Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Securing Your Six: Teacher's Edition

Whether it's psychology, sociology, or a culture of deconstruction we fail to address what the actual problem is with the Spree Killer. Because in all frankness it is neither the before, nor the after, but the during we must contend with.

Having spent close to two decades running backgrounds, building profiles, and trying to predict what people will or won't do despite indicators to potential behavior there are no guarantees as to a "when". Let alone an "if ever" that the behavior of a solitary "known" individual will in fact act upon your predictions.

While you may possess a list of "knowns" you also have the "when's" and "where's".  Given this how can we ever expect to stop some "unknown"?

You of course can not.

"You can!" cries the arm chair expert.

Last year I had a brief opportunity to be attached to a case where a woman was murdered in her home. She had been stabbed multiple (multiple) times and then set on fire. As I walked through the burned out house I couldn't help but notice her collection of books on serial killers. She had, on some level, compiled data in her head concerning the matter yet on the night she was killed she did one very basic thing. Answered the door.

Life and death are often balanced by such simplicity.

Our problem in combating the Spree Killer is that we are facing a continual and, always up hill battle by soft handed arm chair neophytes that have embedded themselves into an ideology of self-sustaining ignorance. They are far more interested in hearing about psychological pathology that may have contributed to an incident but, has no benefit in the future to saving a life....or lives.

After the atrocity at Virginia Tech I was asked by several people what would have been a viable solution to stopping Seung Hui Cho. My answer was simple: Killing him early into his attack would have solved it rather well.

Jeff Cooper, who organized, and promoted modern pistol craft once said it best when a reporter asked him, "Mr. Cooper, won't all of this violence beget violence?". In true Cooper fashion he responded "I certainly hope so".

But for every action, there is of course, an equal and opposite reaction. In the context of which we delve here that opposite reaction is to arm everyone, all the time. It will simply never happen. Base it on the given variances of both law and regional political ideals. There is also the consideration that a fighter, the gun does not make.

A statement true for a variety of reasons.

More realistically based is what can one individual, one teacher, one principal, do against a psychopath bent on the killing of as many people and children as possible? While it is quite a noble feat to lay one's body in front of a door to stop a rampaging killer there is a far better solution, even if one appears to be unarmed in the gun sense.

The solution is not in tech but, rather in history.

"History?" you think aloud.

History indeed.

Primary Education

Whether you choose to look at Columbine, Jonesboro or Sandy Hook what you are examining are attackers laying siege to a occupied establishment, both on the large scale (a school) and the small scale (the individual classroom). It is the classroom to which we are looking at defending.

One killer against One room.

Everything begins at the door. The door is a chokepoint. That narrow gap which decreases an aggressor's ability to attack, while increasing your odds for a successful defense. Everything depends upon what does or does not happen here. Therefore THE primary concern is to prevent an active shooter from gaining entry to the room. Locking a door is a problem if the door doesn't have locks. Reasoning as to why they don't is not the objective here. Creating a solution is.

Of course the prevailing thought is to push a desk against the door. A decent piece of advice on the surface, unless the door opens into the hallway instead of the classroom.

Yet access can be denied to a room without ever locking a door, provided the hallway floors are not carpeted. A simple gallon (or two) of cooking oil poured, albeit frantically, into the hallway creates a viscous barrier that denies an attacker the ability to enter.

One need not to complicate the process. Take the lid off, tip the jug over into the hallway, stomp your foot down on to it, cover the floor and shut the door.

The eye brows have raised and now come the hands...

"What about the people down the hall? What if they can't get across?" "How would the police feel about this?" "How do we get out of the room if the hall is covered with oil?"

With all do respect to law enforcement. Their problem is not your problem. Sounds harsh but doing nothing as opposed to oiling up a hallway to prevent the loss of life is far more harsher. Yet the question of getting out of room whose main entrance is now viscous bears merit.

The answer of course is simple.

