Run, Hide, Fight? Or Lock Out, Get Out, Take Out?

Mark Warren of Strategos says training has consequences.

“Run, Hide, Fight” is a popular approach to intruder response training advocated by the federal government. While something is better than nothing, Strategos International believes this approach has serious flaws that could lead to confusion, injury or even loss of life. Strategos has developed an alternate approach: Lock Out, Get Out, Take Out. Vice President Mark Warren explains the differences between the two approaches and why they matter.

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If a shooter invades your world, what would you do?

The attacks on Virginia and California highlight the difference between safety and security.

By Mark Warren
Vice President
Strategos International

The shootings in Virginia and San Francisco again demonstrate the need for all of us to be prepared for our individual safety and security.

First things first: Safety and security are not the same things. Safety refers to procedures, techniques and training that prepare us for emergency situations such as a tornado, fire or flash flooding. It could even refer to safety guards on machinery.

Security, on the other hand, deals with manmade emergencies, such as the twin shootings on Virginia and San Francisco on June 14.

Who is the first responder? It could be you.
When a crisis of any kind occurs, the people directly impacted will be the first responders. Since they are the ones caught in the crisis, they will determine their response.

If you are caught in a tornado, you may determine that your best response is to head to a lower level away from windows and wait for the danger to pass. This response is based on your level of training and knowledge. If the structure is damaged or demolished, you may have to self-rescue and extract yourself from the building. You may have to treat yourself with first aid and figure out how to get yourself to a medical facility. But what if the hospital was destroyed during the same incident?

A massive tornado in Joplin, Mo., in 2011 was an example of this. People self-rescued, then assisted their neighbors, creating teams that continued rescuing others. Because a local hospital was destroyed, the proactive response of these citizens made a huge impact on life and death.

If you don’t have training and don’t fully understand the significance of weather-related dangers, you might stay outside to watch the tornado – to devastating results. But because you (hopefully) know better, you take action to limit your exposure to the threat.

What if you were the young man in 2003 hiking in a remote area of southeast Utah? While navigating a narrow canyon a boulder shifted and trapped his arm. He was unable to move the 800-pound boulder and was trapped for five days. He finally realized that his only hope for rescue was dependent on him. After running out of water he decided he would have to cut off his own arm. He was successful in freeing himself, rappelled 60 feet to the canyon floor, and walked five miles before being spotted and rescued by a helicopter. He was the first and only first responder. If he had been unwilling to take on the role of first responder, we would have likely found his body sometime later and held a nice memorial service for him.

It’s up to us to act. Are we trained?
In a manmade disaster where a suspect causes a crisis, it will be dependent on the people on the scene – the true first responders – to react. Without training, people don’t really know how they will react. Many times we revert to our basic instinctual response – fight, flee or freeze. Any one of these responses may or may not be correct. Doing the right thing at the wrong time could end in tragedy.

Typically an untrained person will suffer from being startled and afraid, followed by the onset of normalcy bias (attempting to rationalize the crisis away). This delays response and leads to denial. Once the true impact of the crisis is understood, people are so far behind the response curve they are often frozen, leading to panic and helplessness. This delay in response, due to a lack of training, are the crucial moments that could mean the difference between life and death. Said another way: Stop staring at the tornado!

In a trained response, the true first responder will still suffer from startle and fear. But because they accept the crisis, they will begin making decisions that lead to a better outcome.

  • They enter the crisis with a healthy sense of awareness to their surroundings. This, in and of itself, may prevent the crisis before it breaks out.
  • If the crisis occurs, they accept that it’s real and do not lapse into denial.
  • They recall their training and respond immediately, preserving seconds that can save lives.

By responding faster, they lessen the exposure to the threat and decrease the likelihood of injury or death. In other words: They saw the tornado, accepted the potential for loss of life and removed themselves from harm’s way.

