Running to Trouble

Not in the sense of “Oh great, here comes So-and-So, we’re doomed.” You’ve probably met those people, the ones that somehow can make any situation worse just by walking up and saying, “Hi! What’s up?”

No, I’m thinking of people like the men in the video from Israel, the ones who, as soon as they confirmed that no more pieces of debris or rockets were landing on the block, ran toward the remains of the bus that got hit by a rocket. They were not firemen, didn’t have emergency medical supplies in their hands, but they ran toward trouble. (I suspect that they had some form of First Aid and trauma care skills, because of their military service, but they were not official first responders.)

For whatever reason, I seem more inclined to move toward trouble than to freeze or to flee. That is, once I’ve determined that the best response is not “get the heck away from [developing problem here] and try to encourage others to leave as well.” The few times I’ve been needed, at least temporarily, it’s been to direct traffic (literally), point people to safety and then keep them calm, act as a voice-activated pair-of-hands (“here, hold this until I ask for it. Good.”) or provide information. “This way to the closest exit, that way to the exit with the ramp, the medical people are over there, there’s no traffic over that way.” Sometimes just standing quietly and assessing the situation is enough to get other people to slow down and reduce anxiety. Not always, but sometimes.

It seems to be a combination of personality and training. Not just emergency situation training, like the guys in Israel probably had, but “duty to help.” If you can help, then help. If the best thing to do is to stay out of the way and keep others out of the way, then do that. If departing rapidly is called for, then do so and encourage others to depart with you (push, pull, kick-in-rump, cajole, whatever works.) All of which requires being able to assess a situation and determine if help, shoo people, or just leave is the best way to contribute. For whatever reason, my personality is such that I tend to stay calm during the interesting event, deal with the immediate aftermath, then shake. Probably in part because I game so many things out in advance. Normal people don’t sit in their classroom thinking “OK, if [horrible thing] happens, what’s my first response? Second response? What if I’m here when interesting thing happens?” That sort of thing, thanks be, is rarely needed, but it’s there. I’ve gamed out possibilities and considered options, so that when Something Did Happen, I was cool, calm, and more annoyed than anything. (That was two nights in a row I didn’t get much sleep. Then my apartment complex got a flash flood the next day. Some weekend THAT was.)

I wonder, though, if we are going to see fewer and fewer people who run towards trouble. Legal liability, lingering fear of disease (even when really unwarranted), preoccupation with documenting instead of doing, more and more social emphasis on “wait for authority/experts to tell you what to do” . . . I hope not, because society needs people who are willing to run to trouble, people who can calm a situation, clear a path for the firetruck or ambulance, or do other things.

32 thoughts on “Running to Trouble

  1. One of the great tragedies of modern terrorism is that terrorists have learned to plant second (or even third and fourth) bombs, in an attempt to kill or injure emergency responders. That makes it very dangerous to “run towards the sound of the guns” by trying to help the victims of (say) an explosion, because one doesn’t know whether there may be a follow-up blast designed to kill you if you do. Those follow-up bombs also make the lives of the “official” emergency responders much harder, by increasing the scale of the incident, and also by forcing them to be more cautious in their approach to the scene. That, in turn, can lead to lawsuits from the families of victims (“My relative wouldn’t have died if you’d moved more quickly!”).

    It’s a mess all round. Ask me how I know this . . .

    • Alas yes. It’s hard to underestimate how cunning evil (or terribly misguided) people can be when it comes to “how bad can we make this for THOSE people?”

    • It isn’t like the tactic is original to terrorists. Look at the tactics of the Dresden bombing during WW2.

    • Get people where they’re easy to hit, and then do so.


      If you can fake being a first responder, and then kill other first responders, before you die– then you make it so folks are more likely to die in friendly fire, too.

      “Confusion to my enemies.”


  2. That’s the unspeakable part of surveying the scene. There may be a likely location or blast line for follow-on charges, to cause damage or throw fragments into people. It’s another learned skill, to walk into one danger zone while looking for a possible next danger.

    • Yes. I was thinking more along the lines of everyday trouble. If you smell gas, darting into the basement to see what the problem is counter-indicated. If a bomb just went off (as opposed to “things are no longer falling from the sky”), sometimes hesitation is the best choice for all involved, as hard as that may be.

      • I read somewhere a while back that instead of the usual “DO something!” the response should be “Do nothing! Yet…” while you assess the situation.

  3. Need more coffee before I can say anything intelligent. 😉

  4. “For whatever reason, my personality is such that I tend to stay calm during the interesting event, deal with the immediate aftermath, then shake.”

    That’s me, too – though sometimes “immediate aftermath” is a day or two, as when my brother-in-law was murdered. That was on a Monday. Tuesday, I spent all day on the phone dealing with creditors and other official stuff. Wednesday … yeah. I was useless.

    It’s a very useful personality quirk to have, even if it makes some people (e.g., other in-laws) think we’re a bit cold.

    • I’ve noticed the “shaking like crazy” borderline non-functional is when there’s nothing effective to do.

      In the middle of things, and nothing I can do? Shaking.

      Things are mostly fixed, but I can still DO something? Not shaking, am doing.

  5. The day of the good samaritan is at an end… sigh… Now it’s who has the best video of the tragedy and who can post it first. Peter is also correct, although we haven’t seen much of that here.

    • Don’t buy into it.

