In Texas this is a very simple question… we drill! But drilling for oil and gas is obviously very different than drilling in an effort to better prepare people of all ages on how to respond to Violent Critical Incidents. One common element though does exist: the more you drill, the better the chances of success!
Surprisingly, there has been much discussion of late on the merits of drilling staff and students in response strategies to active shooter situations. Having been in elementary school in the 60’s and participated in the “Tommy the Turtle” nuke bomb drills, I don’t remember staff and parents lamenting the possible psychological damage this drill would cause. Similarly, the last 50+ years of fire, tornado, earthquake, and bomb drills have not seemed to illicit a fear of causing fear. Stranger Danger training exists universally around the country, without pushback about scaring the children. But when it comes to the danger of an active shooter, which unlike many of the other aforementioned dangers has caused many deaths and injuries in schools over the last 20+ years, suddenly the danger in preparation outweighs the danger itself? Really?
It’s a little difficult to believe how professionals could be of the belief that without practice and drilling we can expect good outcomes in dangerous situations. Practice is the essence of learning. Without practice, do you really know and understand what it is you are supposed to do? Without practice, do you really have any confidence that what you are being advised will help, will actually work? Without practice, all you have at best is level of awareness. Without practice, there is no training.
Imagine if your school’s football team is not allowed to practice their skills or the plays. They are only allowed to participate in daily lectures by the coaches on the X’s and O’s of the plays, and the responsibilities of their positions. The only time the team pads up is for a game. This team may be the best when it comes to the science of football, but they have no experience. They won’t understand how to go to “Plan B” based on the other teams’ actions. They won’t know what to do when a teammate falls down and somebody needs to quickly cover that position. The things they will have not been exposed to under contact conditions will be endless, but they will not experience those events until they happen for real. Their knowledge of the game will not match their experience of the game, and the results will show.
Preparation on how to respond to a Violent Critical Incident is exactly the same. To never have been put into a situation where a potential life-saving decision must be made quickly until that moment is real, is an incredible lack of preparation, and frankly a failure on the part of public safety. If we accept that professionals cannot be everywhere every time, and citizens will often have to help themselves before law enforcement can arrive, then proper preparation is critical. Proper preparation includes training in their survival options, practicing the easy and natural, yet effective, skills that go along with the options, and then participating in drills that cause them to make decisions and use those skills in an environment that professionals can evaluate the learning level achieved.
Then we will have real preparation, and we will save lives.