The attack on members of Congress
The attack in Virginia against members of Congress at a baseball practice is a good example of what we’re discussing. There happened to be police present when the attack started due to Rep. Steve Scalise’s protection detail on the scene. But even though police were there when the crisis started, there were still at least two people injured by the shooter in addition to two officers who were shot.

During the crisis, the police focus is on stopping the threat and ensuring there are no secondary threats. In this incident, we saw the people caught in the crisis providing care for the injured and applying tourniquets to wounds.

This “tornado” had the ability to move and direct his attention and anger on the innocent people he was targeting. If the police had not been present, how bad could this have been? What procedure or practice would you follow if you found yourself caught in a crisis like this?

Strategos International is prepared to assist you in your preparation for these types of incidents. We also provide assistance with high-risk terminations, investigations, threat assessments, facility security assessments and training, including crisis casualty care.

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Strategos trains Danville, Va., employees in crisis response

Critical topics included severe weather events and intruder response.

Strategos International provided training to more than 150 city employees in Danville, Va., this week, equipping them to effectively respond to a crisis.

“It was a privilege to partner with the city and we appreciate their proactive approach in getting employees ready for the challenges that come with public service,” said Vaughn Baker, president of Strategos. “Whether the event is a prolonged power outage or an active-shooter, preparation is key.”

Strategos International is a leader in training businesses, schools and churches to proactively respond to active shooters and violent intruders. The firm also evaluates facilities and overall organizational security to protect people and property.

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The Strategos Security Minute: Dare to Be Aware

Your No. 1 Security Tactic Is Not a Weapon

What’s you’re greatest security asset? It’s not a weapon. Maybe not even a camera. It’s aware and alert human beings who work in your office, plant or school. They may even be volunteers in your church. Instead of shrugging their shoulders and turning their back on people who seem to be acting strangely, these employees are trained to observe and engage. By taking a proactive approach toward awareness, most violent confrontations can be defused. Is your team trained to observe and understand body language and the marks of suspicious activity? Aware employees are your #1 security asset.

Let us know how we can be of service.



The Strategos Security Minute: Do Guns = Security?

No American institution has escaped the carnage of active shooters. Schools, churches and businesses experience gun violence, threats and other forms of assault on a routine basis. It’s a no brainer that every organization needs a security plan. But do they need armed security? And if so, what role should armed security play? What kind of training should armed security members undergo? Vaughn Baker, president of Strategos International, addresses these questions in today’s Strategos Security Minute.


Intruder Response: Filling in the Gap

By Mark Warren
Vice President
Strategos International

In this day and age in our society, there is a recurring problem as it relates to school shootings as well as workplaces, churches, and other public domains. As a society we are constantly searching for solutions and trying to identify who should be responsible for carrying out the protection, safety, and security of our children and others.

We refer to these incidents by a number of names but as a rule it is generally called an active shooter. Do words matter? Yes, and I will tell you why. Prior to Columbine you never really heard the words “active” and “shooter” together, but now it is an everyday term used by many people. These words can have a direct impact on a person’s response, either in a positive way or in a negative way. If I train you to only respond to shots fired, I may set you up for failure, meaning someone will only respond to a threat of a firearm. However, we have seen incidents where other deadly tools have been used; knives, baseball bat, tire iron, so in reality you are training to respond to the threat of a possible homicide in progress. There is not a focus on the weapon being used, but instead, focuses on the potential outcome so that you immediately recognize the threat, assess the threat correctly, and respond accordingly.

There is a buzz phrase being repeated a lot lately: “When seconds count the police are minutes away.” Having come from a law enforcement background and understanding the limitations on all officers, there is a lot of truth to that statement. It is not meant to disparage public servants because every officer I have ever known in my 27-year career wants to help, but the reality of life is simple: we cannot be everywhere at once.

