Situational Awareness in a Post-Las Vegas World

Oct 17, 2017 1:41:33 PM

Are You Ready?

As a retired cop of 31 years, I have been around violence most of my adult life. I have seen firsthand what man is capable of against his fellow man. I have witnessed how people react to violence. It is common for people to freeze. It’s as if the brain will not accept what is unfolding right in front of the eyes. Also, under extreme stress our problem-solving skills go right out of the window. I think most people would rather live in denial than to acknowledge violence, especially when it is happening to them

The recent event in Las Vegas is unimaginable. Violence by its nature is scary. People try to reason what is happening, but it is unreasonable. It is just too foreign and unacceptable. If you are in this group, what can you do? How do you prepare?

When we are confronted, we need to act. We have seconds to react and can’t afford to be frozen in denial. We owe it to our loved ones to do something if we can. When these events happen in the world around us, we must force ourselves to ask, “What if?” and “What would I do?”

Lessons from the Real World

A good portion of my career was spent studying attacks/ambushes on police officers. For three years I traveled along the southern US border training the men and women in law enforcement on tactics such as counter ambush and situational awareness. At the same time, I visited the scenes of numerous attacks on law enforcement and studied them. My goal was to share what I had learned to keep officers safer.  Situational awareness is arguably the most important lesson I learned. And situational awareness in a post-Las Vegas world may be one of the most important lessons I can share with you.

Now that I am spending half my time training civilians, I have modified and simplified what I learned. I start with three questions designed to orient you and prepare you. It begins with having the ability to be aware of what is going on around you, and having a plan in the event of an emergency. As I stated in the beginning, most people are uncomfortable with violence. However, if you want to at least give some thought to preparation I can give you some ideas. Situational awareness can help you get ahead of an incident and mitigate some of the risk. 

Situational Awareness

These three questions along with their sub categories will help orient you to your situation and respond.

  • Do you know the current environment?
    • What type of attacks are in the news and are they relevant to where I am?
    • Where will the threat most likely come from?
    • How do I get in and get out? (Exits, streets etc.)
    • Where is my cover? What objects will protect me from gunfire, being hit by cars, and shrapnel? (Where do I move to if attacked?)
    • How can I position myself in the room or area that gives me the best advantage if attacked?
    • If in a crowd, the perimeter is safer than the middle of the room to avoid being crushed in a panic.
  • What’s the plan?
    • Don’t wait for a crisis to come up with a plan.
    • Have a plan for home, work and in public. Share the plan with your family.
    • When traveling, be familiar with emergency service resources.
    • Be aware: You don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to your level of training and preparation.
    • Rehearse the plan. Under extreme stress, EVERYTHING is harder!
    • Keep it simple and have a plan “B”.
    • “Let’s see what happens next” is not a good plan. Act now!
  • Are you ready?
    • Mentally - Have you rehearsed “what if?” Rehearse in your mind what you would do.  When it happens, you have already thought about it. Complacency kills.
    • Physically - Are you able to run if necessary? Does anyone in your group, have a disability right now that would need to be considered?
    • Concentrate on your breathing and keep your heart rate down in an emergency.
    • Shock kills, if injured control bleeding (direct pressure, tourniquet), open airway.

I know this isn’t for everyone. It involves some time and commitment. We trust that law enforcement and security professionals are doing their best to keep us safe. The reality is we must take responsibility for our own safety. For those of you asking, “What can I do?” this is a good start.

When there is a tragedy, like the one in Las Vegas, it makes everyone anxious. Don’t let fear paralyze you. You must find the balance of living your life and taking precautions to protect yourself and others in the current environment.  

What Can I Do?             

WGI has a tool that can help. You can use it to enhance your personal safety efforts and share it with family, friends and co-workers. 

"Active Shooter" - Emergency Response Guide 

“What Can I Do?” in an Active Shooter Event

Preparation can’t happen if you live in denial. You have to take  action to plan ahead, one step at a time. Asking the question, “What can I do?” is a great first step. As a next step, consider raising this topic with family, friends and co-workers. Help them avoid being frozen in fear by planning ahead. 

Active Shooter Emergency Response Guide

 For additional information on improving the odds for survival in an active shooter event, click here to read our blog "Active Shooter Response: Preparing for the Unthinkable".

Topics: Active Shooter

Wayne R. Spees

Written by Wayne R. Spees