(WBTV) - A recent question sent to me was about the shooting that occurred over the weekend at the ZombieCon in Florida. One person was killed and several were injured in an event that concluded with a stampede down the street.
The question posed to me was this, "In today's world, what can I do to protect my family and myself? How do I maintain situational awareness and what can I do if gunfire breaks out in a crowded public location?"
First of all, I'd like to thank the reader for asking these tough questions. What in the past, would seem far outside the realm of reality, now occupies our headlines on a weekly basis.
A public shooting you say? An act of violent crime? Just another day in America.
But let's look closer at the situation. The only reason these frequent incidents don't affect us across America more than they do, is that we are not the immediate victims. But in those communities, in those neighborhoods victimized by violent crime, pain runs long and deep.
Question #1 - In today's world, what can I do to protect my family and myself?
The first thing to remember is that planning cannot begin at the moment of the incident. Prior planning is a must. Here is where we come across two different schools of thought; a) This will never happen to me and b) I want to be prepared if an incident does occur to me. For those who believe that this will never happen to them, I hope you're right.
But I personally refuse to let my life be determined by a proverbial "roll of the dice". Meaning, leaving your safety and security to chance is a risky business. For those that choose to be prepared, this article is for you.
No one knows your environment better than you, whether it is your work area, your home or your place of recreation (regular theater, restaurant, gym, etc.). Because you spend your time there, you have the best opportunity of anyone to get to know your surroundings.
Pay attention! Take off the blinders that cause tunnel vision and literally expand your view of your world. If you doubt this, ask yourself these questions about the main door at your favorite restaurant.
Is there one door or two? Key lock or push bar? Outward or inward opening? See what I mean? Become situationally aware. Not only of the facilities but of the people that surround you.
Please understand, this has nothing to do with being paranoid. It has to do with living your life choosing to not be a victim. As I say, don't let the bad guys win!
Question #2 - What can I do if gunfire breaks out in a crowded public location?
Mental attitude and preparation has more to do with this than anything else. Accept the fact that no matter where you are, a violent incident can and may occur.
If it does, do not panic.
Sounds easier said than done, but accepting the fact that this can happen, helps prepare you for an actual event. Move away from the gunfire, but plan on having to change your direction of travel for a second time, in case you are being deliberately herded into a setup, an ambush. If you feel the crowd you are moving with is beginning to reach a frenzied pace (a stampede), move to the nearest wall or strong physical barrier that you can position yourself behind that will prevent you from being run over by a panicked mob.
If you continue to move, do not continue down a straight line (street, alley, etc.) from the shooting. Why? Because bullets travel in a straight line. Move to the left or right of the original direction of travel to avoid catching a stray bullet.
Then, keep moving until you are sure you are out of the affected area.
Finally, move to a location that provides a certain level of protection.
In my business, we call these "safe havens". These safe havens include police stations, fire stations and hospital emergency rooms. All three are locations that contain communications equipment, medical equipment, very competent staff and some sort of security already in place.
Utilizing common sense and maintaining a calm head, really go a long way in providing protection when your world suddenly gets turned upside down.