Protecting You and Yours During a Mass Casualty Incident, by Officer Tackleberry

Unfortunately, mass casualty incidents have become more and more frequent both worldwide and here in the U.S.  A mass casualty incident takes on several names with suicide bombing, active shooter, and multi-prong attacks being the most common.  The primary goal of all of these incidents is the same: kill and maim as many people as possible while maximizing fear and chaos.

Before I go in to the details of this article, I need to provide a precursor.  I will be providing details on how you can respond as well as awareness to avoid and/or prevent being a victim of such an incident.  I learned these things through being involved in law enforcement for the past several years and being exposed to some top-notch training opportunities.  However, I am not revealing any kind secret or sensitive information.  Anything I am providing in this article is available through a variety of open sources, especially the Internet.  I am just putting it all in one convenient place.

Situational Awareness is the First Step
Situational awareness needs to become second nature for all of us.  When I walk into a place, especially someplace new, I look for three specific things:

  • Escape Routes
  • Improvised Weapons
  • Cover

Escape routes are first and foremost as the Nike Defense [running away] may be your best defense.  Even if you have your CCW permit and are carrying a weapon, it may be in your best interest to evacuate immediately, especially if your family is with you.  To quickly disseminate escape routes, look for exit signs, stairwells and the evacuation route signs that are commonly posted near the primary entrance/exit of most businesses and/or individual rooms in a building.

Unfortunately, even if you are a law-abiding citizen with a CCW permit, there are many places that you cannot legally carry a gun.  The other unfortunate outcome of not being allowed to be legally armed in a certain area is that attackers view these areas as “target-rich environments.”  One thing you can do is to always be on the lookout for improvised weapons.  One of my favorite improvised weapons to find when I go into a room or building is a fire extinguisher.  My motto is “spray ‘em with the white stuff and hit ‘em with the red thing.”  Also, be on the lookout for any kind of impact weapon or one that you can stab and slash with.

Non-improvised weapons that can commonly be carried where guns are not allowed are pepper spray, flashlights, especially the small metal ones that have the serrated edges on the end, and/or some kind of impact weapon such as a telescoping baton.  Another great impact weapon that has a tendency to “fly under the radar” is the travel wrench that was invented by Martial Arts expert Kelly Worden.  Edged weapons are also an option and one only needs to look at the clips that readily visible on the outside of pants pockets no matter where you go to know that there are a plethora of knives being carried every day.

Now, if you feel that you must and/or are forced to counter-attack the attacker(s), there are three things that you can do to maximize your potential for success.  First, always seek a position of advantage.  Being able to ambush your attacker from the side or behind is almost always the best approach.  Second, attack him when he is most vulnerable.  This is usually when he is reloading, trying to fix a weapon malfunction or focused on other targets away from you.  Third, there really is strength in numbers.  If there are 2 or 3 of you, have a plan ahead of time and decide what each person is going to do.  Several years ago, a man was shooting at the White House while walking down the roadway.  Two citizens who did not know each other quickly formulated a plan that one would hit the shooter high and the other one would hit him low.  When the shooter stopped to reload, they took him to the ground without being injured themselves.

The third part of situational awareness is recognizing and understanding cover.  You need to know what you can hide behind that will stop bullets and/or shrapnel.  One of the first things that many people think of as cover is doors.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  I know of several cases where law enforcement officers and civilians have been shot through doors, even the heavier doors that are on the front of houses and apartments.  Instead of just relying on a single thing, such as a door, think of layering.  You put multiple thick, heavy barriers between you and the threat.

Another advantage that cover gives you is a better platform in which you can effectively return fire if you have a gun and choose to do so.  A great place to use for cover is the corner of a hallway, a recessed doorway and/or a door frame.  Think about how these three areas in particular are constructed: usually heavy wood, steel, concrete and/or cement blocks.

Using proper techniques in the use of cover will help you to maximize the cover available in these areas.   The techniques that I am specifically talking about are slicing the pie and using dropouts.  An actual description of how these techniques are performed is beyond the scope of this article and there are multiple ways to do them.  I encourage each of you to seek quality training if you choose to carry a firearm and find one that teaches these techniques as well. 

Dealing with Suicide Bombers
Another method of attack that is common in mass casualty incidents is the suicide bomber.  These attacks are common in several parts of the world and the 9/11 attacks were a form of suicide bombing.  There was also an attack that was thwarted by the NYPD’s Emergency Services Unit in 1996.  If you want to learn more about this planned attack you can do a web search on the phrase “Jihad in Brooklyn”.

The reason I bring up suicide bombers is to try to provide each of you an awareness of some things to look for.  A few of the common traits are as follows:

  • Clothing that does not match the weather; specifically heavy coats or clothing in warm weather
  • Backpacks, satchels or other bag that seems heavy/overloaded, especially if you hear the sounds of metal clanking
  • Someone walking around in a zombie-like stare and is oblivious to what’s going on around him.  This person seems very focused, almost as if on a mission
  • A person who’s in that zombie-like state previously mentioned and they are now talking to them self in a low tone.  It’s possible that this person is building up their courage to follow through and/or repeating set prayers just before the attack
  • Someone who’s pale, sweaty or stuttering, as if they are extremely nervous
  • Someone who has covered themselves with massive amounts of cologne.  Many suicide bombers spend the night before their mission repeatedly bathing and applying cologne to prepare themselves to meet their virgins in paradise

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of traits and I encourage each of you to research this subject more.  Also, just because you see one or two of these traits in a single person, it doesn’t mean that this person is an immediate threat.  However, if I see several of these indicators in a person, I am getting my family and myself out of the area immediately.  Then I am calling 911 with a specific description of the person and his location.

When dealing with the possibility of suicide bomber attacks, you need to keep in mind that even a small backpack bomb or suicide vest can be lethal out to several hundred feet.  Knowing escape routes and how to recognize/use effective cover is a must. 

Also, remember the “Plus-1” rule when dealing with attackers in a mass casualty incident.  Where there is one, always expect there to be at least one more.  This applies to avenues of escape as well as where the primary attack occurs.  It’s not uncommon for there to be secondary attackers and/or bombs that are meant to kill and maim first responders and those who survived the initial attack.  If my family and I are in an area where an incident like this occurs, once we escape the primary area then we are getting clear of the area immediately around it, especially parking lots, as quickly as possible.  We can come back later to get our vehicle or any purchases.

The End Result
Please don’t think that I am encouraging any of you to actively respond to an attacker during such an incident.  There is a lot that could go wrong for you if you choose to do so with being shot by responding police officers if you have a gun out as the primary thing that could go bad for you quickly.  Have a plan ahead of time of what you would do and reasons that you would choose to respond during such an incident.  This includes how best to deal with law enforcement once they arrive.  Quality firearms and CCW classes should address this issue specifically.

I am, however, encouraging each of you to take an active role in your situational awareness and in preparing yourself and your family to deal with such an incident.

I pray for God’s Blessing on each and every one of you!