The good news as it relates to law enforcement response is we have learned from our past mistakes and continue to learn. Prior to 1999, police were not really training to respond to a school shooting. It took the death of 13 students and 23 more wounded on an April day at a school called Columbine in Littleton, CO. Law enforcement did what they had been trained to do: surround the building, maintain containment, and wait for a SWAT Team. Columbine had not been the first school shooting in the U.S., but we were resistive to change. We heard comments like “that won’t happen in our town” or “that happens only in big cities,” but it was a watershed moment because the public demanded to know what we would do “if” it did happen in our jurisdiction.

So across the United States, local police officers started training to respond to a school shooting. At first, there were many different thoughts on what the training should consist of. Many focused on firearms training; others focused on small element team tactics. After many years, the overall consensus now is simply that officers understand they can no longer stand by on the outside while homicides are being committed on the inside.

On the other side of the issue, prior to Columbine, schools typically did not have any type of intruder response plan or lockdown policy. As a result of Columbine, they started formulating their plans for lockdown. Just like law enforcement, there were many thoughts and various approaches to a solution for lockdown. There was one big difference with this solution: while we conducted regular fire drills to practice our response, we did not regularly practice lockdown drills. In many ways, the various lockdown theories had not been tested, and over and over in real situations, we still refused to learn the important lessons.

This is where there is a major disconnect in our intruder response theory. Here, in the U.S., schools and police do not regularly train together or develop their response plans in conjunction with each other. Most people view this type of incident as a law enforcement response issue. School personnel did not enter this career field to train to keep an intruder out of their school; they are unarmed, generally not tactically minded or aware, etc. police officers are supposed to take care of this problem. Again, while in theory, this is probably a very accurate thought process, but I have to ask one important question: What will you do until they get here? This is what we can refer to as “the time gap.”

So, does time matter? How long will it take to get an officer on scene to your location? Yes the police are coming, as fast as they can, but there are many factors that can impact their response time. Even if an officer is on duty at a school, he has to be notified of the incident, figure out where the threat is located, respond, and find the threat and stop the threat. We will hear numbers such as 5-10 minutes, which in most cases would be pretty accurate and that does not seem bad. It isn’t bad in the perspective of every day life, but in an emergency situation, it is a lifetime. If you don’t think it is that bad, I want you to take a deep breath, now hold it …..for the rest of this article. Now we start understanding the value of time.

How do I start to bridge the “time gap?” There are several things that will play directly into your ability to respond to an incident. First and foremost, we don’t want to rely on instinct; we want to train to overcome instinct. Our body’s natural reaction to a dangerous, immediate threat will often times engages the sympathetic nervous system, the “fight or flight” response. This reaction could be extremely detrimental because we are relying more on luck than an educated response.

The second thing to be done is remove the thought of “denial” from our thinking. The thoughts of “this will never happen here” does nothing to make you safer, but only allows you to push your head further into the sand so you can’t see the problems. Once you accept risk, you can start countering the risks.

Third, you have to maintain a level of awareness anytime you are out in public, at work, church, the mall, etc. What this means is you have to listen to that inner voice that is saying, “I don’t feel comfortable right now” and trust yourself. I don’t refer to this as instinct because we have spent our entire lives developing this ability to read situations and people. Each of us has various levels of intuition based on life lessons learned through our lifestyle, background, environment(s), etc. Do not try to explain someone else’s actions away or take them for granted. This ties directly into threat recognition (I see a man with a gun, sword, knife, and I recognize the threat), and that allows me to hopefully assess the threat correctly and respond. Many times people try to explain the situation or actions away so they feel better: “Oh look, there’s a man with a gun. Oh it must be a video production.” “This must be a skit or drama” (improper threat assessment). If you are in denial and have no sense of awareness this time spent failing to understand reality, and then making an attempt to rationalize someone else’s actions is delaying your possible response. Time is everything!

