How to prepare for a shooting without living in fear


At first, Brandon Tsay froze when a gunman pointed a gun at him, he said. He was sure these would be his last moments.

But then something came over Tsay, who was working the counter in the lobby of her family’s Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio, a dance hall in Alhambra, California.

He rushed towards the gunman and struggled to be punched several times in order to get rid of the gun, he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday night.

The shooter had already killed 11 people and injured 10 others before arriving at Tsay’s workplace.

Tsay’s courage saved her life that day, but likely saved countless others as well, said Ronald Tunkel, a former special agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and explosives, who was trained as a criminal profiler.

While Tsay’s actions show heroism and bravery, what he did is more possible than people realize, said Dr. Ragy Girgis, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University at New York.

“People have a great capacity to react to tragedies like these. People wouldn’t realize how heroically they could respond,” he said.

Fortunately, most people won’t find themselves in a situation where they have to respond to a mass shooter, Girgis said. But incidents like these are all too common and on the rise in the United States, according to Gun Violence Archive.

There’s not a lot of research on intervention in mass shootings by civilians, Girgis said.

Yet as the United States regularly sees mass shootings, businesses, nonprofits and schools are training people on how to respond. Tunkel and Jon Pascal, an instructor for Krav Maga Worldwide and the Force Training Institute, say they are seeing more training and protocols around active shooter situations for everyday people.

A word of warning: If your sense of security is starting to contribute to anxiety or interfere with life in any significant way, it may be time to see a mental health expert, says psychiatrist Dr Keith Stowell. , Chief Medical Officer of Behavioral Health and Addictions. for Rutgers Health and Health RWJ Barnabas.

Tunkel said the ability to respond effectively to emergencies requires two things: awareness and preparedness.

Create “a safety habit,” recommended Pascal. This means that people should regularly note the mood of the crowds they are in, the exits and entrances, and the tools available around them in case they need to react to a frightening event.

“We don’t want to walk around paranoid and not live our lives, but I think if we make personal safety a habit, it becomes something normal,” he said.

Your worst-case scenario will probably never happen, but being prepared means you have ways to take care of yourself and those around you if it does happen, Pascal added.

In addition to establishing an awareness of your surroundings, Pascal recommends making a plan for how you will respond in the event of a medical emergency, fire, or violence.

It’s always important to look for two ways out of a building in case a hazard or obstacle blocks one, he said. And at home or workplaces, he recommended taking note of doors that can be locked and things that can be used to barricade.

Once you have the plan, put it into practice, he added. That bookcase can look like the perfect barricade in your head, but then be impossible to move in an emergency, Pascal said. And you want to be sure your emergency exits don’t have locked doors that you can’t open.

But preparation can also take the form of training — and it doesn’t have to be long-term, intensive and situation-specific, Tunkel said.

Self-defense or active shooter training can help you gain knowledge and strategies to use quickly if they’re ever needed, Pascal said. But even more general training can help you provide the mental and physical responses needed in an emergency, Tunkel said.

Weightlifting and team sports can show you that you’re physically capable of responding, he said. Yoga and meditation can train your breath and your brain to stay calm and make good decisions in a crisis, he said.

And in a dangerous situation, acting quickly and decisively is often the safest, Pascal said.

It’s hard to be decisive when the balls are flying. Many mass shooting victims reported that the events were confusing and it was hard to tell what was going on, Girgis said.

And if people don’t know what’s going on, they often rely on their instincts to make decisions about what to do next, which can be scary, Pascal said.

The human brain likes categories to simplify things, so it often defaults to associating new things with things we’ve been exposed to before, Stowell said. When a person hears a popping noise, they may be likely to assume the sound is something familiar like a firecracker, he added.

Instead, Pascal advised people – whether they think they hear balloons popping or gunshots – to stop, look around to gather as much information as possible about what is going on around them. of them, to listen to see if they can learn anything from the sound, and feel the air.

Because where there is gunfire, there is often gunpowder, Pascal said.

Once someone has gathered all the information they can, it’s important to trust your perception of danger, Tunkel said.

Knowing there’s danger activates a fight-or-flight response, which humans have perfected over thousands of years to respond to predators, Stowell said.

But when a person finds themselves in a dangerous situation that is so far removed from anything they have experienced before, it is not uncommon for them to freeze up, he added.

This is where training comes in, whatever it is. While it doesn’t teach you every detail of how to react, it does give your brain a body of knowledge to fall back on in a terrifying situation, Stowell said.

Fighting with a gun isn’t the only way to go when there’s a mass shooter, Pascal said.

The US Department of Homeland Security has developed a protocol called “Run, Hide, Fight.”

“Running” refers to the first line of defense — getting yourself out of a dangerous situation as quickly as possible, Pascal said. You can also encourage others to run away, but don’t stay behind if they don’t leave with you.

If running away isn’t possible, the best option is to hide, which makes it harder for the attacker to get to you, he said.

If none of these are an option, you can fight.

“You don’t have to be the biggest, strongest person in the room,” Pascal said. “You just have to have this mindset that no one is going to do this to me and I’m coming home safe.”

While most people are capable of reacting to danger in some way, it’s important not to judge how or how a bystander or victim is acting, Tunkel said.

“What may be reasonable for one person in one situation may not be reasonable for someone else in another situation,” Pascal said.

No matter how well trained a person has been, mass shootings are “beyond the scope of anything we’ve had to experience in our daily lives,” Stowell said. “There’s not really an expectation of a good response, despite the training.”


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