6 Things to Do During a Violent Confrontation
Campus safety professional must be prepared both mentally and physically for violence.
BY JOONE KIM
Aside from the major stories that make newspaper headlines, numerous incidents of violence occur on school grounds that go unreported. On every campus, regardless of its size or location, there is potential for violence.
Safety is something that we can no longer take for granted. Violence does not discriminate student from staff or young from old. Past incidents have taught us to plan ahead, take preventive measures and heed the warning signs. Although there is much discussion about the importance of protecting our students and teachers against violence at school, little has been done to prepare staff physically for violent altercations.
As critical as emergency planning and site security, physical training that may save a person during a violent attack has yet to be implemented on many campuses. Talking about safety needs to be complemented by physical training that will provide the staff with the tools to protect themselves and others.
Comprehensive training begins with such basics as enhancing one's awareness of possible threats and acting proactively to decrease the chances of becoming a victims. Awareness is more than just looking around. It is a proactive mindset that involves educated observation and effective response.
The unfortunate truth is that in many cases of violence, there were warning signs and windows of opportunity where violence could have been averted. This is why it's important to learn what to look for and what preventive measures to take. However, violence, by its very nature, is unpredictable. Even when we educate ourselves to recognize potential threats, it is usually impossible to know when violence will strike.
In order to react safely and effectively, the staff should receive training on basic physical techniques they can use to defend themselves and help others. They need to know what to expect and how to react. Anyone who has been involved in a physical altercation for the first time knows the actual experience is nothing like what they thought it would be.
Regardless of the person's size or strength, one doesn't have to be helpless.
Here are six fundamentals to remember during a violent confrontation:
1. Keep your eyes open. As simple as this sounds, most people tend to close their eyes during physical altercations. Our natural reaction is to close our eyes when we think we'll be hit. We have to fight the urge and keep our eyes open. This is the only way we know what's happening so we can react effectively.
2. Watch their hands. Hands are the most dangerous part because they can kill you the fastest. They hold guns and weapons.
3. Do something. You have to do something - scream, kick or run. The worst thing you can do is to do nothing. If you let the fear or the shock of the situation freeze you, you have completely wiped out any chances of your survival. Doing something doesn't always involve something physical. Whether it's talking to the aggressor, calling the police or evacuating innocent bystanders, we can always do something to affect the situation.
4. Have presence of mind. It's easy to panic and get “tunnel-vision,” where you are focused only on what's in front of you. Fear, pain and exhaustion are just some of the factors that keep us from thinking clearly. When you have presence of mind, you are able to make decisions and act. You may even find ways to outsmart your assailant. If you stop thinking, you're giving up.
5. Don't turn your back to the assailant. Unless you have enough room to get a good head start and run away, do not turn your back. You are completely exposing yourself, and you can't see what the assailant is doing. You can't react and defend if you don't know what's going on.
6. Keep your will to survive. Never give up. The mind is capable of defying physical boundaries. We've all heard of stories of people surviving situations that would have killed a regular person. They're not superhuman nor do they possess special abilities. They just refuse to give up.
Joone Kim, says physical training provides staff with the tools to protect themselves and others
The main thing to remember during and altercation is to do something. Regardless of the person's size or strength, one doesn't have to be helpless. Hands-on training provides for and opportunity to learn and test physical techniques in a controlled and safe environment. Although it's not like the real thing, physical training offers a “taste” of what to expect. An important factor in any physical confrontation is to know one's limitations. This knowledge is critical in choosing the most effective response that is appropriate for the situation.
Because people vary is size, strength and ability, not everyone can apply the techniques in the same way. Actually trying out the techniques in important, because there is no one technique that is guaranteed to work for everyone and every time.
The techniques should be basic and close to instinctive human reactions so they are easily retained. The reality is that most people who attend physical training do not continue to practice on a regular basis. Therefore, complicated techniques, although effective, should be avoided because they require regular practice in order to be applied correctly. The best techniques is the one that you can remember when you need it the most.
An additional benefit of physical training is the opportunity for a dialogue where individual experiences can be shared. Listening to other people's experiences in how they were involved in a physical altercation, what they did, and most important, what they learned from it provides valuable insight and information. From group dialogue, innovative ideas can emerge as to how to best prepare in the future.
We can't predict when and where violence will occur, but we can prepare ourselves mentally and physically to respond effectively. As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Joone Kim, a former municipal police officer, teaches the Institute for Campus Safety's new Physical Intervention course. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about the Institute of Campus Safety is available by calling (310) 390-5277, Ext. 4.