I want to give you two examples of time in actual events. The first is Columbine. The first shot until the two suspects were dead was a total of 49 minutes. So in this case they had a total of 49 minutes and full, free access to the entire school, so why weren’t there more fatalities and injuries? I am not down-playing the seriousness of the loss of life but it could have been much worse. If you listen to actual 911 tapes from Columbine, you will actually hear dispatchers asking teachers if they can lock and/or barricade their doors. The lesson learned from this incident should have reinforced how lockdowns did work and will work.

The second incident to look at from a time stand point set the record for the most killed in a school shooting; this was Virginia Tech University. In this incident, there were 32 killed and 27 wounded. The shooter planned in advance for a law enforcement response by chaining doors closed. When you review the incident, you find out that the 911 call notifying police of the second shooting at Norris Hall came in at 9:46 A.M., and two SWAT Teams as well as additional police officers were on scene at Norris Hall at 9:48 A.M. Therefore, you have two fully equipped SWAT Teams on scene at a school shooting in two minutes, which has to be the best possible response imaginable. To summarize, law enforcement set the record for the best possible response to an active shooter in a school, and the shooter set the record for the most killed in a school shooting by one man armed with only handguns. Was it a failed response by law enforcement? No, the failure resulted because there was no plan for failure by the school, and once the shooting started, the faculty and students did not know how to respond. The entire incident lasted approximately nine minutes. Look at the difference in time between the two incidents: Columbine 49 minutes, 13 killed, 23 wounded, Virginia Tech nine minutes, 32 killed, and 27 wounded. Even with the decrease in time, the outcome was very different. The “true first responder” – T.F.R. is the person on the scene when the incident starts, and their response will have the biggest impact on the success or the failure more than any other single issue.

The whole lockdown process is designed to prevent access to victims and assist them in bridging the time gap until law enforcement can arrive and intervene on their behalf. They are both working together to the same end: a good outcome. To put it another way, I want you to understand that by putting a trained response plan in place that you are actually controlling the process of your response to the incident. If you can control the process, you have a better likelihood for a good outcome. You never have control over the outcome, so it is imperative to control the process and guide toward a better outcome.

Let’s take a closer look at the process of lockdown and what it entails. In the course of the last 6-7 years we have had the opportunity to train over 17,500 school personnel in 15 different states, which represents over 375 various school districts and universities. This is what we have found out as it relates to lockdown policies: most policies state to close and lock your door, turn the lights off, move to the safe area of the room, and take roll call.

In theory it sounds pretty good but these theories are usually only written for the classroom and reality is you are not in your classroom every minute of every day. So, what about when you are in the hallway during passing period? The gymnasium? The theater? Outside on the playground at recess? Also when you closely examine the classroom, you have to ask yourself how does your classroom door lock? From inside the room or from the outside in the hallway? Do you have to use a key? If I have to use a key, and I am a substitute teacher, do I even get a key? So during an emergency, you are going to have to step into the hallway, take your key, and lock your classroom door, then step inside and start the rest of your process. Not bad, unless the threat happens to be in the hallway near your classroom. This leads us to the next dilemma: what do I do if I can’t lockdown or my lockdown is failing?

Every lockdown policy should have a plan for failure, and it should be a trained response. There are many reasons to plan for failure. For example, you are in an area that cannot be locked down, you were unable or incapable of locking a door, the intruder is defeating your door or lock, etc. Most current school policies are asking you to do no more than hide from an intruder protected only by a mechanical lock. When we ask principals what their role is during a lockdown, the normal response is they walk through the hallways making sure all of the classrooms are secured. This is very admirable, but this originated during training drills and now the belief has carried over that they should do this during an actual incident. When questioned further about what they carry, we get responses that include: my radio, my cell phone; all good, but what they forget they are carrying is their keys. On that key ring is a master key to every classroom in the school, so if they are the first casualty, the intruder takes his/her keys and now every lockdown has the potential to fail. We also ask custodial staff what their role is during a lockdown. The general answer is a shrugging of their shoulders with the response that no one has ever told them, but again, they carry a master key that could provide access to every room.

