Thinking the unthinkable: Preparing for violence

jks9199

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Fair warning: I've brought my soapbox :soapbox: and I'm gonna use it.

A couple of different things brought this to my mind today. And I'm gonna freely steal from David Grossman's presentation, too. Because he makes a very valid point, very well.

You see, the firefighters have done a great job in our schools and public places. It's pretty near impossible to burn a school, or to kill kids with a fire in a school, or a lot of other public places. You've got sprinklers, flame resistant and flame retardant materials, fire alarms (both automatic and pull stations), multiple marked exit routes, fire drills... And how many fires are there in schools and public places? Pretty few...

Now, let's look for a moment at how safe our public places and schools are from violence. Most are, at best, barely cognizant of the dangers. How is your local mall prepared for violence? Do you really trust the "mall ninja" security guards? (Note: many security guards are professional about what they do, and do their jobs well. But there are, sadly, plenty that are just plain scary!) But, even more importantly, how many of these places actually go deeper than "one event" planning. They'll evacuate the school to the ball field or parking lots... but no plans for what to do if that area isn't safe, or if they have to move them again.

Meanwhile, we've seen instances since the 90s (and earlier) where criminals planned secondary attacks, on the safe areas or on the areas where first responders will be going to set up and deal with the original event. In Columbine, Klebold and Harris placed bombs at exits before storming the school. Cho at Virginia Tech blocked the exits so that people had no way to get out. There were several incidents of abortion clinic bombings that included secondary devices timed to go off AFTER the first responders were on scene.

Why is there this gap in planning? Because nobody wants to think the unthinkable. So they don't do it any longer than they have to. And that means that, unless someone forces them to do so -- most people won't go any deeper than they have to. I'm going to start by focusing on what we can do in schools; they're a public area that's much more amenable to control. (About all you can do in a mall or many other public areas is recognize potential dangers, and be prepared to act in whatever way is approrpiate for you, given the totality of the circumstances.)

What can we do? Start by thinking the unthinkable. What can happen to your kids? Who might attack the school? How can they do it? I assure you -- if you can see a vulnerability, so can the kids, and so can anyone who might hurt them! Then ask if your children's schools are ready for that. Ask about the security planning. Do they have a back-up plan? Or is their planning limited to "lock down and wait for the cops?" How are they going to notify parents about where to pick the kids up? Do they have a plan to move kids to facilities, safely? Don't expect them to reveal detailed security plans -- there are legitimate reasons not to!-- but they should be able to give some general details. They should be able to show that they've addressed multiple tiers. Demand that the school be at least as prepared for a violent attack as they are for a fire!

In public spaces -- make the same demands of the appropriate authorities. Expect your local government to require vulnerable targets to actually be prepared; demand that they inspect the security plans just like they inspect fire plans and fire protection systems.

And, accept that you are always responsible for your own safety! In the end, nobody can protect you from everything. Not even the best of plans survive contact with the enemy; some aspect will fail when put into execution. So, in the end, you have to be ready to protect yourself. And you have to prepare and teach your children to do the same.
 

Rich Parsons

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Fair warning: I've brought my soapbox :soapbox: and I'm gonna use it.

A couple of different things brought this to my mind today. And I'm gonna freely steal from David Grossman's presentation, too. Because he makes a very valid point, very well.

You see, the firefighters have done a great job in our schools and public places. It's pretty near impossible to burn a school, or to kill kids with a fire in a school, or a lot of other public places. You've got sprinklers, flame resistant and flame retardant materials, fire alarms (both automatic and pull stations), multiple marked exit routes, fire drills... And how many fires are there in schools and public places? Pretty few...

Now, let's look for a moment at how safe our public places and schools are from violence. Most are, at best, barely cognizant of the dangers. How is your local mall prepared for violence? Do you really trust the "mall ninja" security guards? (Note: many security guards are professional about what they do, and do their jobs well. But there are, sadly, plenty that are just plain scary!) But, even more importantly, how many of these places actually go deeper than "one event" planning. They'll evacuate the school to the ball field or parking lots... but no plans for what to do if that area isn't safe, or if they have to move them again.

Meanwhile, we've seen instances since the 90s (and earlier) where criminals planned secondary attacks, on the safe areas or on the areas where first responders will be going to set up and deal with the original event. In Columbine, Klebold and Harris placed bombs at exits before storming the school. Cho at Virginia Tech blocked the exits so that people had no way to get out. There were several incidents of abortion clinic bombings that included secondary devices timed to go off AFTER the first responders were on scene.