      The original Good Sam was a total unexpected freak, at much higher cost– the only thing that changed is that some of those 20 folks standing around doing nothing now take video.

      Taking video can be a help, too– if you can do nothing else, video is GOOD.

  6. I just heard from an old family friend. Her son-in-law, a veteran of the Israeli navy (5 kids,) just got called up for reserve duty.
    SAR. He was glad to go; he wanted to do something. His unit will be serving less than 75 miles from his home.

    Here’s a video with an amazing collection of cantorial talent singing an arrangement of the prayer for the State of Israel that’s said in many Orthodox and Conservative synagogues every Shabbat

    The original text is in the video posting; here’s a translation:

    Our Father in Heaven, Rock and Redeemer of Israel, bless the State of Israel, the first manifestation of the approach of our redemption. Shield it with Your lovingkindness, envelop it in Your peace, and bestow Your light and truth upon its leaders, ministers, and advisors, and grace them with Your good counsel. Strengthen the hands of those who defend our holy land, grant them deliverance, and adorn them in a mantle of victory. Ordain peace in the land and grant its inhabitants eternal happiness.

    Lead them, swiftly and upright, to Your city Zion and to Jerusalem, the abode of Your Name, as is written in the Torah of Your servant Moses: “Even if your outcasts are at the ends of the world, from there the Lord your God will gather you, from there He will fetch you. And the Lord your God will bring you to the land that your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will make you more prosperous and more numerous than your fathers.” Draw our hearts together to revere and venerate Your name and to observe all the precepts of Your Torah, and send us quickly the Messiah son of David, agent of Your vindication, to redeem those who await Your deliverance.

    Manifest yourself in the splendor of Your boldness before the eyes of all inhabitants of Your world, and may everyone endowed with a soul affirm that the Lord, God of Israel, is king and his dominion is absolute. Amen forevermore.

    • Thank you for posting the link and the translation. I’ve added your friend’s son-in-law to my prayer list, along with the IDF and the people of Israel. (And the innocents being used by evil as shields.)

  7. I surprised the hell out of myself, running straight toward a hazard at one of my daughter’s school events, when a very strong and sudden gust of wind blew over one of the pop-up pavilions at a school event, and sent the pavilion bowling across the parking lot straight for a group of girls – and my daughter wasn’t even one of them. I dropped everything and ran straight toward toward the pavilion – I guess that I thought I could stop it rolling. Didn’t even think twice, just ran, which surprised me considerably. I never thought I was one of those who would run straight into a hazard.

  8. more and more social emphasis on “wait for authority/experts to tell you what to do”

    I’m reminded of the incident in England where a man drowned in less than a foot of water because the authorities “hadn’t been trained in aquatic rescue”–but of course were prepared to stop any civilians from risking getting wet up to their mid-calves in order to turn this guy over and drag him somewhere where he could breathe.

    • CANDY!!

      … uh, that is, great news. About a quarter of the way in. Very good reading, and a good juxtaposition of two despotic systems (Lord Ivan and Houston)

  9. The thing is, you can have both impulses.

    In my old apartment, I smelled smoke, investigated, found the smoke source, pounded on the door, and woke up the guy whose fried chicken was burning. Another time, we had an actual fire, and I helped people get out. I’ve also helped with tornado danger. I know what to do.

    OTOH, there was one occasion when someone claimed to be all right, and I left them alone at their insistence, and that person ended up dying. I didn’t see any signs that the situation was that bad, and I didn’t understand why I ended up bizarrely afraid in my apartment after leaving the person there. And that person died. So I must have detected something wrong to be so afraid for no reason, but I had no idea what was going on or why I reacted that way. I still don’t know. The whole thing was inexplicable, and I still don’t understand it. (Although I suppose that if I feel that way again, I need to stick around and look sharp for Bad Medical Stuff.)

    And yeah, sometimes flight and freeze are the correct impulses.

  10. > Normal people don’t sit in their classroom thinking “OK, if [horrible thing] happens,

    “Normal people” don’t think of themselves as *responsible.* Mostly, they’ve been told all their lives to stand back, do nothing, wait for Someone Else to eventually show up and take over.

    “There’s us. We’re the cavalry. We’re the last defense. If not us, who?”
    — Sarah Hoyt, accordingtohoyt 02/22/17

    • Agreed.

      Tons of evidence shows, we need to MAKE this normal, for the best outcomes.

      Folks freeze when faced with the unthinkable.

      So…. get them to think about how to fix the unthinkable. Arm them with mental maps.

  11. Pingback: Prayer for Israel – Head Noises

  12. For a couple of years in a row, I had two disable students. One was a quadraplegic and one had cerebral palsey. Both were in wheelchairs. The woman who was the quadraplegic had a personal nurse who was a big dude, former Army nurse, so I figured he would take care of his patient. The other kid, we had a fire alarm and some guy who was coordinating told me that if we had class on the second or third floor that I should take kid to stairwell and leave him there, firefighters would rescue him. I decided right then and there that that was not an option We got back in the classroom and I stopped teaching for a few minutes. Told the class what I’d been told and we as a class worked out how to get kid out of classroom in case of real fire.

    After that, I figured out escape routes from every classroom I taught in, and my office. I went into every meeting knowing where the closest exit was. We had a shooting on campus, turned out to be a drug deal gone bad, but I figured out how to get out and away from my building and away from campus.

Comments are closed.