In the closet where you keep that gallon (or more) of cooking oil should also be a very large bag  (30lbs) of kitty litter and a sizable scoop (2-4 cups). When the time comes that you need to exfil apply with deftness and walk out on it.

Beyond oiling the floor one must how to barricade a door shut when no lock is present. If the door swings inward (into the classroom) something as simple as two or three non skid rubber door stops kicked under the door have essentially locked the door . One by itself might allow for a possible slip, two or three however work as fail safes. A door wedged shut can be kicked and shot with all the fury in the world but, that does not mean it will open.

Faced with a door that swings outward, rather than inward a very simple solution comprised of one or two six foot long 2x4s screwed together, two or three eye bolts inserted into the 2x4s, and three short steel cables looped at the end and secured at the other to the eye bolts is a quick fix.

The 2x4s lay across the bottom of the doorway overlapping each side of the door jamb by one foot or more, the looped end of the steel cables are slipped over the door knob. The key is not having slack in the cables. Something as basic as this can keep a door help shut long enough to buy time and save lives.

I get it. It's undignified. Somewhere in the closet is this six foot 2x4 with cables attached to that may rest there forever and you have to explain why if someone asks. Allow me explain this another way.

What you are doing is barricading. While you may find the idea of raw lumber and cable not exactly technologically advanced in the world of the smart phone, "tech" such as that kept cities, castles, and citadels safe for a few thousand years.While you may snub such a simple idea the question posed to you is this.

What do you have planned right now that prevents a gun man from entering your classroom and murdering everyone in it?

Life and death are just that basic. If an aggressor can not enter he can not win.

School for the blind

The prevailing winds are finally beginning to change in contending with the Spree Shooter. The 90s feel good advice of "hiding & cowering" has proven to be what the rest of us always knew. Fatal.

Much like the concept of  a "lock down" with no locks fails in rather short fashion the legions of ignorant peaceniks and cowards have discovered that desk chairs and hands clasped over the back of heads do not actually stop bullets.

Not long back I spoke with a woman who had been violently abused by an ex-lover and that he kept breaking into her home and assaulting her. This, despite the fact she called the police every-time and had a restraining order. When I asked her what her course of action was when this happened she said "what do you mean?" so in plain English I asked "what-do-you-do-when-he-breaks-in?".

She hid in her bathroom or the bedroom closet. I asked her if those are places she felt most comfortable dying. The doors where cheap, the closet did not lock and she kept no weapon. Her problem was a combination of both fear and willful ignorance. Finally, after much discussion I told her that she should atleast die on her feet with some sense of dignity or... she could engage him. Offering to her that the next time he broke in not to run away from him but TO him or at the very least to the kitchen, open the knife drawer and keep the biggest knife she had in her hand and throw every steak knife, paring knife, lettuce knife and butter knife at him till he fled or died.

The smoking light had been lit so to speak.

Years of fear became a grin. "What do I do if I run out of knives?" I told her to throw pots and if he advanced through the hail of kitchenware to stab him to the point of significant discouragement brought about by pain and blood loss. Of course all of this to say that a handgun would serve her much better.

While it is safe to say that most teacher's desk will never hold a butcher's block full of knives there should be conveniently parked near one of the legs or within easy reach a fire extinguisher. It should be larger enough for the individual to use freely in all manner of speaking.

While the chemistry composition of the fire retardant inside the red can is difficult, the application for our purposes is simple. Use to fire extinguisher to engage an attacker from a distance, blinding him with the foam/powder until empty or sufficiently applied.

Then beat him with the can and take the gun from him.

Lest I depart from this particular means of defense in vague terms allow me to instruct a little more precisely.

A person blinded in any kind of situation whether accidental or intentional will instinctively lower their head and raise their hands towards the face. This is self-protecting posture. When the head lowers the neck becomes exposed, as does the back of the head. Utilizing the nozzle and trigger area of the fire extinguisher as a grip area bring the base of the can down onto the neck in hard fast blows. If the neck is not exposed or the angle is wrong use the can to attack the sides of the head and face, the eyes, the nose, the mouth, etc.

