TALKING TO YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT THE ACTIVE SHOOTER SURVIVAL MATRIX:
How horrifying and unthinkable is it that any person has to write an article about this subject?
I have 2 loving 20 year-olds and a Loving 3 Year Old…it breaks my heart.
Consider this for a moment:
There were 434 mass shootings in 2019 that fit the inclusion criteria of this article. This averaged 1.19 mass shootings per day. In these shootings, 1,643 people were injured and 517 died, for a total of 2,160 victims.
Truthfully, I’m writing this article because there was a shooting at Bellaire High School in Texas and I have 2 nephews there. Although the Bellaire case seems to be an accident it is still an “Active Shooter Situation because of what I will explain as “Fluidity of Change”, during such an event, nobody knows what’s going on so accident are not same rules must apply.
In addition, when my daughter was a teen, we almost moved to Florida and we considered Parkland HS for her, we lived 2 miles from Santa Fe HS in TX during that shooting. That’s way to close for comfort and so terrifying now that I have a toddler of 3.
During the many phases of the parenting cycle, it is obviously normal and encouraged to address age specific issues. If your child is a 5th grader, they are probably picking back pack colors and giggling about girls or short hair…if the child is a junior in HS, boyfriends, girlfriends and educational focus are the order of the day.
As parents, we address these very fundamental occurrences with happiness, glee and sometimes frustration. Unfortunately, and sadly, many parents avoid talking to their children about violence and a plan around what they should do in case they are caught in an active shooter situation.
How do you address this complex and horrific issue with a child? One moment Peppa Pig is on the screen and the next moment your talking about hiding from a bad guy with a gun.
As horrific and difficult as it may feel to you, the irresponsibility of NOT talking to them is even worse. Because, what if…and look at the stats above once more, what if it happens to your child and you didn’t talk to them about a plan, how do you quantify that in your mind for the rest of your life if the worst happens?
As a rule, children are very strong and understand more than you think they do. Kids are exposed to violence all day long despite your best efforts. Cartoons, movies, child’s play and other endless encounters all play a central role in the shaping of your child’s world view towards violence. Don’t be afraid to set aside an hour or two to go over the basic rules and protocols and how to use them should the need arise.
Most of all, LISTEN TO THEM, All too often we try to impose on them things that will work for us, thinking we know better…trust me, when shots are fired, all of that goes out the window. Teach them to use the fear that will envelop them into a plan for coming home.
RUN, HIDE, FIGHT and the FLUIDITY OF CHANGE
In my house, we talk about active shooter situations all of the time. Why? Because I’ve been in several active shooter situations and I know what the fear feels like. I also know the feeling of being shot. I don’t want my family and friends to be victims. Violence can erupt anywhere at any time, from Brentwood to Newark, anywhere…..Be Prepared and prepare.
When my daughter started HS we actually sat down and talked different scenarios and the reliance on my concept of “fluidity of change”..that is, during shots fired the basic rule of “run, hide, fight” changes with each moment in time and may even blend together as the event horizon unfolds. It’s not my rule, moments in time and actions are fluid, period….that means that as humans, as much as we try and instill order, we must instead flow with the moments in time in order to survive such an event.
It is interesting to note that the HS my daughter went to in Hawaii had a real active shooter scare. You would think, this is a great school they have this under control. They know basic protocols right?
The protocol was this…sound the alarm and herd all of the students onto the football field, TOGETHER, until they figure out what the threat was. Seriously? It angers me even at this moment. How can highly educated adults be so stupid…who decides to herd kids into an open space when potential assault weapons are suspected?
If there had been a perp, he would have quickly figured out, or worse already have known that plan and many many casualties would have been realized that day…
My daughter Anuhea, to her credit, chose to raise her odds of survival. She bucked the protocol…she defaulted to what I taught her, RUN, HIDE FIGHT and FLUIDITY OF CHANGE. She assessed the threat, realized that she had a chance to make it to her car, she quickly got to her car and after further assessment hunkered down in place with a few other students while making a plan to use improvised weapons like tire irons, cans, dirt and other improvised projectiles should the need arise.
She chose to FIGHT FOR HER LIFE IN A STRATEGIC WAY…Why? Because we talked about it and made a fluid plan.
I know what “the grumblers” and those that have never been under the duress of violent altercations will say, “kids need to follow the rules! Schools know what their doing! They have security!” “We shouldn’t have to subject kids to these kinds of talks”
First Ill ask you to contact some of the parents, at Parkland HS, Santa Fe HS, Sandy Hook Elementary School and so many others that didn’t talk to their kids about Active Shooter and what they feel like every day. The horror, the guilt the daily want to hear their lost child’s voice.
