"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Emergency Response – Active Shooter on Campus

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The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) has produced a good video briefing about how to prepare and respond to an active shooter event on campus.

On my recent trip overseas I was struck by the signage on the London Underground.

dont take any risks One of the things that military training permanently etched into my mind was the importance of action in times of crisis and threat.  You might say that the entire reason behind the challenging conditioning used to produce soldiers is to create a mind that will remain clear and mission-focused, even when faced with exhaustion, pain, noise, injury and hopeless situations.  (This, I believe, is one of the reasons that Senator Dallaire was so badly impacted by his time in Rwanda.  A soldier who is prevented from acting decisively loses much that protects that soldier from mental injury)

A military model for that decisiveness is the Boyd Loop, OODA.  Observe – Orient – Decide – Act.  A soldier is constantly assessing, collecting data, orienting to permit effective action, and once a decision is made, carrying that forward with all possible effort.

By contrast, consider this sign from the London Underground.  For a passenger on the subway, in an emergency, the message is basically to sit in place and wait for someone that knows better to tell you what to do.  In no case take any risks!  This is outrageous, and leads me to ask, what emergency situation might you be in that allows you to sit and not take any risks?

There’s an old adage about emergency response – when you need first responders in seconds, they’re only minutes away.  For example, in Edmonton, the EMS response time for life-threatening calls is a median of about 7.5 minutes, with 90th percentile around 12 minutes.  The current research on cardiac arrest supports the critical nature of starting CPR and using an automatic defibrillator (AED) as quickly as possible.  Survival decreases by 7 to 10 percent per minute before CPR and AED are started, and after 12 minutes the survival expectation drops to less than 5 percent (specifically for ventricular fibrillation).  If you’re expecting EMS to come in and save the day…they won’t get there in time.  This is the reason that a 911 operator will instruct the caller on how to perform CPR, even if they’re not trained.  That’s the reason why I continue to keep my first aid current.  [My one data point was a person who went into seizure at my place of work.  When I got the call to respond I noted the time (thanks to that military training).  The first EMS response arrived 15 minutes after I was notified.  That’s a long time to be performing CPR on your own.]

The cultural focus now seems to be far closer to the Underground sign – Do not take any risks.  The reality is that most emergency situations we will find ourselves and our families in will require decisive action minutes before the first responders show up.  A home fire can progress to flash-over in 3 minutes – which is the reason for preparedness to escape the fire before the fire fighters arrive.

I attended a recent talk by a specialist in the mental preparedness to respond to emergencies – LCol (ret’d) Dave Grossman.  Grossman has done excellent work talking about human response under extreme stress such as combat.  Reading his work really helped me to decode some of my challenges I experienced leaving the military and re-integrating with the greater Canadian culture (that topic is a doctoral dissertation unto itself).  Grossman helped me to understand that a warrior mindset is part of being a responsible citizen, and being prepared to act to assist others is a part of that citizenship (hence the continued first aid, and a well-equipped trunk in my car).  I sometimes get the impression that the establishment would prefer us to sit and wait for the first responders to tell us what to do.

If that sounds like a good idea, reviewing the disasterous 1987 King’s Cross station fire on the London Underground is instructive.  The staff and first responders were a big part of the problem in that event.  Sometimes the experts are as clueless as everyone else.

This excellent video from SAIT does exactly that – instructs students and staff on the best actions to take to survive an active shooter event.  Flee – Hide – Fight.  The reality in active shooter situations, even with the recent changes in police tactics, is that the first few minutes those under threat are on their own in terms of safeguarding life.  The goal of the video is to have people think through the issue in advance, so they will be mentally prepared to act when the worst case happens.


Written by sameo416

May 27, 2014 at 10:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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