We teach a very simple failure plan that is easy to remember. We call it the “3-Out Approach.” This is a system of principles that can be applied at virtually any location, and the more you etch it into your thinking, it will provide you with the best responses in a given situation. The “3-Out Approach” is:

“LOCK OUT” – Can I lock this space down and/or barricade it to prevent or delay entry to me? If I cannot lock the space down, then I automatically default to option two of the –“get out.”

“GET OUT” – Can I get out or away from the area of the shooter? It may not mean leave the building, but get around a corner in a hallway away from the threat; then re-evaluate if you can get into a space that allows you to lock down. This means be aware of secondary exit points that may be around you. It doesn’t have to be a door but could be a window even if you have to break it out. If my “lock out” and “get out” options are failing, then I am left with the last resort option-“take out.”

“TAKE OUT” – You have no other option but to fight at this point and try to direct others around you to do the same. I know the question is “what do I fight with?” And the answer is simple: what ever you have available. This could be keys thrown or used to enhance the damage done with a punch, thrown cell phones, books, cups, staplers, hole punchers. Pens and pencils can be used as a stabbing device. What gives the intruders their strength is the fact that they have the gun, but they are also hoping for the easy victim(s) willing to allow them to execute them. We are not going to tell you that you won’t be killed or injured fighting back but what other options do you have? We have a saying: “You may get beat, but get beat doing something!”

Here is a quick example of using the 3-Out approach proactively. You decide to go to a movie theater to watch a movie. As soon as you walk into the theater, you ask yourself the first of your three options: can I lock this space out? You know that is probably not a possibility because of the design of the building. Also, you are a guest and have no keys or other options. So at this point, you are left with two options: “get out” and “take out.” You choose to sit in the top row, center seat to watch the movie and as more people arrive, they fill the row beside you. By choice you have just eliminated your “get out” option. Now you understand that for the next two hours, while watching the movie if anything happens, your response will be to fight. At this point, you do a quick mental checklist on items available to fight with and enjoy the movie. By going through the process to a point of making it a habit, you are much farther ahead of the fight than you would have been.

Once you have gone through the 3-Out options, you will have to prioritize all of your other actions. Let me give you an example, which one is more important: calling 911 or barricading your door? Even if you call 911, this will not prevent the intruder from gaining access to your location. The easiest way to assist you in determining which one has priority is to break them down into two categories: EMERGENCY and ADMINISTRATIVE tasks.

Here are the definitions of both of these:

Emergency (n.): A serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.

Administrative (adj.): relating to the administration of a business, organization, or institution

The immediate actions needed as they relate to an intruder are to prevent access, have a plan for failure (3-Outs), barricading or reinforcing your lockdown, planning a get out option in case of lockdown failure, and preparing to fight.

Once the emergency tasks are completed and you feel confident you and others are safe, then we can look at administrative tasks: things like calling 911, making a list of missing and extra students, turning the lights off, treating wounded personnel.

We have covered a lot of information, and I hope I have made you think about your policy and response plans. We do believe that it is imperative to train and prepare as a “community response”. When these sad incidents happen, it affects the community from top to bottom. The shooter generally comes from the community and is known to people; he attacks a location in the community made up of children, teachers, and others who are from the community. And the immediate responders, police, fire and EMS personnel that respond are also community members. Therefore, the community will be directly impacted, have to respond to it, and recover from it. Unfortunately, it will be a long recovery process, and the truth be known: you never really fully recover.

Mr. Warren is the Vice-President of Strategos International and began his 27-year law enforcement career in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps. He has experience as an undercover operative, a tactical team member, and an instructor. He has been involved in the planning, implementation, and execution of hundreds of high-risk arrests, and spent five years with a large multi-agency task force working as an undercover operative and team leader. Mark was the Firearms/Use-of-Force Program Manager for his department.
Mr. Warren is currently a retired Sergeant from a local agency and was the 2000 Missouri P.O.S.T. Part-time Instructor of the Year.


