21 September 2013

Know your role

When you start taking personal preparedness and protection seriously, you can quickly become overwhelmed when considering the different situations that  you could find yourself in.  The goal of this article is to share the way we attempt to simplify things to foster better judgement.

During every minute of your day, there are three things that shape your reality. To make things easier to understand we will use the example of an active shooter situation to demonstrate how the ESA Method works for every situation.  Think of it like a show or movie.  Instead of setting we use environment.

Environment-  Even as you sit reading this, you are always in an environment.  As you go through your day, think about how rapidly your environments change from being in buildings with different people, to driving through open terrain, to walking through other areas.  For the purpose of this article, you are currently sitting at your desk on the third floor of an office building.

Scenario-  Simply, what is happening.  Right now you are reading something and probably not paying attention to much else.  But imagine yourself in that third floor office.  It is a Monday afternoon at 9AM.  Just as you decide to walk down the hallway to get a cup of coffee, you hear three gunshots ring out. This is almost immediately followed by the fire alarm going off.

Actor-  Everyone in every situation has a role regardless of their willingness to participate.  As I write this, my role is simply a Dad as I sit in my comfy chair typing away as my kids are watching TV.  However in two short days I could be with you in that third floor office.  You and I bump into each other in the hallway as the shots ring out.  What is our role?  Are we NCIS investigators at the Washington Navy Yard, or are we sales associates for a marketing firm.  Of course you can see how that can change things.

Constantly be aware of not only your environment and scenario, but especially your role.  Being aware of your role immensely decreases the time it takes you to decide on your course of action.  As you consider your role, keep these three things in mind.

Buddies-  By buddies I mean who is with you that thinks the way you do and is an asset and not a liability.  

Weapons / Tools-  What tools do you have with you that could possibly be of use?  Also, what tools can be improvised?

Options-  This is the stumbling point for many.  No matter what the situation is,  people shut down and become task fixated.

So, back to the third floor office building.  You can see how the difference of being NCIS Investigators at the Navy Yard or being marketing professionals in a traditional office setting changes things as we consider our options once the shots ring out.  Let's talk about a few more scenarios.

Just last night I went to meet a buddy from my agency who is a firearms instructor so I could qualify under LEOSA.  We were in his marked unit coming down the main street on our way to get something to eat when we went through an area with eateries and other small businesses.  We were at a red light and there was a pizza shop to my right.  That was my environment.

Here is a scenario.  A guy runs out of the pizza shop right in front of our marked unit.  One of the guys that works in the pizza shop who is known to us comes out chasing him saying they were robbed and the guy has a gun.

Now roles is where it gets interesting.

Buddies-  It is not every day that I am in a marked police car with a Sergeant that I field trained when he came out of the academy.  The same Sergeant is now also the SWAT Team Leader on the team I was on.  Not to mention we are the best of friends and worked so long together we always know what the other is thinking.  He was in OD BDUs with an exposed pistol and a badge.  I was in shorts and a t-shirt with a concealed badge and gun.  He has arrest powers, but as a retired LEO, I of course do not.  Neither of us were wearing body armor.  His SWAT armor was in the trunk.

Weapons / Tools-   As I alluded to earlier, we both had sidearms.  He had a Glock 21 in 45 ACP and I had a Glock 19 in 9MM.  In the trunk was the typical SWAT toy box.  I mention the firearms here because they would be the default tool for dealing with an armed robbery. The marked unit has a radio, and we both of course have cell phones.

Before we get to what my personal options would have been, instead I will change my role in the same scenario.  The same thing happens as I am on my way to the station in my personal vehicle.  In this case I am all by myself, wearing plain clothes, covered with tattoos, with a beard.  I have been retired for over six years and have no idea if the officers from my agency will recognize me, much less the responding deputies and troopers.  So even though I am armed and it is a robbery in progress, I have no buddies and no responsibility to act.  So my best option would be to call dispatch and give the best description and direction of travel I could.  Maybe even go into the pizza shop and check for injuries since I could give better information to dispatch than a citizen.  If this same exact situation happened in an environment that I was not familiar with, I would probably call in a description and direction of travel for the suspect but not go into the pizza shop, since my unfamiliarity with the environment would limit the help I could provide.  That is how dramatically your role could change in a few minutes.  Now back to my options while in the marked unit with my buddy.

The very first thing he would have done is to call it in.  By that time, we knew that the officers working were familiar with me so he could have advised that I was with him simply by using my radio number.  I would imagine that we would have pursued the suspect in the marked car and eventually gotten out and continued on foot.  My buddy and I have cleared hundreds of rooms together and I would have gone with him, and then backed off as uniformed officers wearing body armor with other tools besides firearms showed up.

Luckily neither of these situations happened last night. I am glad because these days I am not an active duty LEO and don’t care to have my life interrupted by such things.  Whenever avoiding interruptions is possible, I do. My mindset is to remove myself from the scenario, not become the star.  Too many people train for the fantasy of becoming the star and this is in direct conflict with the primary survival mindset of avoiding all things that can do you harm.

Time and time again in force on force scenarios we see people fail to process ESA and become involved in situations where they have either no obligations to do so or simply feel the need to interject themselves into scenarios they are not involved in or are not prepared or equipped to handle.

Know your role.

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