‘Duck and Cover’ is not the answer

Experts say that playing the victim can substantially decrease your survival odds in an active shooter scenario

Those of us who belong to the Baby Boomer generation remember growing up with government public service films when we were in elementary and middle school — yes I said 16mm film not video. Raise your hand if you are old enough to remember teasing the AV geek in school!

Back in the 1950s and 60s, the feds had launched their campaign of “duck and cover” — a strategy aimed to help school kids survive a nuclear holocaust by hiding under desks. When you’re 10 years old, it sounded like a great plan. Now, those old black-and-white PSAs were comical at best and misleading at worst, if their objectives were to heighten awareness.

Turn the clock ahead 50 years and we see nothing has really changed. Recent mass shooting tragedies at Virginia Tech, in a movie theater in Colorado, at a United States Army base in Texas and most recently at an elementary school in Connecticut, have elicited the traditional government knee-jerk solutions. Let’s toss out some gun control legislation that has little chance of addressing the social issues that remain the root cause of gun violence. Let’s whip the public into a Second Amendment furor that moves us even further away from civil discourse. And by all means, let’s launch a new barrage of PSAs that are about as useful as hiding under a desk to survive a nuclear holocaust.

The Department of Homeland Security, along with several state and municipal public safety groups have been busy producing public service videos arming the general population with invaluable information on how to survive an active shooter incident at their place of employment or at school.

The DHS video, “Options for Consideration” (see the video in the “related content” section to the right) recommends several plausible options for people who get caught in an active shooter situation: They should run away, take cover out of the line of fire, block the door with a heavy piece of furniture, arm themselves with a pair of scissors, or an option us old folks are familiar with, hide under your desk! No, you can’t make this stuff up.

The DHS defines an active shooter as an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area, and in most cases active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.

I was curious to see what an actual expert, who deals with active shooter scenarios and teaches countermeasures to both public law enforcement and private security officers, thought about the message these videos convey to the uninitiated. Vaughn Baker, Vice President of Strategos International LLC, was not a big fan. The veteran law enforcement officer with special tactics and S.W.A.T. expertise cautioned that although there are tidbits of credible information to be had, most of what you see could get you killed rather than save your skin.

“We are very familiar with these videos and the DHS mindset as a whole of ‘run, hide, fight’, and we are not a fan of this terminology or what they infer to the public. We believe ‘run, hide, fight’ sends the wrong message,” says Baker, who added that there is also a good deal of information provided that is conflicting with the main theme.

Baker stressed that the terminology of run and hide convey more defensive and victim-type words, with fight being the only offensive option. He said that provides a “conflicting mindset” to those who view the video. Instead of playing the perfect victim, which Baker and others who have negative reaction to the videos say is the overriding tone, his group is more a proponent of the ‘3 OUT’ principle. This stands for Lock Out, Get Out and Take Out. While some may argue that this is merely an exercise in semantics, Baker insisted there are marked differences.

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