Vaughn Baker interviewed today on FOX4 about churches’ need for security

Vaughn Baker, president of Strategos International, was interviewed live by FOX4 at one of our church security trainings in Kansas City. Click the image to watch the video.

Strategos International has trained thousands of churches, schools and businesses to create secure facilities, resist workplace violence and stop active shooters. Let us know how we can serve you.


Security 101: Should Churches Fight Back?

We’re called to be peacemakers. What does that mean for security?

By Vaughn Baker, President
Strategos International

One of the most common objections we hear about church security is that, since God will protect His own, no defense is necessary. In fact, it might just be immoral.

I am not a theologian, but I am a committed Christian and lifelong protector. I respect people’s commitment to pacifism and non-violence. In fact, I’d be delighted if my team and I – and you – never experienced another violent encounter.

But if you read the headlines, that’s simply not the reality of our broken world.

We all resist aggression
Even most self-described pacifists.

  • Do you lock the door of your church, car or home?
  • If your family was attacked at a shopping mall, would you sit by and do nothing, content to pray that the attack would stop?
  • What if you saw a dog attacking a small child? Or an elderly person?

Most pacifism, however well intended, breaks down at some point. We step up and protect the innocent if we are able because it’s the right thing to do.

Counteracting violence and defending the innocent and helpless can take many forms. It may mean calling 911, distracting the aggressor, locking a door or helping someone out a back exit so they can escape. Some people believe they should be expertly trained with a weapon, while others do not. Everyone should certainly pray.

Churches should be welcoming, but not vulnerable
Our churches, by necessity, are wide open environments where everyone is welcomed in spite of their hangups. We don’t (yet) have metal detectors or frisk people at the doors.

Almost anyone can wander inside. And after the church service has started, there’s usually no one looking at the back door.

Since this is true, we at Strategos believe churches should be – at minimum – aware and alert.

After that decision, each church and pastor is going to take a different approach. Some will opt for armed security, while others will advocate a disarmed security presence.

Church security does not mean trigger happy, untrained or unhinged volunteers, as in this story. It means being humble, aware, prayerful, mindful and responsible for the people that God has put into our care.

Whatever you decide, it can’t compromise your core mission of mercy. And it doesn’t have to.

What is the next step for your and your ministry today? Let us know how we can serve you.


Vaughn Baker: Prevail! Over an Active Shooter

Multiple options are available to train and protect your workplace now.

Vaughn Baker, president of Strategos International, recently returned from the theater debut of “Prevail!” The film is a partnership between media company Sollah Interactive and Strategos. Using a dramatic story and professional actors, “Prevail!” takes viewers into the reality of a workplace shooting. Its purpose is to train employees at businesses, schools, churches and non-profits to be more than passive survivors in the event of an active-shooter or other intruder. Want to learn more? View all of the educational options.


Vaughn Baker: Prevail! Over an Active Shooter from Strategos International on Vimeo.


Domestic violence leaves home: Is your workplace ready?

Private conflicts take wings and impact workplaces, churches and more.

By Vaughn Baker
President, Strategos International

It may seem strange that a supervisor would need to be overly concerned about an employee’s home life. The unwritten rules of the workplace state that our domestic and professional lives are separate.

Recurring headlines, however, illustrates that there is no clear separation between work, school, home or church when it comes to domestic violence.

A simmering conflict that goes unresolved at home may surface in the office parking lot, the schoolyard or the church lobby. And when it happens, there is often collateral damage in addition to the tragedy itself.

What’s the solution? Although nothing can stop all acts of violence, employers can create an environment and policies that preempt acts of violence and protect co-workers from assault.

It starts with paying attention to the mental and emotional state of employees and training your colleagues to do the same. Facility security and surveillance also play a role.

Don’t wait until a violent incident breaks out to address this all-too-real phenomenon in our society.