BY RACHEL CHEESEMAN, FOUNDER OF STREET SMART SELF DEFENSE
While scrolling through some random Facebook posts, I came across one in particular that I had been “tagged” in. It was from my sister and she was eagerly drawing my attention to an upcoming summer concert featuring Journey and Def Leppard. Of course, the idea of attending this concert was rather exciting, as I am an avid Def Leppard fan. Like many others, I thoroughly enjoy great music on a warm summer night! But I must admit, my agenda on preparing for the trip has certainly changed in recent months. Yes we need directions, we need to know about road construction along the way, how much it costs for parking, having ice for the cooler, where to eat, where to stay if necessary--and most important, NOT forgetting our tickets! We go through great lengths to prepare our plan of action to arrive on time and also to leave efficiently when it’s over. But there’s one more critical step that we all need to start thinking about in any situation where there’s a large number of people-- how to escape the venue if suddenly a mass shooter randomly opens fire on the crowd below.
Even going to the movie theater feels different in today’s culture. Although we can’t control the actions of someone who has bad intentions, there are things we can do to maximize our safety and survival, while still having a great time. Here are 4 simple tips that can help you:
- Accept the fact that it can happen to you. I know this is a very unpleasant and frightening thought, but this is also a critical first step to any emergency action plan.
- Discuss the issue with family and friends who are attending the event with you. This is extremely important because it will help reduce panic so you can act quickly as a group. Encourage other bystanders, who may not be as prepared, to move along with you. By doing so will help reduce casualties. Remember “there’s safety in numbers”.
- Know the exits. Most venues have their layout published online. Look it up in advance and find the exits. Also, take note of the exit signs when you arrive. If you must weave through a crowd of terrified people, work your way toward the sides of the crowd rather than through the middle. By doing so will help lessen the chances of anyone in your group being trampled.
- Stay moving. If the shooter is above the crowd (such as in the Vegas shooting) it is best to stay moving. Our first instinct is to drop and place our hands over our head, but if you are in a crowd, there is no place to hide. By dropping and staying down you are only giving the shooter more surface area. It is far better to stay moving. Security experts refer to this technique as “moving off the “X”. If the shooter is at crowd level, dropping down for a short time is ok, but experts don’t recommend you stay there. Of course, if you are able to get behind something that can block fire power (such as a cement pillar) for a short time, that too is desirable. But the ultimate goal is to remove yourself from the “kill zone” as rapidly as possible.
Planning ahead doesn’t make you paranoid, it simply makes you prepared. The best way to prevent panic is to prepare for it. I refuse to live in fear and allow a select few to ruin the fun with my family and friends. In the grand scheme, mass shootings are still rare, but they’ve happened often enough to cause public alarm and widespread concern. Just look what’s happening in our schools—something practically non-existent when I was attending. A little extra pre-planning can go a long way, knowledge is power. So go out and enjoy the music!
Rachel Cheeseman is a 2nd degree black belt and has studied the martial arts for the past 28 years. She founded Street Smart Self Defense Academy in Erie, PA 17 years ago to empower women, due to the rape of her sister in her off-campus college apartment. She is a certified instructor for the national full-contact self-defense program called “Model Mugging” and a certified instructor for the MUNIO Self Defense Workshops. Rachel is also a member of and former seminar instructor for the American Women’s Self Defense Association, and she has been inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame, Action Martial Arts Magazine Hall of Honors and the World Karate Union Hall of Fame.