that would not happen. It can.
So, in the off chance that your child is the one alone and away from the classroom when the emergency or threat happens, what should they do?
Your child should be ready for…wait and brace for it…critical and tactical thinking. If there is an Active Shooter walking the halls, you do not necessarily want your child, alone, deciding to go left or right, to go in one door or another without a clear idea of if that is the best selection. Further, you want your child to make the best choice about staying in place. Most, I would further suggest, no school offers a lockable bathroom. So your child cannot secure themselves in the bathroom. They are left to simply be hiding in a room with one way in, and one way out. That is the definition of a trap (choosing the most politically correct word there)!
There are obvious tactical factors that determine how much of a threat your child might face, being alone when the event happens. That works out to your child’s perception of where they are in respect to the threat. If they hear the sounds of gunfire outside the door, then obviously they might need to shelter in place. Even with the lack of an alternate exit to the bathroom. They may then need to consider offensive actions to get away from the attacker if either that person comes in the room, or your child exits when the attacker is in their proximity.
The decision to go offensive is tricky. That is where you, the parents come in. If you step up and have that conversation with your child, or you consider or get training on their options, and together setting the critical decision points, it changes the dynamic for them. The potential options might include what they can identify has available to them in a particular location, like the bathroom. If they went to the bathroom with a wooden, hard plastic or other solid hall pass object, for instance, that object might become their weapon of necessity. If they have their notebook, backpack, pencils or pens, a flashlight, their cell phone, any keys or key-chains, and thinking creatively, consider using other objects they have. How to use them is something they need to be made aware of and you need to teach them.
Alternatively, if they have nothing with them that they can use, they must then get very creative. If their bathroom faucets have hot water, there is an option presented. Hot water, when used with a “T” shirt or shirt, hand towels, toilet seat covers…or any loose objects they can find might be their only choices.
In case you are wondering. Gathering and rolling several paper hand towels, either wet or dry, inside your balled up (fist) hand might improve the quality of your fist for punching. The wadded up wet paper gives a bit more solidity to the fist. Hot water wetted paper towels along with plenty of soap, thrust into the eyes of the attacker might open the opportunity for your child to hit and run. Their backpack, when securely and violently swung at the attacker might give them a striking or disorienting result.
A pen, pencil, ruler, keys, etc, offer good slashing, stabbing, and sticking tools. Again, with some training gives your child a survival chance, to counter-attack and escape.
The scenario on the playground presents its own challenge. If your child is in close proximity to the relative closeness of the school buildings and a lockable classroom that would be ideal. If they are close to their adult supervision, again ideal. However, if they are a distance away and the threat is close, or the threat is a shooter, then gaining cover, distance and a combination of those is what they want.
Distance in a shooting situation is your child’s friend. The greater the distance away from a shooter or threat, the better the survival chances are. When creating distance from the threat or shooter, running short, zigzagging and random paths is best. You don’t want them to be a slow, consistent and close target to the threat. And the path that is chosen should be towards close and available cover locations. You don’t want your child to take the chance of being exposed for enough time for the attacker to fix on them.
Cover, meaning, some significant (think solid) object, like a handball backboard, baseball backstop, building, car, a wall of most any type are all to your child’s advantage.
Cover in Place: That is what the call the process of remaining in the relative safety of where ever you might be in an emergency. For schools, they might get the order to remain in their classroom. In the best of circumstances are the kids are already in the room. Also, in the best of circumstances, the room has a locking door. Going on from there, the room does not have a glass window to the hallway. Glass obviously affords a view at what might be happening outside the window, but it also gives a view inside for the attacker. Windows to the outside have the same effect. Those windows might also give an emergency exit option if the doorway leads to further danger. Inside the classroom, the doors are a danger point, even with a lock. If the door opens outward and does not have a lock, your teacher, and your child need to understand how to use what is available in the room to secure the door. Available items would be desks, chairs, cabinets and other moveable hard furniture that could be used to span the space between the door and a wall for bracing. That is, of course, if the door opens inward. It if opens outward, as many school doors might, then another method would be needed. There are ways to secure the door using belts or straps and the door hinge.
By using the belts or straps you can bind the door so that it is at least resistant to efforts to open it. It should be practiced to ensure they know how to make it work.
There is much more to getting your children prepared for what has become a dangerous world. But I don’t want to lose your attention to this important issue.
I gave thought to not writing this addition to the blog. Many people are sensitive and reticent to talk about violence and security issue with their children. But I think this world has more or less forced our hand. We can hope that those basic instructions that school teachers and administrators receive will save the day. There are a few examples of persons being intercepted or stopped before terrible things happened. But in more than one of those incidents, the factor that saved the kids was the presence of additional security, like an armed and trained security guard.
A few closing points. While there are countries around the world where children face daily life and death circumstance happening around them, we have not had that history. Though it seems that things are changing. We don’t have active war-like conditions that we see in countries like Lebanon, Israel, and countries on the African continent. But the growing number of school shootings is sufficient to warrant the need for adults making adult choices. And our children receiving real-world advise and instruction.
