Reader Question: “My Wife works at a school, doesn’t carry a gun, and leaves alone late at night. Ideas?”

One of my readers asked some great questions after reading the Mundane Movements Series (link 1 and link 2). Here is what Daniel M. said:

…I would love to see some insights on movement and defense at schools where guns are not allowed. My wife is a principal in a bad part of town and often works late after everyone else is gone. I assume many of the same ideas apply when headed to your car, carrying a purse, bag, etc. If you had insights on how an individual teacher/admin could defend simply one classroom from some kind of threat that would be cool too. Not a whole school/active shooter scenario, but one teacher, one class kind of thing. Or like out at recess with a class of 25 kids. (I know it’s a lot, but I thoroughly enjoy this and find it so useful!)


First, thanks for the questions! I’ll do my best to answer them to the best of my knowledge and try to base it on the information I have regarding the two questions. I’ll break it up into two posts to keep the length manageable. I’ll also stay in my lane, because bad info in these cases can prove fatal. First, I’ll discuss the unarmed ‘late night walk’ scenario for the unarmed person. The general rules don’t change regarding looking at hard corners and other hiding spots, having keys and pepper spray in hand, looking for erratic movements and unwarranted attention, etc. and all the things we talked about in those first two articles. In my mind I’m imagining that she’s exiting her school into a large parking lot with few other cars and few people, a few street lamps, a large perimeter of bushes or trees, and maybe a 200-300 yard walk to her car. If she works in an urban setting or a parking deck, she will have to tailor her plans to account for her situation. I’ll add some additional bullet points to give you and her some things to think about. Even if not all of the bullet points apply to her or if it’s slightly less dangerous than I’m assuming, hopefully there’s something she can learn from this list.

  • Just like in the Mundane Movements article, where she parks in the morning will allow her nightly departure to be much safer. Distance to the exit, street lights, ‘combat parking’, parking near cement or earthen barriers, parking away from tree lines, are all worth considering.
  • Encourage her to leave with others whenever possible. It sounds like you would encourage that if it were possible, but I’d be remiss to not mention it. There is always strength in numbers. My fear would be that someone would start to realize her exit patterns and just lie in wait. Either just outside of the exit door, or near her car.
  • Have her be aware of box vans and large utility vehicles parked near her car.
  • Upon approaching her car, have her make a large arc around her car (30 feet or so) to see the previously unseen before getting so close that someone behind the car could emerge and she would have no time to react.
  • Related to the patterns thing, if she can vary her departure time semi-randomly, that could throw off an ambush directed at her enough for her to foil it.
  • Make sure she has her cell phone charged when she’s leaving. I encourage my wife to carry her Cell Phone Mobile Battery Charger in case she’s caught with no wall outlet and a dead phone.
  • Encourage her to take a quick peek out of whatever windows she has access to before she goes bursting out into the parking lot. If she sees something out of the ordinary, she’s locked inside and has the time to figure out the best course of action.
  • Have a bright flashlight in her off hand while walking to the car (O.C. in the dominant hand). I’ll let you google what is ‘needed’ for a tactical flashlight. But suffice it to say, getting hit with a few hundreds lumens when you think you’re approaching in the dead of night can be a real OODA loop re-set. A flashlight combined with well rehearsed and confident verbalization skills, and a big can of eye-burny-goodness goes a long way to buy time for escape. The flashlight can be used to probe dark corners of buildings, between cars, inside and under her car as she approaches it, the corners of the buildings, and anywhere she wants to illuminate. There are no laws (that I’m aware of or would obey) against shining a really bright flashlight in someone’s eyes if I needed to. Light everything up!
  • When she is leaving, before she walks out into the dark of night and lets the security of the main door close behind her, have her stop in the still opened exit door and spend thirty seconds or so looking at every single piece of landscape she can see from that vantage (don’t forget behind an outward opening door). Having a flashlight with good throw (to light things up at distance) would be very useful here. She could just spend the time with a slow and deliberate sweep of the immediate area. Once she feels comfortable, she can continue to her car. If she doesn’t, she can take a step back inside and make a decision.
  • Encourage her to prop her exit door open with something like a door stop or something, temporarily, while she is on the way to her car. This way, if something happens while she is stranded between her car and the building, she has a place to run. Once she is safely in her vehicle, she can swing back to the building and pick up her doorstop.
  • Footwear. She should bring a comfortable pair of shoes to work and change before she leaves. Suggest that she take a pair of sneakers in which she can run quickly if the need arises. As The Tactical Professor says, “The road to Hell is paved in flip-flops”. I think the same can be extended to high heels or dress shoes. Mobility is life. You need to be able to move quickly.
  • Encourage her to get training in the use of O.C. (Pepper Spray). Good training will include a force on force module where she will be able to verbalize, move, and get used to ‘pressing the trigger’ on inert pepper spray against another human. I can and will make a post about my knowledge about O.C., but a blog can’t replace live training. (Edit: A teacher friend of mine pointed out that carrying any sort of O.C. on a school is strictly forbidden. I will say this. Just because you shouldn’t carry a weapon, doesn’t mean you can’t carry a weapon. I hope that’s clear. You have to make your own choices and weigh the risks and rewards)

That’s all I’ve got regarding unarmed movement late at night. I’d be interested to hear any further suggestions from readers so we can help Daniel out (and folks like him). Interestingly, my wife sometimes has to make similar movements in parking decks at her job. I’ve made similar suggestions to her, and I can only hope she’s heeding the ones that she feels are most applicable. The next post will discuss websites to read, tools, and ideas on how to secure a single classroom in the event of an active shooter (while staying in my lane and not pontificating too much).

