Tragedy in Tucson: What Can We Do to Prevent and Survive This Kind of Attack?

I must admit that I am an eternal optimist and the last thing that I would do is look for trouble or live in fear of something as random as terrorism or shooting rampages. But then, a few years back when I was living in Madrid, my 16-year-old daughter happened to be in the airport terminal at Barajas airport when a ETA bomb went off, killing two and injuring over 50 people. My daughter amazingly was unscathed in large part to her quick thinking. Recently, I had an opportunity to talk with Randy Spivey, who is CEO and Founder of the Center for Personal Protection and Safety about the Tucson shootings and how best to prevent and survive this kind of horrible situation. Here is what Randy had to say:

As we move past the Arizona shootings and the tragedy itself, what can we learn from them?

Unfortunately, we've learned yet again that these tragedies can happen anywhere and to anyone. We also know that many people immediately scattered when the gunman started firing, which is a normal psychological response. But, there were three people that instantly stepped up to respond to the situation. These actions by the three individuals saved lives that day. When seconds count, there are those inside the crisis that we refer to as 'immediate responders,' that are the key to taking decisive action to limit the loss of life. This is what the training offered by the Center for Personal Protection and Safety provides, trainings that help people learn to be immediate responders.

A lot of talk has centered on the mental health of the gunman, gun control issues and blame. How do we help prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future?

In the vast majority of cases, these types of incidents don't happen "out-of-the-blue," or without "warning signs." While there is no clear cut, black and white profile of an active shooter, we do know that if individuals can recognize warning signs and receive training on how to educate themselves on how to respond, many tragic events might be averted. The real key is early recognition and a knowledgeable and empowered response. That is why in our training curriculum, we focus on both how to recognize a problem before a tragedy occurs as well as what to do in an active shooter situation.

Is there anything we can do to decrease the number of lives lost in situations like this?

Absolutely. If we can help more people become knowledgeable and empowered to immediately respond within what we call the Extreme Danger Gap, i.e. the time between the initial onset of violence and the arrival of what we term 'first responders,' -- police, emergency teams, etc. -- we know the number of lives lost will be reduced and the number injuries minimized. Our training programs are currently being used by over 40 percent of Fortune 100 corporations and more than 1,000 colleges and universities providing individuals with that knowledge and empowerment. We have several examples from people who went through our training programs, responded correctly in extreme danger situations, and as a result, lives were saved. For example, when the recent shooting took place at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., a Brigham Young University professor that went through our training program and was attending a lecture there, recognized the shots when they were fired, provided immediate instruction to others in the room who stood still and were disoriented. The professor said, "This is real gunfire! Get away from the door and spread out!" Because of his training and knowledge, he helped minimize possible casualties.
Many of us walk around with headphones on constantly checking our mobile devices unaware of our surroundings. What things should we be most aware of on a daily basis?

With the popularity of mobile phones, smart phones, iPods and other devices, people today are often very preoccupied and distracted from their surroundings, and generally unaware of what is happening around them on a daily basis. If we're going to have a safer community, we as citizens need to take more responsibility for ourselves and our surroundings. You can't be acutely aware of what is happening around you if you are solely focused on your text messages.

With our formal training, we teach people to be aware and to look for things that "Don't Look Right, " what we call a "DLR." We try to train people to take more responsibility for reporting things that don't look right, and to learn to listen to their instincts if they see something out of place. Our trainings try to bring in specific knowledge and the confidence needed in order to take some kind of action in an extreme act of violence or terror, as otherwise people generally will not have it on their minds.

When we think of terrorism, we think of threats outside the U.S. Are domestic threats on the rise? If so, what can we do about it?

Yes, terrorism, both domestic and international, is a real threat and is on the rise. Incidents like the shooting in Arizona and the recent unsuccessful bomb plot in Spokane, Washington are just two very real examples that terrorism can impact any community at any time. This is why empowering every citizen with the knowledge and awareness to recognize warning signs and, if a crisis occurs, to immediately respond and take some kind of action is so important to saving lives. We all can do three things to help ensure our own safety and the safety of others: Be engaged with our surroundings, Trust your gut feelings and act on them and DLR -- if it 'doesn't look right,' say something.

Hearing this, makes me think that I don't really have to lose my sunny perspective, but just need to be a bit more observant and certainly could benefit from a bit of training to elevate my game a bit.