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The chances of being involved in a real active-shooting event are still pretty low, despite all the media attention we’ve seen lately. That being said, have you given any thought to how you and your family would handle the situation? How would you react and what procedures should you have in place to ensure everyone’s safety?
First off, the sky is not falling. Just because I’m taking the time to discuss this topic doesn’t mean there’s an escalation of these events. This all came about during a discussion during a recent break in a class I was running. One of the students asked a candid question about what should they do and my response was probably not what they wanted to hear. I tried to present it in bite size pieces and it went something along the lines of this:
Planning is probably the most important action you can take towards lowering your stress level and increasing your survivability. Even if you don’t suddenly find yourself being shot at, having a plan to link back up with your loved ones is very important. My family has had to do this on more than one occasion to corral children. First and foremost, keep it simple; “meet at this location, at this time.”
A major mistake is what to do if you’re at the predetermined location, or rally point, but no one else has arrived. Now what? You need to have a condition, something like “wait five minutes, then move to this location.” There are actually a lot of reasons why someone might not have been able to make it to the rally point, such as having to cross a major danger area, like the attack site, that didn’t exist beforehand.
If members of your group, or even you yourself, don’t make it to the rally point by the given time, the next step is to fall back to a secondary rally point. The objective with each successive bounding action to the next rally point, is to ensure you’re moving closer to your escape with each movement. The predetermined time limits give you and the rest of your group the opportunity to link up during a fluid and chaotic situation. It doesn’t hurt to even rehearse this plan at a local mall or school event, just make sure everyone knows it’s a drill.
Returning Accurate Fire
The next course of action in a situation like I’ve described, would be to determine if you’re the subject of the active shooting, in the crossfire, or just in the general area. If you are the subject, which isn’t always as easy as you might think it is to determine, it would then seem pretty obvious what you need to do. Return accurate fire to neutralize the threat and then initiate your link-up plan to get a full headcount of your family and loved ones. Once that’s completed, medical aid would be the next thing that comes to mind, but is it safe to do so? Err on the side of caution by at least getting your family to permanent safety, which will more than likely require getting them off site. This is similar to the line you might have heard before, “Get Off The X.”
If you’re in the crossfire your first move should be looking for cover, or at the least concealment, trying to obscure your presence. Remember, your primary objective is the safety of your family. If they’re not in imminent danger, your first action should be to consider getting them off the attack site. That can be problematic if you’re in the crossfire, so use the best judgment based on the situation at hand. Sometimes neutralizing the threat, even if you’re not the target, isn’t a bad idea. It’s a good way to ensure your family gets to safety.
If you’re in the general area of an attack and moving towards safety, try to keep something between you and the danger. Try not to mistakenly move into the crossfire and when you do move, consider moving in smaller chunks, from one piece of cover to the next. Almost in a bounding overwatch, or leapfrog manner.
You can’t afford to bury your head in the sand, or look to the government to protect you and your family. They’ll always be in a reactionary mode. You’ll need to become self-sufficient and take action yourself; the first action should be coming up with a decent link-up plan.
Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Jeff Gonzales was a decorated and respected US Navy SEAL, serving as an operator and trainer who participated in numerous combat operations throughout the world. He now uses his modern warfare expertise as President of Trident Concepts, LLC., a battle proven company specializing in weapons, tactics and techniques to meet the evolving threat. Bringing the same high-intensity mindset, operational success and lessons learned from NSW to their training programs, TRICON has been recognized as an industry leader by various federal, state and local units. Organizations interested in training with TRICON can call 928-925-7038 or visit www.tridentconcepts.com for more information.
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It's not just shooting that triggers a need for this plan. Earthquakes, tornados and other human or natural disasters can too. I'd add that, if the plan is the slightest bit complicated, put it on paper, particularly when kids are involved. And if 'time after' is important, train them to check the time whenever anything happens. In a dangerous situation, the last thing most people think to do is look at their watch.
Use but do NOT depend on cellphones. In an emergency, almost everyone's first thought will be to pick up their phone can call 911 or family. If that's your only means, text messaging should get through when voice doesn't. You might also have a designated family member far away to text "we're OK," so they can contact other family members and reassure them.
In situations like malls and summer fairs, consider having everyone carry those little FRS radios, set up and tested beforehand. A fixed plan is almost never as good as one that can be adapted to fit circumstances. Remember, in WWII armored warfare, putting radios in all the tanks made a big difference. It's the same for civilians in danger. And over that radio, you can reassure someone who's confused and frightened.
When everyone's a bit older, consider getting amateur radio licenses and gear. The range is far greater and the imported VHF/UHF radios from Baofeng and others can be bought online for around $40. With those, you can talk for miles directly and over an entire metro-region via local repeaters. Just keep in mind that in a disaster some repeaters may be taken over by emergency responders. Don't interfere with that.
I might add that doing this from an early age not only makes kids feel safer, it trains them, when in danger, to think rather than freeze or panic. Years ago, I was in a supermarket when a little girl of about three began to call out "Mommy" very loudly. She'd gotten separated and had been taught to do that. I complimented the mother. In other missing parent situations, kids should be taught not to panic but to know who they should approach for help.
One additional note. There was a very sad situation in the UK where a man saw a boy of about two wandering around. Knowing a kid that young should not be alone, he thought of stopping the boy, but didn't out of fear of being accused of being a criminal. A few minutes later the boy stumbled into a pond and drown.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, there is something you can do. As you catch up with the child call 911 or its local equivalent and ask to talk to a non-emergency operator. Give your name and the situation. That'll establish that you mean no evil and can bring help. Keep in mind that the parents are likely to be extremely grateful. There's no panic like a missing child panic.
--Michael W. Perry, KE7NV/4
Excellent points! Thanks for adding them into the discussion!
Basic adaptation of a Ranger 5-point Contingency Plan--made even easier and more reliable if all members of the "unit" have the comms capability that smart phones provide. Good to go!