A better chance of survival

     One of the fundamentals of safety we teach our young ones is about what to do if they are on fire. Those four words — that most American preschoolers can recite if prompted — were likely taught to them by an officer or fireman during safety week: Stop, drop and roll. Public safety officials emphasize this short directive so in an emergency the simple instruction will hopefully come to mind, override emotion and minimize injuries in that critical timeframe.

     In Northern Illinois University's 2008 Emergency Guide, which it provides to students faculty and staff, I came across an interesting new directive. Though the maxim isn't as catchy, its purpose to coach citizens to minimize harm and maximize their chances of survival applies. The 21-page document (available at www.niu.edu/publicsafety) offers basic information on what to do in the event of a range of emergent situations. Under the section on shooting incidents, the guide instructs readers to evacuate or take protective cover and hide, if possible. The next contingent instruction — the part that caught my eye — states if one is not able to flee or hide, one should "then fight with everything you have in order to save your life."

     Chief Don Grady of the Northern Illinois University Police Department says this provision was added because in some cases, citizens don't know how to react when spontaneous violence erupts. He believes this instruction should be as automatic to shooting incidents as stop, drop and roll is to fire.

     In the 2009 Campus Safety Supplement (Page 31), we address that events of spontaneous and sudden violence, including active shooter confrontations, are by definition unpredictable. But as public safety officers train their community's citizens what to do if poison is ingested or if one catches on fire, it's probably time some directives on what to do in this continuing climate of shooting incidents are incorporated into citizen safety training both in campus environments and in the larger community.

     I wanted to share NIU PD and Chief Grady's message to encourage and instruct their community to fight back. In his words: "A better chance of survival is to not lay there and just pretend like it's not happening. Fight with everything you have. If you fight back, you might still be a target, but your chances still go up measurably of surviving."