“You must be an active participant in your own survival”

An addendum on personal safety

“You must be an active participant in your own survival”

Every week we write our Friday feature – “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” – Our ugly addressed how to be safer in your own home, in response to two recent break-ins. (story, here:

We talked about having a plan, much like you should if there were a fire in your home. Prevention is everything. Home alarm system, a dog, not leaving your door open or your windows unlocked. A personal sound alarm you can leave in your bedroom at night. A handgun? That’s a personal choice, but more are opting for it. There’s always the defensive weapon under the bed, or pepper spray. These are all part of a full decision process, but this idea that we cannot take steps to protect and defend ourselves in our home is out the window. Times have changed, and they aren’t going backwards, at least in our lifetimes.

Situational Awareness

Over 3,000 people were shopping at a big back-to-school sale in a large Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Shots rang out in rapid succession; they paused, then came again. People ran to the back of the store – with between 100 and 200 people taking shelter in a metal trailer truck container – as a smart employee shepherded them in. SWAT teams arrived, with multiple shooters suspected, but minutes later, without a shot, a 21-year-old suspected lone gunman was arrested without injury about a block away. At this time, 20 are dead, and more than 20 are injured. 

Is it time to prepare whenever we go into a large public place? Even a convenience store run can turn into a nightmare out of nowhere. So, we add to our advice about safety in our own homes with these recommendations:

Be aware of your surroundings. Rushing around means we are often not at all aware. Take a moment when you pull into a parking lot, and before you get out of your car. Take a look around you. Assess what you see, and where you are. As you walk into the store, look for the red exit signs. Look around for a moment at the physical space you are in and the people around you. Plan where you would go if a person – or a vehicle – or a tsunami – would come rushing in the front door, or happen in aisle 7. What would be your exit plan, or your hiding point? Are there obvious items that can be your weapons of defense? (thinking of how a small grocery cart in a local drugstore wielded by a fellow employee was used to save a young woman who was suddenly being attacked by a man with a knife).

After some not so distant situations in movie theaters and nightclubs, staff used to come out and point to the exits before things started. They don’t do that now. It’s up to you to look around at the exits, the hiding places…where would you go if there were a fire in the lobby or a person with a weapon, and you could not go out the way you came in? Choose your seats in accordance with your comfort level. Two on the aisle is always our personal request. Discuss with your children what to do if you become separated – that’s only good parenting, anyway. After you’ve done your mental walk-around, you can go about your activity and enjoy your time. Don’t let these actions take over your life.

The philosophy that if things are going to happen, they’re going to happen is silly. We’re not suggesting you alarm your children, your family, or yourself, but a safety checklist is important. The life you save could be your own, or your children’s, or the person next to you. And, as always, see something suspicious – say something. If the worst happens, the best advice experts tell us to survive? Run. Hide. Fight.

Mass shootings occur in rural, suburban and urban settings; in gathering places and houses of worship of all denominations. Home invasions are more common every day. Violence in the workplace, or in a convenience store can happen.

James Hamilton — who served for years in the FBI and provides training to corporations, government agencies and security personnel for public figures — says, “You must be an active participant in your own survival.”

We agree. There’s a time to pray – and there’s a time to do more than that.

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