The Dilemma of Conditioned Helplessness in Active Shooter Incidents

We have seen several instances over the last few years of normal citizens stepping up and acting to prevent a crisis. We are now seeing stories of passengers on a plane that step up to assist flight attendants with an unruly passenger. We hear of school staff who act to intercept an armed intruder preventing countless casualties. The stories of the initiative of bystanders seems to be an obvious response to helping our fellow citizens. The good news is that this is becoming more the norm, but there is still a tendency to defer action to those in authority. This default can lead to greater casualties and loss of lives when action is needed. Taking action by sounding the alarm, empowering personnel to protect themselves with training, and providing methods of countering an attacker have demonstrated time and again to be an effective response to a threat.

The reality is that we have been conditioned for years to not do anything. Flight 93 was the exception of the four flights on 9/11. The reason is that the other three planes had all crashed and once word reached the passengers on the plane they knew they had to act. As a society when terrorists were taking control of planes the best advice at the time was to be complacent and let the authorities handle the problem. We took that advice and spread it to all areas of our lives. In our schools, workplaces, and personal lives we have been conditioned to step back and allow the authorities to handle the crisis. This has resulted in an over reliance on external forces to control a situation where early intervention can have tremendously positive results.

There is a notion that without a gun you cannot confront a hostile intruder. The best option is for law enforcement to confront a violent attacker. The police aren’t always where you need them to be. The decision to confront an active shooter in schools or workplace is a personal decision. While I would never recommend attempting to take out an armed intruder without proper training and equipment there are plenty of things that can be done to delay, thwart, and incapacitate an attacker. The biggest obstacle to accomplish this is the personal feeling that any action would be futile. The truth is just the opposite. Most attackers are not prepared for resistance. All the training and preparation provided by professionals attempts to overcome the feelings of helplessness. Regardless of the maxim you use to describe the training the most important thing to remember is that with advanced notification and readily available options there are means to stay safe in a hostile event.

The principles at SafeDefend exemplify the idea that there are proactive steps that can be taken to prepare personnel for a hostile intruder. The idea that simply locking the doors and hoping that law enforcement arrives in time has failed for generations. A fundamental change needs to occur that addresses the idea of notification, training and response options as the most critical component of protecting people. SafeDefend has been working with entities across the country that have recognized this vital premise.