Too Calm?

As part of inservice now days, alas, teachers have to learn about “active shooters” and what to do. Do you lock the doors, turn out the lights, and hide? Do you get everyone out of the building as fast as you can? Do you try to fight the bad guy? Yes?

So we had ours, and afterwards, I got to wondering a little. Because I was nodding along, running through scenarios, considering defense strategies based on X part of the building or Y class room or Z activity. I wasn’t upset, I wasn’t shocked, or horrified. Listening to the librarian in Columbine H.S. talking to the 9-1-1 operator was sad, especially once you know what happened later in the library, but it didn’t surprise me. Does that make me strange?

Or, more correctly, does that make me stranger than average in this situation?

I’ve been gaming, hiding, and watching my back for… well, since I became the target-of-choice in junior high. Let’s call it “a while.” I tend to assume that someone is out to get me and then go from there. Once or twice, they were, either me personally or just me the warm body who happened to be in their path. That sort of experience tends to make one maintain situational awareness.

I also have the quirk of assuming the worst possible thing might happen. And then planning what to do. Terrorist attack while I’m in Germany. Fire in the mall. Nut in the school. Nut during worship. Fire in the restaurant. Tornado hitting while I’m at the library (almost did. I ended up organizing the other students to get into the basement because security had to sweep the building and get everyone moved. But I’d planned and had supplies. I was ready.) This is bad because sometimes my brain won’t quit with the “what ifs” and ties itself in knots. On the gripping hand, when the fertilizer hits the impeller, I’ve already gamed out possibilities and actions, so the time between “Oh Sh-t!” and “Out the door, now. Yes, you.” is a lot shorter.

So while I was saddened by the fact that we have to do this kind of thing, it wasn’t a shock, and having to think about emergencies isn’t a shock. I’ve done a lot of it already.

I’m not certain if that’s great, or depressing.


28 thoughts on “Too Calm?

  1. There’s nothing wrong envisioning a worst case scenario. I’ve done it since I was in grade school (bored with class and reading too many comic books in my spare time had a lot to do with that). We’ve had to undergo a lot more training since the shooting on my campus last fall. A lot of what they taught us was material I was already familiar with, but I was amazed at how many people (Ph.D.’s and grad students) didn’t seem to have the first clue about what to do in that type of situation. I now have to have every student worker’s number in my phone so I can call anyone who is working during an emergency. As much as it can be a hassle, I’d rather be prepared than not.

    • “When in fear or in doubt,
      Run in circles, scream and shout.”

      I can’t remember the source for that one – Heinlein, maybe?

        • When in danger or in doubt, run in circles scream and shout – I heard it US Navy. What it do if you were flying and got lost. Fly circle searches, and broadcast, looking for your or a ship.

          • Yep, finding the or ‘a’ ship to land on or near is kinda important when you’re blue water ops. The ocean is a rather ‘large’ place if you’re alone in an airplane… Especially when the fuel is skosh. And your planning is sadly needed even more today. Being prepared is not a bad idea.

      • I would say about the same. The room was at least 50% international, both faculty and students. The staff were mostly US born, and the majority of them have carry permits.

  2. All of the above?

    Few want to deal with uneasant or horrible facts, however, being prepared is a huge help. Chance favors the prepared mind.

  3. Are active shooters a hazard? Yes. But note that they are a low frequency, high severity event, like getting struck by a tornado. They receive much of their attention because of media coverage and how they can be twisted for political advantage.
    Besides, they are easy to stop if we are allowed to defend ourselves.

    I am much more concerned about power outages, fire, and medical problems when I’m in public than I am about mass shooters. Individual crime? Yes, mass shootings? No.

    • OTOH, they are a “sexy” hazard where the techniques that work for them work for most crimes– and folks can see that the “correct” response for normal crimes don’t work for mass shooters. (“Run and hide and do what they say so they’ll leave you alone” gets you DEAD for a mass shooter– capture folks’ imagination with that, and they’ll apply it to normal crimes, which will be a good thing in both reducing the predators and increasing the survival without serious maiming rate.)

    • Somebody in the general area getting struck by a tornado is not a low frequency event. Whether or not people personalize that… well, who knows?

      One good thing about having a big tornado hit in the area, and stay in the general memory, is that people take the weather more seriously. Areas that don’t have that collective memory are full of idiots who aren’t paying attention, or who just don’t know what to do.

      Which is why God gave me a very loud voice, and the ability to say things very loudly, like “Go to the basement! Now!” or “Get in the ditch! You can watch the swirling clouds from there!”

      (The Weather Channel has some freaking terrifying shows about tornado survival and non-survival. The most terrifying ep was probably the one about the people who were sheltering in the backrooms of a Wal-Mart, and debris fell on them and almost buried them. Seriously scary stuff.)

      (My thought was, grab a cart when you go back there, turn it upside down, and use the cart as a safety cage. But you could still get the cart being buried and trapped in debris. You’re probably better off all hiding in the back employee restroom.)

  4. I don’t know if you have the same quirk that I do, but if so…I think it’s a survival mechanism.

    When I think about something horrible like that, I don’t have the same visceral horror.
    When something horrible is happening, I don’t have the freak-out response.

    …when it’s OVER AND DONE WITH, then I can freak out. The trigger seems to be “nothing more I can do.”

