Violence in America – Is Your Family Safe?

I woke up to more terror this morning like many of you and as a result I was compelled to say something in hopes to help your family, the way I look out for my own.

In the United States, in the past ten years, the majority of the mass shootings (school, church, nightclub, airport, etc.) have been home-grown killers with domestic-related issues, political/racial motives, or radical religious beliefs. We can not stereotype terrorists assuming they are from other countries, because the riveting truth is the most likely attacker will look just like you, me and people we see on the street everyday. They hide in plain sight but you might be able to identify that their movements are different, or notice something is out of place and maybe see evil in their eyes. You just have to pay attention. One thing I know for sure, no matter how some large cities might play with the numbers, violence is on the rise and is going nowhere.

All Americans must be vigilant and ready to prepare your family and yourself for the “new normal.”

For the past several months, news outlets have been bringing more attention to everything that’s happening in the White House, racial divide and whether we should take a knee or not during the national anthem. We are all distracted and they are not reporting the “seemingly” usual amounts of tragic events. I believe, it’s given us a false sense of reality, by not being informed of the violence plaguing our nation. Yes, they will give a “shout-out” to Chicago periodically, but please know violence is everywhere. And now the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history happened Sunday (10/1/2017) night in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I’m not trying to scare you as you may already be feeling overwhelmed with fear. Use those feelings to realize it’s time for change. It’s time to readjust our thoughts, actions and move towards preparedness and unity. All Americans must be vigilant and ready to prepare your families for the “new normal.” I believe, our greatest challenge is our own lifestyle. Technology and the social media seems to have made us desensitized, jaded and unaware; most people are walking around with their eyes wide shut. Our very freedom has caused us to become prime targets because we are no longer paying attention.

I grew up in a time before bike helmets, cell phones and GPS. As a child, my parents stressed avoidance of situations that could harm me. I was home when the streetlights came on, taught to be aware of strangers, dangers, and we looked out for each other. We no longer can depend on the “nosy neighbor” as he/she is now on their smart phone posting on Facebook in support of the latest hashtag phenom. We are in a time of every man for himself, when we should be looking out for all americans and our families; it’s a sad reality. Where’s the village?

As a retired a police lieutenant of 20 years with Oklahoma City Police Department I’ve taught self-defense and tactics most of my career. I was on the tactical unit for 10 years and executed over 700 drug raids running a street crime unit. In that time, and on a daily basis, I prepared my team to recon and plan for the worst case scenario. This experience and my training
made me hypersensitive to negative vibrations and I maintain a sense of readiness even after my retirement. But you don’t have to be a cop to be this way; you just have to make survival a priority.

Now, the Vegas shooting is unique with advantage the shooter had over the 20,000 person crowd. As reported by new sources, the shooter, now identified as Stephen Paddock, shot from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel into a crowd of distracted fans. This would make it difficult to know what to do. Large venues are more and more becoming a target of violence — everyone should be training their families to respond to violent encounters.

Based on my experience, here’s a few suggestions and pointers on keeping your family safe in various worse case scenarios:

Concerts/Clubs/Sports Events — The larger the crowd the more difficult it is to plan. You have to begin with seriously weighing out the decision to attend without being prepared. And if you choose to go or allow your children to go, a lot of thought should be given to your emergency plan.

  1. Gather as much information as you can about the type of event and location.
  2. Google the location and the layout of the structure. ( No map? Go to the location days ahead and make your plan. Take your kids so they know how committed you are to their safety.)
  3. Choose seats closer to exits versus the stage. (yea, this sucks but I’d rather we all go home safely) Inform your kids know how many exits are at the location and if there is a shooting how the crowd would most likely flow; most of the shootings start at the entrance so be mindful.
  4. Go to the venue a few hours early to see how added things like barricades, outdoor stages, fences and any other things used for crowd control will change your plan.
  5. Look at structures around you and other large objects that can be used as cover, to protect you from bullets if you cannot make it out of an exit.
  6. Have two “Rally Points” where you will meet your family with or without a violent encounter (the emergency rally point should be several blocks away).
  7. Plan for problems with the cell phones as everyone will be using them at the same time. If you have an iPhone, utilize “Find My Phone” and get familiar with it so you’ll be able to locate your family member(s). Check your phone carrier for similar features. Make sure phones have full charges and provide them with a secondary battery packs when attending these types of events.
  8. Provide your kids with two-way radios to carry as well in case the phone systems are overloaded and keep the other charged in your car.
  9. Create a medical pack and understand how to deal with gunshot wounds. (Seems extreme? Watch the news.)
  10. Study some other shooting events to get ideas from survivors and learn what challenges they had to face.

