Responding When a Loved One is Trapped in an Attack Zone

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There are those who rush toward danger on our behalf in a crisis. Many times, people outside the immediate vicinity of an attack zone also rush to the scene to find loved one(s), or learn more of the situation.

Deadly attacks have broad ripple effects, primary of which is confusion at the onset.

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School; a campus that hosts a population of more than 3,000 students, was no different: parents, spouses, media and others rushed to a chaotic scene, made more chaotic by those running to and those running from the scene.Associated Press of Police car outside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

What should we do if we fear a loved one is trapped within an attack zone?

When a loved one is in danger, our natural reaction is to help or save them, but this is not the best solution during or immediately following an attack.

If a loved one is trapped in an attack zone, communicate as much information regarding the loved one to emergency personnel. Critical information includes last known location, clothing descriptions, medical issues, and any known injuries or disabilities. Do not enter a dangerous situation to save a loved one. Entering an attack zone may result in becoming a victim yourself or hindering the emergency services response efforts. While this is a difficult concept, becoming a casualty or victim will not help the loved one you are trying to save.

Do not encourage those within the “danger” zone to communicate via social media if the threat is of an actor with a deadly weapon. Broadcasting via social channels may also broadcast geographic location data, and put those in hiding at further risk by pinpointing their location.

Steps must be taken prior to an event to prepare loved ones, employees, students, and colleagues. Discuss situational awareness and decision-making skills that can help navigation when in a dangerous situation. Learn more about situational awareness here.

What should we do if trapped within an attack zone?

  • If you ever find yourself in an attack zone, remain calm. Although this is difficult while under stress, try to practice tactical breathing during an event. This action allows an individual to reduce their heart rate, allowing access to the critical thinking and problem-solving areas of the brain.
  • If trapped in an active attack area, do not follow the crowd. Human beings like to be part of a group; therefore we tend to frame our response to match what others around us are doing. During emergencies, this can prove dangerous as many times the group does not make wise decisions. In addition, perpetrators use this group movement dynamic to set up secondary attacks that can cause additional damage.
  • If trapped, attempt to find a way to escape while maintaining situational awareness for a secondary attack. Consider non-traditional escape routes and avoid assembling with large crowds within the attack zone. Large crowds are attractive targets. If possible, communicate with emergency services for information on ways to escape or evacuate.

Every detail of a crisis cannot be predicted because every crisis is different; but what we can do is prepare for situations. Understanding that you, a loved one, or an employee or student may become a victim of an act of violence is the first step. The biggest barrier to preparedness is disaster denial – the thought of, “it won’t happen here.” Violence can occur anywhere at any time.

You must prepare and train yourself, employees, students, staff and loved ones. Predict the vulnerabilities your school or organization faces. Plan how to handle the identified vulnerabilities. Perform to the best of your ability when a crisis does strike. PREDICT.PLAN.PERFORM.®

It’s not a matter of if, but rather when. And the worst crisis to occur is the one that affects your people. We’re here to help in any way, we’re here for you.

Related articles:

Situational Awareness is a Key Aspect of Preparedness

Florida shooting reopens debate on school safety – Harry Rhulen Interviewed by Business Insurance Magazine

Deadly Weapons Attacks and Copycat Behavior

Why Behavioral Risk Threat Assessment Matters

Firestorm Chief Security Officer Discusses How to Prevent Incidents of Violence

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