Why is there this gap in planning? Because nobody wants to think the unthinkable. So they don't do it any longer than they have to. And that means that, unless someone forces them to do so -- most people won't go any deeper than they have to. I'm going to start by focusing on what we can do in schools; they're a public area that's much more amenable to control. (About all you can do in a mall or many other public areas is recognize potential dangers, and be prepared to act in whatever way is approrpiate for you, given the totality of the circumstances.)

What can we do? Start by thinking the unthinkable. What can happen to your kids? Who might attack the school? How can they do it? I assure you -- if you can see a vulnerability, so can the kids, and so can anyone who might hurt them! Then ask if your children's schools are ready for that. Ask about the security planning. Do they have a back-up plan? Or is their planning limited to "lock down and wait for the cops?" How are they going to notify parents about where to pick the kids up? Do they have a plan to move kids to facilities, safely? Don't expect them to reveal detailed security plans -- there are legitimate reasons not to!-- but they should be able to give some general details. They should be able to show that they've addressed multiple tiers. Demand that the school be at least as prepared for a violent attack as they are for a fire!

In public spaces -- make the same demands of the appropriate authorities. Expect your local government to require vulnerable targets to actually be prepared; demand that they inspect the security plans just like they inspect fire plans and fire protection systems.

And, accept that you are always responsible for your own safety! In the end, nobody can protect you from everything. Not even the best of plans survive contact with the enemy; some aspect will fail when put into execution. So, in the end, you have to be ready to protect yourself. And you have to prepare and teach your children to do the same.


Single point failures versus dual point failures. In many failure analysis they assign probabilities to failures. And for two failures to occur at the same time is rare, unless they are failures caused by the first. i.e. collateral failures.

The problem with thinking two or three moves deep is that it really is not two or three moves deep for an assault. It is the assault. The Bait and the fakes and the positioning of people is all part of the first plan, not a back up plan.

Most people are you and others have stated do not wish to think about it for it is too scary.

I got my first security job, after showing I was honest in running a cash register. The owner was surprised that it was spot on and not off by a few cents even. Then I showed him that I could be off by a lot and he would not know as I could reprogram buttons and also refund money with the keys he left out for general usage. I then helped him design a process to use the proper equipment and training i.e. contacting a manager who was trained in correcting mistakes. I thought it was obvious to me but to many the wholes in security are not obvious.
 

arnisador

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A Lesson of Mumbai: Have a Safety Plan



Security experts and federal agencies offer unsurprising advice about safety measures you can take when traveling to areas where you may be at risk: be vigilant, avoid crowds, keep a low profile. But much of it comes down to using common sense.

[...]

The compelling survival stories of travelers who were caught up in the three-day siege on Mumbai show there was no pattern to what ultimately saved them. Some barricaded themselves in their rooms while others took cover in hotel conference areas or simply fled.

Lynne and Ken Shaw of Wales told the BBC that they hid under a table while the attackers stormed the Taj Mahal Palace. In the interview, Mrs. Shaw said that “little decisions that night — just timing — saved our lives.”

At one point, when they were being led out of hiding, gunfire broke out in the corridor. “My life was saved because as I was running I stumbled, and I think that really saved me, as I fell back into the room,” said Mrs. Shaw.
 

morph4me

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I've been a a position to point out holes in security measures, and the truth is, nobody wants to hear them. I've been shut down in meetings when I bring up security concerns, because it's not my job, they have "experts" to think about those things. I think people enjoy the illusion that they are safe, and don't want to know that it's an illusion. People don't like it when you poke holes in their security measures, they'd rather keep their heads in the sand and think that if they can't see the threat, the threat can't get to them.
 

allenjp

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I work in a court building in one of the largest counties in California, and the security holes here are glaring. One would think that the security would be airtight at a courthouse. But attorneys don't even have their bags checked or have to go through a metal detector! I hate to think what may happen if a terrorist passes the BAR exam at some point...
 

hkfuie

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Fair warning: I've brought my soapbox :soapbox: and I'm gonna use it.
...

And, accept that you are always responsible for your own safety! In the end, nobody can protect you from everything. Not even the best of plans survive contact with the enemy; some aspect will fail when put into execution. So, in the end, you have to be ready to protect yourself. And you have to prepare and teach your children to do the same.

Great post. I agree that everything cannot be prevented. You made some points I had not thought of, and I give this topic more thought than most people (just like most martial artists). And absolutely agree that I cannot passively allow someone else to be responsible for my safety. I slide all around the continuum on how much risk I take in life, but at least I am aware of it most of the time. :) Thanks for giving me more to think about on this topic!
 

