All the active shooter events that have occurred over the past six months have resulted in a great deal of discussion about related issues ranging from prevention to response.
Not getting nearly as much attention has been conversation about individual responsibility for reducing our personal risk of harm in these situations. I believe that a major step everyone can take is to practice “situational awareness” – simply, knowing what is going on around us.
I work in a suburban three-story office building that has a large parking lot (about four acres with 500 parking spaces) and I recently conducted a simple experiment. I watched the behavior occurring between people exiting their cars and entering the building.
Not surprisingly, over 60% of the folks I observed got out of their cars and immediately took out their phones and either made calls, checked e-mail or were texting – these folks were not paying attention to their surroundings. Someone threatening could have been in the parking lot and these folks would not have noticed. Just to be sure, I tried the same experiment at a local shopping mall, and the result was consistent.
Granted, this is not scientific research, but the point here is that we don’t always pay attention to what is going on around us. Maybe by paying attention we could reduce risk by identifying potentially problematic situations.
The federal government has been pushing their awareness program, “If you see something, say something.” It’s a great strategy to identify troubling people and situations that we all should follow. But, in order for it to work, we need to practice situational awareness.