The Importance of Sensing Danger
Secure Education Consultants (SEC) experts believe that every person follows a specific path when responding to critical incidents or emergencies:
- Sense Danger
- Evaluate Response Options
- Commit to action
Step One, “sensing danger” seems straightforward – you can only respond to an emergency if you know that it exists. However, when it comes down to it, there are many roadblocks that can prevent people from sensing danger as quickly as might be possible. The faster people are aware that an emergency exists, the faster they can go through the rest of the response process and find their way to safety.
The five senses can be major roadblocks in sensing danger. How many times have we heard of someone confusing gunfire for “fireworks?” Historically, people have relied on their senses to alert them to danger – the sound of a gunshot, the smell of fire, the sight of a dangerous person. However, human brains are naturally predisposed to attribute sounds and other sensory observations to things more typical of daily life. This confusion can drastically slow down your response process.
Inability to share information can be another roadblock to sensing danger. Once one person identifies that an emergency exists, they can help other people by quickly sharing that information. If someone sees a gunman but has no way to share that information with the other people in their building, everyone else is at a disadvantage because they cannot begin to execute an emergency response.
The solution to effectively sensing danger is comprehensive alert systems. Unlike relying on your senses, an alert system makes it clear that danger is present. Alert systems can also disseminate information to many people at the same time. Institutions across all industries have set up alert systems. Think about severe weather alerts, alerts to suspicious activity on our bank accounts, or engine alerts on your car.
Schools have almost perfected their fire-alert systems. Schools have fire alarms that alert building occupants of a fire and automatically alert local fire departments of the emergency. All staff and students are trained to understand the alert, so when they hear it, they immediately sense the danger and can begin to respond in carefully crafted ways. It has been years since a child has died from a fire in a school building. Fire safety in school is proof that comprehensive alert systems do work.
While schools are increasingly well prepared for violent incidents including active shooter, fire preparation is generations ahead of where we are for violent attacks. We can take many lessons from the “fire-preparation” movement to apply to active shooter situations. Efficient alerts are one key concept.
In an active-violence situation, an effective alert will clearly and quickly inform others of the violence. Schools should utilize “plain-language” alerts (i.e. “Alert – there is a shooter in the building,”) or conduct drills to train students and teachers to immediately recognize alerts sounds. When the alert goes out quickly, people can begin to respond to the danger before they are physically confronted by it.
What specific alerts do we recommend? There are some great high-tech systems on the market, but many are not widely used or available. Your alert system does not need to be too elaborate or expensive. Phone PA systems, email, or text, are common alert systems, but keep in mind that these have their limitations. Many PA systems are not accessible by all, the speakers are not loud enough, and people don’t have the immediate enough access to phones and email to make those methods useful. Organizations can take lower cost steps by utilizing tools like boat air horns, coast guard whistles, or plain language voice alerts that can quickly be spread around a facility.
The key to a good emergency alert system is having a plan that is easily accessible and understood by all. How does your school plan to alert people in the event of an active shooter situation, or other emergencies? Develop a plan and share it will all stakeholders. If you need assistance developing a strong alert system, reach out to SEC.
Join Secure Education Consultants (SEC) Founder and CEO, Jason Russell, as he discusses Terrorism or Lone Wolf – Does it Matter? on December 7th from 2-4 p.m. ET. In the final Virtual Exercise of 2017, Jason will be joined by Firestorm COO, Hart Brown, and R3 Continuum Vice President and Medical Director, Dr. George Vergolias, PsyD, LP.
About Jason Russell, Founder/President/CEO of SecureEd:
Prior to founding SEC, Jason served with the United States Secret Service as a Special Agent. During his tenure, Jason was involved in protective and investigative assignments as well as protecting the President and Vice President along with all living former Presidents. In addition to protection assignments, Jason served as the Secret Service Lead Instructor at the International Law Enforcement Academy, a Physical Fitness Coordinator, and on the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Jason began his law enforcement career with the Lansing Police Department (LPD). While with the LPD, Jason was recognized with a lifesaving award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Jason has worked on the US Marshals Fugitive Task Force, and various multi-jurisdictional enforcement initiatives.
Jason is a frequent Keynote and content speaker at conferences on the topics of emergency preparedness, active shooter response, and safety and security process. Jason additionally has taught criminal investigation and security courses as an adjunct professor.
Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Jason holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Western Michigan University and his Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice and Security Management from Michigan State University.