These blows should be delivered repeatedly with as much power as possible. Should the moment present itself in the course of action that the gunman can be disarmed then do so. One of course should scream "DROP THE GUN" as you bludgeon. Or take the weapon from them if the fail to comply. The gun no matter what it is relies on four fingers curled around a grip. Nothing more. If the hand does not open upon request and the weapon dropped...hit with the can.

Force x Velocity

Much like one does not want to rely upon the door wedge alone, the fire extinguisher while making for a sufficient tool to blind and labor an attacker's breathing is really only fair as an impact weapon. Fortunately the world is filled with everyday items that excel as impact weapons while allowing for reasonable excuses to be in a teacher's possession.

Call it applied science, the history of hand tools, or constructive camouflage, but there are innumerable reasons for a teacher to have a short pry bar, a claw hammer, or a two foot piece of re-bar tucked away in a closet or a drawer.

In 1835 Solymon Merrick applied for the first patent on a wrench. The tool changed the course of construction history with it's grip giving mechanical advantage by applying torque in the tightening of bolts and nuts. One combination wrench I have on my work bench measures around fifteen inches long and weighs over a pound. If someone needed to lecture on the history or use of tools, for example, a wrench such as this would be ideal, due to it's size so that people seated in the back could see it easily enough.

From a perspective of defensive use the design makes it available to gain a significant grip on one end to be swung hard and fast, while it's all steel construction ensures that blows will literally crush bone and cut skin.

Much like applying the blunt force from a fire extinguisher a hammer, crow bar, wrench or re-bar does so only better. Such items allow a good purchase on the grip handle as not to be easily taken from you, while light and fast enough to deliver wicked blows in rapid succession. A foot long pry-bar can smash against the fingers wrapped around a gun, or deliver a decisive blow to the head. If the upper arm were the only target available to a teacher defending a classroom of children from a would be mass murderer, one hand is free to fight for control of the gun while the hand gripping the steel bar can crush the humerus and the clavicle in under five seconds. Elbows can be rendered inoperable upon impact.

One must understand that it is not the attacker, the killer, the would be murderer as a whole that must be defeated. A killer is only as dangerous as his hands and brain. If you begin doing systematic damage to one or both he his forced to cease an attack.

One can not will broken bone to work.

Have your cake and eat it to

I know a metal shop teacher who is forbidden by school policy from carrying a pocket knife. He has access to a dizzying array of tools, not to mention the ability to forge a sword if he so desired. Apparently there is substantial hoplophobic fear towards the Case Trapper or Victorinox Spartan that can potentially lock-down an entire school. This despite the fact both designs predate the public school system.

The war on common sense not withstanding, a teacher or parent can walk into school with a birthday cake and twelve inch butcher knife and no one will bat an eye.

Throw a party and leave the knife.

When I wrote about the after math of the Virginia tech massacre I couldn't help but wonder how many young men cowered under a desk with a pocket clip sticking out from their pants pocket. A backpack in the face and a judicious use of blade would have saved countless lives.

I see the over-acted rolling of the eyes and read your mind "You expect me to take on a gunman with a claw hammer and a butcher knife?"


Here in the 21st Century where everything is climate controlled, and for many the outdoors is walking on a gravel path as opposed to blacktop; one might be surprised to learn that the North American continent was settled by way of butcher knife and tomahawk as much as it was the flintlock rifle. Modern day New York state with all of it's nannyness was fought and lost, fought and won in hand to hand combat. Because once fired if the attacker was able to close the gap before that musket was reloaded, your great great great great granddad transitioned from gun to knife and war hammer.

A solitary gunman, despite the fact that he may have the appearance of god of war, is no such thing. Incapacitating his view with a cloud of fire retardant, then launching an immediate assault upon him with a butcher knife and claw hammer will yield in lives saved.

