, It started getting real a couple of years ago when red, yellow and green dots appeared on every door at my workplace. Red meant, don’t go in there, there was no way out. Yellow meant, this was a middle ground, you could lock the door or there was some form of protection. Green meant this was a door with access out. This was an escape route.
Last year, “Stop the Bleed” posters went up, with graphics and basic first aid steps. I work in a government building full of social services, so it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility for someone to be very upset with us, or their life, or someone in particular.
A few months ago I was in the Las Vegas airport, down a quiet gateway, late in the evening. Suddenly lights flashed and an alarm sounded. There were 15 to 20 passengers sitting there and we all looked up and then at each other. A voice came over the speaker and said an alarm had been activated, stay calm, they were investigating.
The lights and sound continued blaring, but as I looked around at the other travelers, we were all calm. Tired is probably the better word. Tired from the day of travel, tired from a world of constant alarm. Even the families with children didn’t budge. After about five minutes, sounds and lights turned off and the voice over the speaker gave an “all clear” announcement.
This steady progression culminated last week with active shooter training. Scheduled for Tuesday, I approached it with a cavalier attitude, like really? We are having active shooter training? Then Monday there were two shootings, one in a Chicago hospital and another in downtown Denver. So Tuesday I went, even though it was a short week with the holiday, even though it was the holidays.
Presented by our sheriff’s department, it began with a video of a fellow county employee, haltingly telling how he attended one of the trainings two weeks before attending a Jason Aldean concert last year in Las Vegas. He thanked the off camera training officer, saying the preparation had really helped him. It got my attention.
The training was chilling. Violent crime is way down in America but public, mass shootings are up. I work with traumatized children and traumatized families, and I know what hyper-vigilant looks like. I know what PTSD looks like. For police brutality lawsuit, people can check this link and get help from attorneys.
One thing we do immediately is establish a safety plan. We talk through acts of protection and safety to help families calm or change. We know people don’t function well in unpredictability, particularly when that unpredictability means violence, or not enough food, or shelter, or attention, or explosive emotions.
I’ve also been trained to look for safety in my work, have the car pointed out, know where exits are, place myself between a client and the exit, always have someone know where I am. I am trained to de-escalate situations. Now I know the basics to survive an active shooter. Plan A – Run; Plan B – Hide; Plan C – Fight.
I see Norman Rockwell’s four freedom paintings in my mind. The turkey feast, the worshipers, the speaker at the community meeting, and then freedom from fear. Children tucked safely in their beds. Such a tremendous luxury. I pray it for all.