Is It Vigilance or Paranoia?

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police car

I found myself in an uncomfortable position on my way to work last week. I commute 40 miles each way through heavy traffic that can move as slowly as 5 miles an hour. I was traveling at that slow pace when a car raced down the left hand shoulder chased by two state troopers. The car stopped just ahead of me and I ended up stuck next to him in the left lane with no chance to move over.

As I pulled next to the car, all I could think of were the reports of police officers being shot and my proximity to this situation. My adrenaline spiked and I started thinking about what I would need to do if trouble started. Nothing happened and I made my merry (but slow) way to work, but I continued to think about the situation.

Violence seems to be an epidemic all over the world. One can’t take security for granted in any public space. It is enough to make one want to hide under the bed, but the best way to address this risk of violence it to prepare, not panic. All of the news stories can make it appear that we live in the wild west but the probability of being a victim is low, so there is no need to panic. However, the loss given an attack can be very high, so it is important to be prepared.

Being prepared includes:

  1. Understanding that violent attack can happen to you, so try to mitigate hesitation caused by surprise.
  2. Most attacks can be avoided if you are aware of your surroundings and make conservative decisions about trouble avoidance.
  3. For situations you can’t avoid follow the following waterfall of actions. If an action is not feasible, move to the next, starting with:
    • Escape (without abandoning any people you are responsible for)
    • Find cover, not just concealment, then attempt escape or hunker down to wait it out. If you don’t know the difference between cover and concealment you should look it up. It is important.
    • Only as a last resort meet violence with violence. Remember that there are always risks in this type of confrontation.
      • You can lose the altercation and get yourself hurt or killed
      • You can be charged with excessive force if it is determined that you fought back too hard.
      • You can accidentally hurt the people around you or otherwise cause the people around you to get hurt, which you can be held accountable for.

There are some difficult decisions embedded in these situation. A big decision is determining who are the people you are responsible for. For example, if there were a class of students in the situation (even if I did not know any of them), I would consider them people I am responsible for and would not feel comfortable leaving them in danger as I escape, but I understand that there are no fixed rules, I am not superman and I won’t be saving anyone if I’m dead.

Remember that there is a difference between getting away and running away. Only you can make the decision of which is which. The point is that you need to think about what you are willing to do and for whom before you are in the situation, so you are prepared.

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