Stay Safe and Protect the Brood,

Defensive Daddy.


Mundane Movements: Parking Lots, Part 1: Positioning and Movement INTO the Store

This post is universally applicable to the person who wants to decrease a criminal’s ability to close space and gain positional dominance via maneuver and avenues of approach, while simultaneously increasing their own ability to maintain reactionary space, preserve positional dominance and set them self up for an uneventful departure after the shopping is done.

The goal is to make predatory movements more obvious. We are looking for odd behaviors from unknown contacts. For instance, someone rapidly changing direction when you do, stopping when you do, or anything else that makes your spider sense tingle. The better we can observe and control our positioning in the public space, the more obvious a predatory movement will appear.

‘Nowhere’ isn’t the name of a bad part of town where all the crooks live, it’s where people come from when we lose our situational awareness and are task fixated by the myriad distractions we encounter daily.

With some simple games and positioning techniques, you will see more than the average iPhone fixated member of our society. You will be the harder prey, and the predators will choose to hunt those that don’t see it coming. The most likely time for an ambush (according to my private security detail friends) is when you’re either parking or leaving in your vehicle. For parents (Joe Six-Packs) like us, I would go on a limb to say that leaving is the most vulnerable time we spend in the public space. In order to have a safer departure, we can position our vehicles upon arriving at the parking lot to set ourselves up for success.

Nothing is as common place as the leisurely walk you take to the grocery store to fill your shopping cart up with the diapers, milk, and eggs you need for the week. Contemplating the next meal, it’s easy to let your mind wander. With a little one in the buggy, it’s also easy to be focused on them while trying to dodge traffic in a busy parking lot. Depending on where you live, you might find yourself shopping at a big box grocer, a gas station, a mom and pop store, whatever. You might park in an open parking lot, a dank parking deck, or next to a gas pump. I’ll lay out some best practices on positioning and parking to maximize your reactionary gap and therefor maximize the time you have to make decisions. Regardless of where you are forced to park, the guidelines are similar.

  • Picking a parking spot. This topic could be divided into several scenarios (light conditions, area of town, parking structure, etc). But really it’s not necessary. The goal should be to park in such a way that positions you as far from hard corners (e.g. dumpsters, corners of gas stations, cement pillars, stairwells) as is reasonable. When possible, you want to keep the ‘angle of threat’ to a minimum. That is, if you park far enough away from a gas station that you can see both sides of the building within your peripheral vision, you’re in good shape. You want distance from large visual obstructions that would limit your view of the area immediately surrounding your car (box vans and the like).
  • I prefer to park NEAR a cart corral now that I shop with my son regularly. The corral disallows another vehicle to park next to me, AND it is a quick walk to drop my cart off without leaving my son unattended, or making him walk with me across a busy parking lot.
  • When feasible, ‘combat park’ your vehicle. That is, back into your parking space so that when it’s time to leave, you’re driving straight ahead and can do so quickly (H/T Marc S.) Going forward is always easier than backing up, and quicker too!


  • Reminder:  I’m a realist. Ideally we would drive around the parking lot scoping for a perfect spot and mean-mugging all the people who make us feel uneasy, but eventually we just have to follow some guidelines and get on with our lives. Do your best with this and at least make it part of your considerations for day to day life. Some days there won’t be any spaces near light posts or shrub dividers. That’s OK. Use some of these guidelines. Just being aware of these principles will give you a distinct advantage.
  • Entering a store (specifically a gas station), always park at the pumps whether you need gas or not. By positioning here, you can see all of the hard corners of the building, the dumpsters, and any loiterers that look out of place. Also, Avoid RedBox DVD rentals on the outside of convenience stores. These seem to be the new ATM robbery zones. Task fixation will allow someone to ‘come out of nowhere’ and take your money, or worse.

quickmart front

Upon entering a store, make a direct line to the deepest corner of the store. Turn around and take a quick view of who is there, where they are, and what they’re doing. Don’t need to be obvious, just give it a few seconds. You’ll notice quickly if something is out of place. Look for the main bad guy and possibly a seeded back-up guy. They’re cowards and often run in pairs. Make it a game and eventually it won’t feel like a chore. Then, shop as normal.



  • When parking in a large open parking lot, some similar rules apply. When possible, park near light posts (especially in the dark) as well as cement/bush dividing areas. You’ve eliminated an easy approach from a flank and you will quickly realize if someone is circumventing the natural obstacle to close distance with you. You also will have the time to maneuver yourself to keep cars between you and an unknown contact. You have all but eliminated 180 degrees of approachable avenue and increased your reaction time as well as your ability to determine if someone is up to no-good.

shrubpark light

This post is more generic in that it applies to anyone. Not just parents with children. The same principles should be used regardless of who you have with you. Having your partner (spouse, significant other) with you makes these logistics much easier. More ‘switched-on’ observers help to increase avoidance and de-select you as potential prey.

The next installment of this topic will include how to get back to your vehicle after the shopping is done.

If you find any useful info in this rambling, please share it with your friends and encourage them to share. I just want to get this information out there because I want people to think and keep themselves and their families safe.

NOTE: Inspired by material from (Craig Douglas, Claude Werner, The Total Protection Interactive Hive-mind)