Remind your family that escape and running away from the gunmen should always be the first option; especially with the possibility of being trampled by a crowd. You should also know where the closest hospital is located and have a pre-planned route from both rally points. Think about the “buddy system” when going to the restroom and concession stand with a secondary plan to make it to the rally points from those locations.

Always remember to have the priority “RUN, HIDE then FIGHT.” 

Home Invasion/Burglary — One of my favorite quotes by Benjamin Franklin, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It’s really that simple. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying be paranoid, I’m saying be prepared. For years, one of my best friends and business partner has trained his wife and kids for home invasions. When their home alarm goes off in the middle of the night they react and move immediately into their action plan. They know what part of the house to meet and the oldest is responsible to hold the others near as his spouse stands guard at the top step, with her rifle, to protect the children. My partner, who has training in clearing-a-house, then does exactly that before giving the “all clear” signal. Think about someone being responsible for calling 911 and have them all practice giving the information.

  • Make sure your children know their home address and how to share with 911 operators.
  • Make sure you have your family practice making it around the home with lights off or low-light conditions because that too would be a advantage over an intruder.
  • If necessary, as not leave your family vulnerable stay in place with your family behind you and don’t separate if it possible. Give the intruder a warning that you have a firearm and will use it to defend your family. It is imperative these days to have a home action plan.

Cell phones notifications — Start to use Situational Awareness Practice and remind your family if your phone goes off (ring, text or email) you should do a few things first. I think about this every time my phone sounds an alert letting me know I have a text or an email. We are conditioned to look at our phones, use this time to train your family with this practice.

Your first move should be to look around you to see who is near (suspicious people, etc.). You should then take note of where you are (what street, etc.) and look for structures to enter if there was an emergency. This is a great habit to create and add it to your Family Safety Games.

Family Safety Games — Safety games are important to practice. This is where you challenge your children in public places (restaurants, sporting events, malls, etc.) to immediately locate secondary exits. And yes, reward them for finding the exits before you! This should become a habit so they also do it when they are not in your presence. If you are seated in a restaurant (hopefully facing the door) test them to see if they can describe the last person that entered. Think of various ways to test their situational awareness. And practice, practice, practice…

Medical training — I was an EMT for a few years prior to being a police officer and I had no idea the importance of knowing how to deal with gunshot wounds and cuts. My suggestion is that you create medical kits; and reach out to your local fire department to request training for your family or the school(s) your child(ren) attend. If they won’t do it for free, seek out experts that would conduct private classes. It might cost a little but you will be happy you made the investment if there is ever a need to save your life or that of another.

School Active Shooter Preparation — I’ve been retired for five years now and I still call my adult children to share safety lessons when I see “breaking news” or hear that someone has been killed in a school shooting incident. Once a month, see if your children, could by memory, draw a diagram of certain classrooms in school. Ask them to explain their personal plan in response to a school shooting from that classroom. Explain that even during planned fire drills by the school, look for a secondary escape routes in case the group is attacked outside. Have a designated “rally point” two blocks from the school to meet you or your spouse. Parents, talk to the school officials to find out what kind of plan they have and suggest alternative locking systems (see some options below).

Here are a few resources that could be presented to school administrators to make your child safer in an emergency:

Lastly, I want you all to know that the above information and tips are merely suggestions, as you have to come up with your own plans to save the lives of you and your family. Police officers are great first responders, they will run towards the bullets, yet they are not usually in the place where the predators plan their attacks. This is why we must take the time to reset and train ourselves for the world as it is today. Understand there are people in our own country with bad intentions and we should be ready to deal with them. Trust your gut feelings, as we are all hard-wired to pick up on dangerous situations. If your internal warning system is telling you something is not quite right, listen so you can be alive to tell the story.

These are challenging times here in the US and although we spend a lot of times on our differences, we are Americans and we are all we’ve got. Take care of yourself and do your part to make this a safer place.

My heart and prayers go out to all those affected by the recent mass shooting in Nevada.

Thank you for reading, please share with those you love and are connected to.

Be safe,