The Math of Survival

Critical Analysis of personnel actions within a scenario create the needs assessment and capitalize on the lessons learned to become Proficient. This basic formula will increase your chances of Survival.


We all know the basics: 2+2 =4, 4+4= 8, 8+8=16. Defining the output in a mathematical formula is easy, once you identify the variables. Stagnation + Complacency= Fatality. Pretty easy; right? I have had the opportunity to participate in or instruct numerous training courses. My experiences have shown that once officers receive training in a particular subject they place that training on the shelf and as time goes by forget about it. This is more prevalent with ranking officers who may not have the opportunity to apply the training that they received. For the ones who do apply their new training, often their mind set becomes very stagnant, since they have been trained and their performance very complacent, much like a mechanical function. Although this may suffice for administrative functions, operations require constant critical thinking analysis. Operations can become fluid, rapid and deadly for participants.

Active Shooter Training across the country is a standardized approach. Critical thinking skills may be overshadowed by repetition and the sense of urgency for reaction.

If an Active Shooter occurs, regardless of the type of premises, officers are trained to rush in and eliminate the threat. By all accounts, this is recognized as a best practice to save lives. However, critical thinking needs to be incorporated prior to operational deployment, if the threat is not imminent, in which the results rest on training and planning.

Tactics which require critical analysis cannot always be learned in standardized training. My experiences have shown that some of the most valuable training is by stimulating the mind with table top exercises. My experiences have shown that a Red Cell table top exercise stimulates critical thinking.

Red Cell exercises allow for half the class to strategize as the aggressor and the other half as the defender. The one constraint is that the defenders can only utilize actual resources available to them. For instance, if an Active School Shooter is the aggressor, the defenders cannot advise that they would be monitoring metal detectors if the school does not have them. If they don't have certain equipment, they cannot use it. However, the aggressor team is limited by their imagination. This challenges practical defending concepts and inspires revitalizing defensive approaches from the lessons learned portion of the exercise.

Attention to detail is the key to a successful exercise. Magnifying issues, such as, how many cartridges an officer has when entering a school (typically three magazines: one in the weapon and two on the duty belt) will cause participants to understand the importance of ammunition conservation. It will also cause the officer to drain his available resources in order to maximize survival. For instance, if an Active Shooter incident occurs and enough officers arrive to have a perimeter, the entry teams should acquire the perimeter officers' extra magazines. After all, the perimeter officers will have greater cover and mobility to protect them from a threat. These luxuries may not be afforded to the entry team; therefore, their need for abundant ammunition is critical. Meticulously highlighting each action during a table top exercise, rather than broad stroking it, is essential in revealing improvements and challenges.

Not only should officers' actions be scrutinized, but also the infrastructure of the building. Referring to an Active School Shooter, the past has demonstrated that these individuals are often armed not only with handguns but long guns as well. Active Shooters create improvised explosives to enhance their death count.

During a Red Cell table top exercise, it can become evident that soft targets exist inside a school. Chemistry rooms and Auto shop rooms provide several chemicals that can become very flammable and explosive. This ignition can be made by a small weapons round. The result would be devastating. Likewise, areas containing special needs children can become problematic to officials, not only for evacuation purposes, but if the Active Shooter targets this portion of the school.

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