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,