Plan, Prepare, and Practice – It May Save Your Children’s Lives

It is a parent’s worst nightmare – the possibility of our children being in a life-threatening situation.

No matter how careful we are about keeping our children safe, there are situations that may be out of our control.

With the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, Americans across the nation are giving thanks that their children and loved ones were not in the area at the time. But tragedies like these can happen anywhere, and at anytime.

And it leaves us thinking about what we would do if we were confronted with a similar situation, and most importantly, how we would protect our children from harm.

There are many things we need to do as parents to prepare ourselves in the event we may need to protect our children in an active shooter situation such as the one in Las Vegas.

Although we are always aware of the possibility that a dangerous situation can occur, we are typically not mentally prepared for something to truly happen.

A Mother Far From Home reported on some of the reasons why we must come up with a plan:

We have normalcy bias:  Our brains are hard-wired to think things are normal. This is why bystanders and witnesses will stand frozen instead of moving into action. The brain can take a while to adjust to the idea something odd is going on. Indecision is a bad decision.

Help is not likely: Most shootings end in 2 minutes or less. This is why you must know what you’ll do before you get into that situation. You are likely the only person who can save yourself and your children.

We operate in a herd mentality:  Research has shown that when placed in unknown situations, we’ll follow the lead of anyone who appears to know what they’re doing. In an active shooter situation, this is unhelpful because we’ve already established that the large majority will freeze. The key to survival in an active shooter situation is to act fast.

In studying past shootings that have occurred in the U.S., experts say these events can be over within minutes.  There is no time to think about what action you will take, so knowing what to do ahead of time can save your family.

Begin with talking to your children to come up with a family plan.  Keep it simple.  You obviously don’t want to tell a child, “This is what we need to do if someone is shooting at us,” but you can tell them that you are coming up with a plan to stick together and stay safe if something bad happens.

Law enforcement personnel have publicized their advice on how to react in an active shooter situation:  Run, Hide, Fight, Call 911.

If you are able to run from the situation, grab your children and run away from the immediate vicinity in a zig-zag pattern.  To this end, A Mother Far From Home gives these critical tips:

Make sure your children listen to you:  I cannot stress enough that your children need to obey you. If your children don’t mind you, now is the time to fix it — and practice handling all your kids at once.

If you have several children with you when you are out, think about how you would hold onto all of them. Do not lose physical contact, and make sure everyone forms a tight group as you make your way from the scene.

You can try out different, realistic ways to hold onto your children at home until you find one you are comfortable with. By calmly explaining this is a “safety drill,” you can practice this over and over until it becomes second-nature. Just as our children practice fire drills at school, you can let them know the importance of these home drills — and that they need to stick to you like glue if you need to get out quickly.

Coming up with a code word is also important.  Make it a simple one that very young children can understand.  And if they hear Mom or Dad say that word, they must grab hold as practiced and get out.

If you cannot leave with your children, hide.  Law enforcement recommends finding a concrete wall or barrier if possible, or as thick and solid a structure as you can.  Have everyone get down on their hands and knees and be quiet.  Again, this will require practice and for children to understand that they must not make noise when you use your code word.  Experts advise against hiding in restrooms as that is one of the obvious places a shooter would look.

A Mother Far From Home suggested:

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Be between the children and danger:  Without getting paranoid or going overboard, position yourself and family near walls where danger won’t occur behind you. Being near exits and steering clear of obstacles will allow you to react by putting your children behind (or in front) of you and moving quickly. If you have a stroller or baby equipment, do not go to the back of a restaurant with a small path out.

As an absolute last resort, get a group of adults together to fight if you cannot get away.  Parents will need to think about this ahead of any dangerous situation, analyzing different scenarios.  In a public area, adults can form smaller groups – one group to shield children, and one to fight the attacker.

Above all, keep calm and do something! Your children are in danger, and the “flight” aspect of your “fight or flight” reaction is not an option.  Human beings are capable of great strength and resilience in times of danger, and any action is better than inaction.

If you panic, your children will panic and they will not stick to your plan.  Keep calm and they will follow your lead.

And a good rule to follow every day is to remain vigilant when out with your children.  Stay together and don’t allow older children to wander in different areas.  If you see something that doesn’t seem right, just leave and call 911.  Trust your instincts.

Have you thought about creating a safety plan for an active shooter situation?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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