    This even goes for things like “the three year old walked in holding her hands over her eye with blood pouring out.” (she nicked her eyelid just above the eye; stories of how conflict, she either stood on top of the brace of her brother’s bed and got hit in the face with the ceiling fan, or threw herself face-first into the work bench while trying to drama-queen it up, which has a metal piece built in) My breath still catches thinking about that incident, but I was calm at the time, and thinking of it in a general sense– “what if one of the kids has a major injury”– while avoiding thinking of that specific situation that I went through and could’ve screwed up, it doesn’t cause a stress reaction.

    It’s like the “normal” response is too strong, so it’s walled off and fought by planning.

    • I worry things to death before, and absolutely calm during, then get alone and shake et al after everything’s over with.

    • I too have the “do what needs to be done now, freakout later” quirk. Most memorable, I was heading to a favorite fishing spot on a Memorial Day Monday. As I was heading up country when everyone else was heading home, traffic on my side of the two lane highway was light, the other lane, however, was bumper to bumper. All of sudden some mental midget decides he has to pass a string of cars and heads directly towards me at a combined speed of over 100mph. Somehow I manage to squeeze over as far to the right as I can, deciding whether or not to dump the car into the barrow pit. Fortunately the car in the left lane squeezed over enough to the left and for a brief second we got three cars across on a road designed for two. After the event I pulled off the road and shook for a few of minutes. During the event, Time slowed down, my mind was clear, and I was doing all the right things, calculating speed, distances and clearances, afterwards I was a bowl of Jello for a few minutes.

  5. What is strange is the remarkable lack of danger that most people in the US face. Certainly there are parts that are riskier than others, but overall the threat from disease, crime, invading armies, accidents,natural disaster, and the like are remarkably small compared to history. Thus we forget what it’s like to have that visceral realization that one needs to be prepared for calamity. Then when something bad does happen it is a shock for most people, and most people are unprepared for it. People who have had the $#!+ scared out of them by manmade or natural event have rediscovered this visceral realization, and are much more amenable and motivated to be prepared for the outlying events of modern society. So all their friends and neighbors think they are those rightwing gun nuts or weird preppers with the guns and the garage full of food canisters.

  6. FWIW, I think this makes you a wise woman; someone who can stay calm in a crisis is invaluable. It means that you can save lives.

    While the rest of us freeze (physically and/or mentally), you and the other sheepdogs, can start herding us to safety.

    I fall in between sheep and sheepdog myself. In places that I frequent regularly, I have an idea of exits, routes and choke points. I know where the safe places are. (The question would be if I could get my brain to unfreeze fast enough to start my family or co-workers to safety.) In public places, not so much.

    • With cattle, there’s something more important than the cowboys and dogs and such.

      There’s a lead. Usually a cow, very rarely a bull or steer. (Only seen the last one in hobby herds, the steer is basically a pet they couldn’t bear to eat.)

      Thing is, if there isn’t a lead, or they’re going the wrong way, it takes a REALLY GOOD herdsman to get the herd basically where they want, and everybody has a higher risk of getting hurt.

      If you have a good lead, you can have any random twit on a horse encouraging the rest of the herd to move– and the lead takes over from there.

      (I was frequently that random warm body on a horse who had a vague idea of what NOT to do. đŸ™‚ )

  7. I’m trying to wrap my head around the concept that most people don’t do this.

    It’s hard to believe, but it fits observed reality and passes Occam’s razor.

    • If you’ve never had to do something, and especially not more than once “for reals,” then you’re not likely to think about it. Between being the target-of-choice for 5 and a half years, plus mild excitement abroad, plus flying for a living (“When the engine fails…. When the gear won’t come down…. When the alternator quits alting…”) It is ingrained.

  8. Not REALLY GOOD, just a Fair Hand. đŸ˜‰ Claiming you’re “good with stock” is a higher level of competence.

    Kidding aside, most of the time the herd will stay mostly together. A lead bull makes life easy, but it’s not really needed. Flank will have to occasionally chase breakaways, Wheel will be busy, but a greenhorn on a pasture plug can still ride Drag.
    But every now and then there will be a group that runs as many directions as it has cattle. And then you know it’s going to be a very long day.

  9. Advantage of homeschooling is that if something horrible happens, the gun safe is also in the classroom. Shame it is empty since that hideous canoe accident.

    Between Army training and being a medical provider by both training and vocation, you can add me to the “eerily calm while the blood is flowing, then freak out as soon as things are safe again” column. This is usually a good thing although it makes less trained folks wonder about your humanity during said bleeding crise

    In all seriousness, prepared is good, what you practice (even in your head), you can do when called upon. And the things that help prepare for the rare horrible event, also helps with the must more frequent annoyingly bad event (hurricanes vs home invasions for me, given geography, insert most common local crisis here).

  10. Long time first aid/CPR instructor and some time aid station or medical tent worker. Also had to use CPR skills (breathing emergencies) in family a couple times. One of the odd things was treating someone for shock during a first aid module – bad reaction to the bleeding segments of video. I had to care for her and send a student for backup; a quick learning activity.

    Those action principles are ingrained to the point that at hotels or conferences I look for chokepoints, exits, and rally or aid points. In an emergency, which ways are out to safety? It’s also why the laptop or business bag is heavier – small FA kit, flashlight, analgesics and antihistamines, barrier bags and sheets, local/shipped multitool, knife or blade (HATE air travel now). This was useful several times. Extra water bottle, FA kit, energy food, and map take up pack weight, but have been invaluable in handling lost hikers and treating cuts and other injuries.

    Act now, shakes later is how you save yourself and others. I’ll stick with all y’all in case of crisis. Better chance of surviving everything up to the Squirrel Apocalypse

    • If things reach the point of the Squirrel Apocalypse… Yeah, there’s really no point in worrying about what comes after that.

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