The 3 Pillars of Survival

Lt. Joseph Pangaro, CPM, CSO

We live in a day and age when an active shooter, mass killer, or lone wolf terrorist can strike anywhere at any time, so we have to understand the potential for the danger we face individually and as a society no matter where we live.

Getting the right mindset is critical if we are to survive a violent event; taking advantage of the technology and equipment that is available to us is just as critical and something that can’t be ignored or avoided. Once we accept this premise and decide to get a survival mindset, we have already begun to increase our chances of survival during a deadly event.    

As a person who provides threat assessments for all kinds of facilities, I am often asked how to look at securing a school in simpler terms that can be easily remembered. To that end I have summed these actions up into the “Three Pillars of Survival” during a life-threatening situation like facing an active shooter, mass killer, or terrorist attack.

The First pillar is Preparation; mental and physical. We have to have a response plan and we have to practice our responses before we face danger. The first pillar is personal, you must confront your fears about being in a deadly situation and find a way to overcome that fear; this is not easy so how can we do it? One way we can overcome our fear is to visualize ourselves in a bad situation and ask what we would want to be able to do in that situation. You don’t want the first time you consider survival to be when danger shows up at your door. Preparation is all about thinking ahead to figure out what to do before it happens.

All of us need to prepare, by training, practicing, and educating ourselves on the best ways to respond to danger.    

The Second Pillar of Survival is Communication. We must be able to communicate danger to our brother and sister officers, students, and staff as quickly as possible and we must be able to exchange vital information during a violent incident.

There are many excellent products on the market today that can provide that second pillar of protection allowing us to communicate with those we protect when it is most important.

When it comes to communication, the police and other emergency services people must also be able to talk to each other; communication is the key to the best possible response; and if we who are hiding or fighting for our lives can communicate to the police then our chances of survival grow exponentially. Being able to exchange timely information in a crisis is vital to survival.

The Third Pillar of Survival is Notification. People in trouble have to be able to notify the outside world that they need help, and they must be able to do it quickly, easily, and clearly and in some cases silently.

Notification and Communication are linked in our plan for survival, and both are just as important as the first pillar, Preparation. The programs and equipment offered today are extremely reliable and cost effective, and they provide that instant and on-going communication between those fighting for their lives and those who would save them.

These are scary conversations, ones I know we all wish we didn’t have to engage in, but that is not the world we live in today. To avoid satisfying the three pillars of survival we invite tragedy into our lives and the lives of people we are sworn to protect. Avoiding this conversation and the actions required only leave us unprepared and vulnerable; all of us must get ready to react while at the same time hoping we never have to, but if we are aware and prepare, we may just survive when the violence comes.

Ill end here with a simple thought that I discuss when teaching people to prepare and survive violence. The biggest obstacle to being prepared is a thought on our part and the parts of those responsible for keeping, us, our kids, our schools, and businesses safe- that thought is this- “It will never happen here.”

That single belief, while it is based on statistical fact to a large degree, is going to get people killed. I ask my audiences all the time this simple question- “When and where will the next active shooter or deranged mass killer strike?”

To this day no one can answer that question. If they could I would go there and stop the violence and be a big hero, but that will never happen because no one knows when or where the next horrific attack will come. The only thing we can do is be prepared. The three pillars of survival are our guide; learn them, act on them and be safe.

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