Safety Tips for the American Holidays
(November 24, 2017)
This seems like a good time to review a few basic safety rules. Most of us will be attending group events, be out seeing friends and family, and generally gathering together in cheerful holiday mode in the next few weeks. So here’s a little quiz to help with that.
1) Your child is helping to decorate their classroom for the holidays, and suddenly hears screaming and a series of loud sounds like hammering down at the end of the hallway. S/he should;
(a) Move to the back of the classroom and sit quietly in a group.
(b) Jump out a window.
(c) Help to barricade the classroom door, then turn out the lights and stay very quiet and close to the floor.
(d) Play dead.
(Answer: Any but (a). Sandy Hook and Columbine shootings, 2012. Experts point out that (d) does not always work, but if that’s all ya got, well, it’s all ya got.)
2) You are at church and, during the sermon, you hear some loud noises and your minister drops to the ground, spurting blood. You should;
(a) Hide behind a pew.
(b) Start praying. Oh, you were praying already? Never mind, then. Just make sure that you do it silently, or you’ll become a target.
(c) Beg the shooter for mercy.
(d) Get out of there, one way or the other.
((d) is your best bet, but you had better hope his gun jams, because during a church service, the worshipers are so many fish in a barrel. Charleston 2015, and Sutherland Springs 2017. You might want to think about attacking the shooter while he is reloading, too. See below.)
3) You are at an open-air concert, and automatic gunfire starts to rain down on you from above and people start dropping all around you. You should:
(a) Run straight for an exit.
(b) When there is a pause in the firing and the shooter is (probably) reloading, crawl from cover to cover toward an exit.
(c) Don't move, just freeze.
(d) Wait for a while before you actually do anything, because no one else seems to be all that worried.
(Both (a) and (b). Las Vegas, 2017.)
4) You promised to marry the daughter of a crazy and violent king in order to form a military alliance, but you stood her up and married another girl instead. But then, when you were stupid enough to go to the wedding feast of the girl that you slighted at her father’s castle – oh, never mind. We’ll skip that one. This really isn’t very funny.
(George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords from A Game of Thrones.)
5) You are out at a nightclub and suddenly realize that those loud pops that you're hearing aren’t fireworks.
(a) Get out of the building immediately, preferably through an exit that isn’t the main one, which is piling up with frightened people.
(b) You can’t leave the building and must hide inside. You choose to hide in a restroom or closet, without any bolt holes.
(c) Cover yourself with dead bodies.
(e) Cover the mouth of the screaming person next to you and tell them to SHUT UP.
(f) Stay hidden when the shooter tells you to come out. And turn off your phone so when your mom calls, worried, the ringtone won't give you away.
(Any but (b) or (d). Pulse nightclub, Orlando, Florida, 2017.)
“Run, hide, attack” (also referred to as “avoid, deny, defend”) are the three basic tactics to use in an active shooter situation, usually in that order. The latter terminology puts a little more of the concept of actually DOING something into the minds of the attacked, which is a good thing since “freeze” is usually the worst thing that you can do.
The evidence suggests (and there is, sadly, quite a lot of evidence to go by) that your reaction in the first couple of minutes has everything to do with your chances of survival. So you need to be prepared for some kind of action ahead of time.
To be prepared, meaning to be ready even before the bullets start flying, involves something called “situational awareness”. Situational awareness is a big broad subject. But in this case, and very briefly, situational awareness means being aware of entrances, exits, and the general layout of a building or location so you'll know where to run (better) or hide (better than nothing).
If you can’t get away or it isn’t advisable at the moment, you “hide” someplace you can’t be seen by the shooter, preferably in a spot that gives some protection from bullets, and one that you can flee from if necessary. “Deny” additionally suggests the ideas of locking doors, or barricading them etc., to your hiding spot, which is better than simply hiding.
The third option, “attack”, is probably the worst option UNLESS you are close to the shooter. In which case you are toast anyway, so go after him, for pete’s sake. Go in knee-high or lower, and get the people around you to join in, because a bunch of people jumping a single attacker has a far better chance of overwhelming him. Stab him with a pen or fork. Whack him in the eye with the heel of your Manolos. Knock him over and bite him, if that’s all you’ve got. Whatever. Just do not go gentle into that good night. Slow him down a little, give the cavalry a chance to arrive, and make us all proud, baby.
As of this writing, America has had 388 mass shootings (defined as four or more people wounded by gunshots in a single incident) so far this year.
That is more than any other country in the world. With five percent of the population, we have over 30% of the mass shootings. Hah! Who says there’s no such thing as American exceptionalism?
So, once again, repeat after me – “We’re number 1! We’re number 1!” And maybe in the new year, we can figure out something to do about it.
Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Happy Turkey Day, you all.
--dr. diane holmes
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