So here we go
Number 1: Guns. Be very clear, guns are not toys! The bullets that come from the barrel of a gun destroy things they hit. It is true that guns can and frequently are used in a recreational manner, they are not toys! In military and law enforcement circles we see guns as “tools.” One of the Four Basic Safety Rules that we follow, states: “never point at anything you are not ready to destroy.” Harsh language. In clear language, this says, we do not point a gun at a person that you are not prepared to shoot. And of course, the added line to go along with that…” legally!”
Does playing with guns cause children to grow up and become violent or criminal? I don’t think so. But this is a debated issue for some. I would add that like most of my age group, we played with guns while growing up. But we, or at least I grew up and differentiated playtime and real life.
Number 2: Those four key safety rules I mentioned:
Jeff Cooper, an influential figure in modern firearms training, formalized and popularized “Four Rules” of safe firearm handling. Prior lists of gun safety rules included as few as three basic safety rules or as many as ten rules including gun safety and sporting etiquette rules. In addition to Cooper, other influential teachers of gun safety include Massad Ayoob, Clint Smith, Chuck Taylor, Jim Crews, Bob Munden, and Ignatius Piazza.
Jeff Cooper’s Four Rules:
- All guns are always loaded.
- Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
- Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
The key point to get from this is we do not play with guns!
Number 3: Students in schools have been, or are in the process of being taught “Active Shooter” drills and Emergency drills, like for fires and earthquakes. In those drills the children are instructed to follow the lead of their teachers and administrators. These are good instructions and rules, in general. What do I mean by “in general?” When all things work as hoped for, these protocols are great. But there can always be an exception or circumstance not expected. For instance. On the school playground the sounds of a shooting happen. The kids are spread all across the grounds, some are in the bathroom, some are out of sight or contact with their teachers. That child may be in a situation where they need to make a decision on how to respond, where to go and what to do.
Without that child receiving individual and personalized instruction, training, they will not have the Awareness to make the best choice of what to do, in a dynamic and panicky moment.
Your child would benefit from learning the concepts of the “OODA loop“.
The OODA loop derives from a military concept of decision making. Many in Special Operations use this in tactical environments. But more and more, and in my case, in both daily life and work life. I used this concept in my years overseas to move in dangerous environments to operate, live and move in unsafe places, in relative safety. And I lived to talk about it, so, there-in is proof of concept!
Your kid is at play, studying, lunch or some other activity normal to the school day…they hear something, they see something.
Observe: For your children, the idea is that when something happens, they hear something, they see something dangerous or threatening, they transition from play or clueless and begin to move into the OODA Loop modes.
Orient: Next, they orient themselves to their options. Those options might begin with their location and position. Location is specific, the position refers to where they are in relation to the threat. There position in relationship to the other students, their teachers, their classroom, or on the more provocative side, seeking cover or concealment (more to follow on that).
Don’t let the tenor of this text scare you. We have to be adults in these kinds of issues. We are talking about saving and protecting our children’s lives.
In many cases, simply from playing with other kids, they learn some of the methods and movements that could serve their safety and protection, without realizing it.
Determine: They heard the sound, gunfire, a pop, a loud crack…their thought is fear. They heard screams and or crying. They saw something…other children or adults for that matter, running, crying, faces showing panic, desperation, concern…fear. They recognize that those running are going in a specific direction…determining where the threat may exist (the crowd may not know where to run and simply be following the others, not a good thing). Your child deduces danger, threat, risk, a need to escape. They use what they have seen and heard and decide, “it’s time for me to run as well!”
Act: Your child, based on the training you provided for them, determines that running with the crowd may put them in further danger. That the nearest point of safety is different for them than it is for the children that are farther away. Your child seeks the closest form of cover and concealment.
On The Particular Subject of…”what is Cover and what is Concealment?”
Cover and Concealment: You have heard the term shouted in movies and T.V. cop or war movies…
You need to activate your child’s awareness. Train your child, or get them trained. Make certain they learn how to respond to emergencies, if and when necessary, on their own. Remember, you will not always be there, and you may well not be there when they need you. Further, you are relying upon virtual strangers to ensure your child’s safety. We all do that, but I did more with my own child. My daughter, now a grown up, has been and is Aware!
We are not going to see an immediate resolution to the many aspects of the problem of school shootings and gun violence. These are issues that are being argued, debated, legislated and anguished over, without a solution or remedy that all can agree to.
I will leave the argument up to you. And certainly, you should get involved in the discussion. But the likelihood that an answer will be agreed upon before the next tragic event occurs. Sad but true.
Like you, I would love it if our kids were ready for all the harsh realities of this dangerous world. Why? Because evidently, it is necessary. We can lament about the perception of safety in other cities, states, countries, etc. But the reality is that these dangers exist wherever humans are present.
We all should first acknowledge a few harsh facts.
- First, a not so nice declaration. You will not necessarily be there when they need you!
- Second, the police, your police, those men and women you sometimes love and sometimes…kinda don’t appreciate, will likely not be there when you need them, as well. Consider the realities. There are only so many of them, lots of demands on their presence, and a worse obvious reality.
Teach your kids to be self and situationally aware, for those important times when you will not be there for them. In doing so, you will be there for them.