It is not only potentially winnable it is probable.

We must remember if these socially inferior cowards like Cho or Lanza wanted a fight they would attack a police station or call 911 and wait. Instead they want helpless victimized, terrorized targets of opportunity.  One should instead inflict a war upon them.

And I mean that quite sincerely.

Problem Solving
A large part of the problem is that we lose lives in these attacks because no one plans to fight.

Lock down is not a plan, and it's not a solution. It is a law enforcement procedure gone mainstream. The idea that a first floor classroom filled with children, with no lock on the door and no reasonable means of defense are simply supposed to wait for death to arrive is barbaric and sadistic.

Were I a teacher looking out at a school's football field, play ground or parking lot that was merely a two foot drop to the ground I would apply a chair to the window and encourage every child able to do so as well, and I would take my students and leave.

Left with no reasonable means of retreat, I would instead prepare to resist any siege and prepare to put my defense plan into action. The ones that were rehearsed at home, after school, and countless times in my head. Knowing it like any fire drill. Should the time arise. Implement it.

Hiding children in a closet, laying down in front of a door have the hallmarks of heroism without a doubt. Yet why no one would think to pile twenty (or more) desks and chairs on top of each other, along with every table available in front of the door is simply beyond me.

I understand. The profession is education not fighting. But there comes a point and time when lay people run out of excuses. Of course always will there be the cry for gun control, the weeping and gnashing of teeth to reduce the capacity of bullets capable of being fired from a gun, yet some of us seem to forget that people murdered each other long before someone thought up the rifle barrel and gun powder.

There is this resounding remark after every atrocity that invariably makes the rounds of "I don't want to live in a world where principals and teachers have to...."

You already do.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Practactical 101: Light it up

For the better part of two decades I've carried a flashlight everyday in my pocket. To the point that I can honestly say that if one where to count the hours in a race per se the flashlight would very well trump both the pistol and knife in my carrying. If only for the sake of being separated from two of those articles due to legal constraints (court rooms and airplanes).

I've walked through burned out buildings, crime scenes, tied flies to a line, read a book, cleared more than a few buildings and done all those "neat" tactical moves like they do on the t.v. , all with a flashlight between my fingers or teeth. Yet it was a power outage a few years back that taught me something really useful to do with a light.

Point it up.

If you're in the dark, inside, and not doing one of those uber cool room clears (you should practice that by the way) but, just trying to maneuver through the dark point your light straight up. This working especially well on ceilings 8-12 ft high.

What does it do that pointing it out in front of me doesn't do?

Well for starters it places your feet inside a ring of light as opposed to a shroud of darkness.

The secondary advantage is given the high lumen output on so many lights one can end up blinding others if you turn without thinking, putting your light on them. When pointed in the traditional method you get light only where the cone goes and how the beam is focused. Bounce it off the ceiling and you get the same effect of a floor lamp....wide spread illumination.

Lastly, it does one other thing. Brings about a calm to other people with you who don't have a light. The guy with the light gets to calm his heighten concerns first because the flashlight goes wherever thought's tell it to, anyone else by default is forced to observe whatever the torch bearer observes leaving them literally in the dark. With the light pointed up and three hundred and sixty degrees of illumination  provided everyone else can look where they so choose.

It may not sound like much, but moving through some dark place with a child clinging to your pant leg crippled with a fear of the dark can be at most a real problem and at the least a frustration. Thus causing your freedom of movement to be semi-impeded.

"Tactical" lights as we call them now days are phenomenal for blinding an aggressor but, day in and day out you are going to be called to use that light in everyday occurrences.

The better the illumination the safer and calmer anyone (and everyone) is going to be in an already trying and tense situation.


Our conversation had started with me asking “ So who shot you in the throat? ”, a basic conclusion on my part, b ecause on one sid...