This post is sponsored by First Defense Solutions.
I have this fantasy: I’m FINALLY in the right place, at the right time, and heroically, I stop an active shooter from spraying bullets into a crowd. Sometimes, I tackle them from behind, hauling my body over them, and wrestling away the rifle. Other times, I talk them down and convince them to give me the gun, and we walk solemnly towards the waiting police.
This is a problem.
Not just because it kinda makes me sound like a naive ego-maniac, but although I know it’s just a fantasy, there is a part of me that believes it could be true. But I’m not physically or mentally prepared to do any of that – in fact, I have no idea how I’d respond, which is equally as dangerous.
To be completely candid: I don’t need any more statistics to prove to me that the likelihood that I will be impacted, or even involved in, an active shooter situation, is closing in pretty quickly.
What is ironic, is that I have no idea how to respond to any of the above, but I am beyond prepared for the following statistically near impossible events: not getting struck by lightning, being eaten by a shark, burning alive in a fire, even winning the lottery! (That one is happening, btw. #Faith)
What I really need is to be an advocate unto myself. Why I hadn’t thought about this earlier is beyond me.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I mean, why would I want to think about it? Learning to shoot a gun, perfecting physical defensive maneuvers, not peeing my pants when it all goes down?
It was time to take control, and I was referred overwhelmingly to First Defense Solutions.
I meet co-owner Heidi Wysocki for coffee, and obviously, I’m ready to learn how to become like Jennifer Garner in that new Peppermint movie.
“I don’t have a gun, should I bring one to the training?” I spit out quickly.
Heidi sips her iced coffee and gently chuckles.
“People ask that a lot… ‘Should I bring my gun?’ Absolutely not. I’m not going to make you Chuck Norris, I’m not going to make you a ninja. I’m teaching you how to collect yourself so you can get yourself to safety.”
I’m relieved about the gun part, but a little disappointed about the omission of Chuck Norris training. Why did I even wear these special athletic training leggings?
“Active shooter training is not what we’re doing,” she begins to explain. “We begin with a course called ‘Anatomy of Fear’ where we explain what physiologically happens to you when you’re panicking. Because even professionals freeze up. This is what physically happens to you, here’s how you get out of it; To prepare you, mentally and physically, to perform the actions necessary to give you the best possible chance of surviving. Without depending on having a gun.”
I’m kinda mind blown. Why had I never thought about how my body would actually react?
She continues, “Once you hit 115 beats per minute heart rate, you begin to lose fine motor skills – which includes your trigger finger.”
“I had never thought of it like that,” I ruefully admit. She gives me a nod and I’m convinced she’s dying to say, “you and everyone else,” but she’s a bold class-act that I’m falling more in love with each minute, and she lays some pretty alarming stats on me:
- FBI research shows that 80% of active shootings occur at work.
- 40% of businesses do not reopen after a disaster occurs and another 25% fail in the following year.
- Despite this risk, 48% of businesses have no Continuity Management plan.
We haven’t even gotten to the stats on schools yet.
All of a sudden, I’m thinking again about whether I should apply for that gun permit, and I realize, it’s happening just as she said it would: I haven’t prepared my brain to respond to the ACTUAL stress and reality of the situation.
“So,” I spit out, “What? How? I mean, what is it you teach us?”
She leans in and her tone becomes serious, but soothing, and explains how she and business partner Ed Pietrowski developed their programs and training.
“We offer workable, thoughtful solutions that address all aspects of an active threat so you can lead your staff, clients, and business through a crisis and ensure optimal resiliency. Keeping you safe is our job so that you can do yours.”
I learn that includes even the most basic things, from cataloging and analyzing risks that could shutter your business after a situation, to just making sure your local law enforcement has your floor plan in case of an event.
But that’s the macro plan…A critical piece of their training is how to respond DURING the event.
“Planning for a plan to fall apart,” she explains. “To quote Mike Tyson, ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.’”
Included in that training, is a lesson aptly named, ‘Stop the Bleed’, which is exactly what it sounds like: how to stop ACTUAL bleeding. They also go into how to build a ‘go bag’ which includes all the items necessary to help a victim until paramedics can get to you.
Oh, we’ll talk ALL about those brilliant bags in another feature, don’t worry.
Suddenly, I’m beginning to feel very empowered. These are all things I can learn to do. It’s still a bit overwhelming, but not impossible. I take a deep breath.
It’s also around this time that I notice I’ve been clenching my fingers, and my nails have made noticeable imprints on my palms, all because I know it’s time talk about schools.
I prepare to ask my first question, but I haven’t gotten any less awkward or more graceful in the last 10 minutes, so I just simply blurt out, “Schools!”
Schools are a huge part of their business. And honestly, what inspired them to develop their company in the first place.
Ed, a 10 year veteran of law enforcement (both NYPD and Texas) and father of two young children, noticed a formidable gap in security and training in schools.
Having experienced 15 active shootings himself, he identified the challenges, and solutions, almost immediately.
Heidi goes on, “(So) I asked Ed, ‘What would a safe school look like?’ and together we put together a business plan.”
“The way we approach security needs to change. We’ve developed a program that’s meaningful and relatable, complementary to what they (schools) already have in place, so we can give them a more robust program. Most security plans and training focus on lockdown drills and reacting to a threat when it is already in progress. Is that enough for your school? Our onsite physical security staff is the best in the state, comprised of full-time, dedicated plainclothes officers who have all experienced an active shooting first-hand. We select only the best former law enforcement officers who have already run into the fight, knowing they will do the same for you.”
Teachers can also earn CPE credits for taking First Defense courses, which are available to all FISD.
“Wow,” I say, “I didn’t realize that this was offered in the district. Have you gotten many requests?”
She gives me a somber look and shakes her head.
My chest starts to tighten, and I can’t help but admit to her, “When my oldest started first grade, I spent the whole day crying, because all I could think about, in addition to the other victims, was that entire first grade class at Sandy Hook.”
She reminds me that Adam Lanza was a typical active shooter – a determined person, who devalued life. But we can be smarter, train ourselves to respond more thoughtfully and know EXACTLY what to do, if and when it happens.
My eyes are burning and I can’t remember ever trying so hard not to cry, and I can sense she feels the same; but we don’t need to say anything to agree that our tears aren’t a currency we can spend against this problem.