I’ll also remind those folks of the 41 school shootings in 2020 AND that herding and bunching people together in an open field is like taking lambs to slaughter, real lambs follow the leader to the slaughter house blissfully unaware that they will soon be no more… not my kid, sorry..”Fluidity of change and adaptive cognitive behavior saves your skin when bullets are looking for you”…have plan parameters, yes, but empower them (and yourself) to be willing and able to be flexible outside of those parameters.
In an effort to not get to technical and for the purposes of this article let’s keep it simple.
TALK TO YOUR CHILD
Sit your child down, even if they are just a kindergartner.
Use age appropriate verbiage but keep it simple and clear.
Begin by setting a time aside away from distractions:
Start by saying,“ I love you so much and that’s why I want to talk to you about something very important. Let’s talk about what happens if you hear shooting (anywhere, school, store, etc.) like you see on TV. It will sound like a bunch of fireworks that go on and on. Just like you see on TV or your occasional cartoons”. (video games, especially violent ones are not allowed in my home, period, they condition children’s minds into thinking that violence with high powered weapons is ok.)
Ask questions like:
Do you like your school?
Are you ever afraid? I’m afraid, its ok to be afraid sometimes.
Are there bullies at your school?
Whatever you feel is best for your particular situation.
Then go into different violence related scenarios:
What if you’re in the classroom someone comes in with a gun?
What if you’re at lunch and you hear shots nearby?
What if the shooter is trying to get into your classroom?
And so on….
Address some basic steps like the ones below.
You hear shots fire, BANG, BANG, BANG….SCREAMS, SHOUTING:
Teach your child to FIRST ASSESS what’s happening, situational awareness is everyone’s best friend in today’s violent world:
1) Is the shooter inside or outside?
2) Where is my best escape? Are they coming closer?
3) Do I see people running to me or away from me? Do I follow them?
4) Tell an adult right away.
5) If the adult has a plan, follow it.
6) No adults around, what do I do?
7) Do I RUN, HIDE or FIGHT?…or a combination of the 3?
Hundreds of scenarios will begin to come into the conversation, you don’t need an expert to tell you what to do, you need a will to live and a plan of action.
Do I RUN?
IF YOU ARE INSIDE AND YOU SEE PEOPLE RUNNING AND SCREAMING AWAY FROM YOU, JUMP OUT OF THE WINDOW AND RUN!!
DO NOT RUN THROUGH THE BUILDING OR TOWARDS RUNNING PEOPLE!
WHERES THE WINDOW? DOOR?
DONT TRY TO RUN AWAY IN THE HALLWAY.
LOCK THE DOOR IMMEDIATELY.
IF THERES NO WAY OUT, PLAN TO HIDE IN PLACE.
HIDE the last resort (in my opinion)
· PUT DOOR STOP UNDER THE DOOR.
· TURN OFF LIGHTS
· PULL THE FIRE ALARM.
· PUT DESKS AGAINST THE DOOR IF YOU CAN — FAST
· ALL PHONES ON SILENT AND DIM
· GET AWAY FROM THE DOOR AND BEHIND SOMETHING
· DON’T OPEN THE DOOR FOR ANYONE…INCLUDING IF THEY SAY POLICE!
· HELP IS ON THE WAY DON’T WORRY!
· IF YOU CANT RUN AND YOU HAVE TO FIGHT, (because in essence your already hiding in a locked classroom, RE: fluidity of change), MAKE A PLAN QUIETLY.
Everyone grab a weapon (I love fire extinguishers, the blind perps quickly and easily plus the hurt when wielded)…Johnny and Ron, you go for his legs, Sarah and Donna you grab his arms, I’ll tackle him with Sam…Ikaika you spray him with this Windex and Mary will hit him in the head…simple BUT VERY aggressive plan…remember he’s getting closer..I want to go home to mom and dad!
Explain to your kids that active shooters are like animals in the jungle, they look for the weak and easy prey, instill in them NOT to be mentally weak because they will become the prey…the Active Shooter is looking for open spaces, unlocked doors, frozen scared students….Run Hide Fight, but not always in that order.
Once the event has ceased, follow adult and ESPECIALLY law enforcement directions. Make sure that when police come that you SHOW YOUR HANDS…they are under a lot of pressure to clear the area and make sure it’s safe…they don’t know who’s who..
It’s a horrific thought and conversation to have with your children, so are conversations like drugs and predators, We must have them because the alternative is almost to scary to think about.
Most of all, start teaching your kids a mindset of strategic non-violent survival through physical and mental tools (like self-defense, de-escalation of violence techniques, situational awareness) it is a tool they will use for the rest of their lives…not only in this scenario but in life. Pne of my teachers used to pound into my head, “the best self-defense is not to be there!”
There is of course so much more to this…the important part is that you talk to your kids about it…yes it sucks and it doesn’t feel good that we have to do this….but imagine that you don’t and it happens? Going to funerals for the innocent sucks far, far worse.
Urban Street Survival Tactical System