Deaf Smith

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I got my first security job, after showing I was honest in running a cash register. The owner was surprised that it was spot on and not off by a few cents even. Then I showed him that I could be off by a lot and he would not know as I could reprogram buttons and also refund money with the keys he left out for general usage. I then helped him design a process to use the proper equipment and training i.e. contacting a manager who was trained in correcting mistakes. I thought it was obvious to me but to many the wholes in security are not obvious.

Good job Rich. I don't want to get on my soap box but... " Luke 16:9-15

"If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?"

And that's the way I look at it. You showed your trustworthyness and it was recognized.

As for thinking the unthinkable. Here is what I suggest.

1. Learn CPR and First Aid. Learn it well. Keep a very good kit in your car as well as one in the home.
2. Keep a very good fire extinguisher in your car and one at home.
3. Keep a disaster kit in the car to. Make sure there is enougth for all family members. The Red Cross, among others, have them.
4. Keep your self defense skill up! If you own a gun, practice some! If you can legaly keep one in the car, do so!

But the thing is, you (and me) are far more likely to see a disaster from afar and help those who have been hurt than to have to fight any nutjob. Yes be prepared to defend yourself and others, but also be prepared to help those who are injured.

And I practice what I preach. I'm on our ERT (Emergency Response Team) at where I work. I have kits in my car and at home. I'm certifed at alot of things!! And I can fight.

Deaf
 

tellner

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The real questions to ask yourself are:

1) What are the real risks?
2) What is the cost of doing nothing else?
3) What is the cost of reducing them by some acceptable amount?

The reason we are so good at fire protection is that fires are common. Fires are predictable. We have a very good idea (down to the actuarial penny) about how much each measure you take will cost and save.

Human violence is an awful lot less predictable. It can take more forms. It's harder to stop a particular act. So on. So forth. The costs of reducing the risk can be fairly high. And don't trot out "If it saves one life no price is too high". That sort of "one percent doctrine" crud is madness and quickly leads to bankruptcy both fiscal and moral.

The other thing to remember is that the emotion-laden things you're talking about "the Children" and "Columbine" and all are incredibly rare. The odds are astronomically against it happening to you or yours, ever. Fire, on the other hand, is pretty common. It makes sense to spend more effort on fire prevention than on high school student massacre prevention. You save more lives and dollars for your buck for huge areas under the curves.

The biggest problem is that we do not have a rational view of violence. Our news/entertainment media - there really isn't a difference any more - hammers us with emotionally overwhelming images all the time. We get a very skewed view of risk which has nothing to do with reality.

Case in point:

My Silat guru had a welding shop in an economically depressed town. It was full of easily stolen high-value things like plasma cutters and machine tools. They wouldn't sell him theft insurance. But they offered him a special deal on Terrorism Insurance.

Whiskey? Tango? Foxtrot?

Terrorists taking his forklift hostage are slightly less likely than Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Anniston showing up on my doorstep dressed in hot oil with a twenty million dollars cash and an offer of adult companionship. But they went to the effort of selling this steaming pile of crap because enough people had been fooled into believing it was posible.
 

hkfuie

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You know, I have often thought about how much time I spend training self-defense vs. how much time/energy I spend making sure I'm prepared for fire, tornadoes, etc. and the likelihood of each.
 

Rich Parsons

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You know, I have often thought about how much time I spend training self-defense vs. how much time/energy I spend making sure I'm prepared for fire, tornadoes, etc. and the likelihood of each.

Very good point. I have smoke detectors and CO detectors in the house, do not use frayed cords and bad connections, I also replace filters to avoid fans working over hard (* as well as allowing for new filtration *), I have a basement with a radio and batteries and flash lights with batteries, ..., .

But these events can be related to driving down the wrong street versus driving longer and around, or going into the bad bars to use the phone versus the well light shopping center or cell phone. Proper air pressure and tire tread as well as alignment, and oil changes and full gas tanks to avoid having break downs or stopping when you would not want to get gas.

Being aware and prepared is a major part of any safety, personal from others or from environment or accidents.
 

sgtmac_46

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I'm with Tellner.......we have to keep in mind that there is a difference between 'reasonable risk' and 'wild imagination risks'. Yes, Martians could attack, but is it likely enough that we need to waste resources preparing for it?

That said, there are folks who's job it is to prepare for as many risks as reasonably possible.
 

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