Sunday, August 30, 2015

Paranoid? Guilty as charged.

Kubota had been over at Big D's house for three nights running.  He asked to stay through most of today, as well.

That took us out of our usual routine.  We went to Mass in the evening at one of the "Big City" churches.

This church has an alleyway along its west side.  Across the alleyway is a parking ramp.  The main entrance out of the parking ramp is forty-five feet away.  If folks disembark inside the parking ramp next to the stairwell they have to walk sixty feet to the church entrance.  If they disembark in the alleyway they have to walk 15 feet. This church is in an area with an active night life so there is much traffic even on Sunday evenings.

I would not have paid attention to these details except that Kubota was in a prickly state, probably from the lack of sleep and too many werewolf and monster movies.  He did not want to go into the sanctuary for the service.  He wanted to "audit" the service from the pew by the door.  I was OK with that.  Some battles are not worth fighting.  I stayed with him.

There is a half-flight of stairs going up and a half flight of stairs going down.  Immediately to the left is an elevator.

The question occurred to me: "What would I do if one or more active shooters showed up?" I would have between five and fifteen seconds to respond.  There are six hundred worshipers in the sanctuary.


Could it happen?  Yes.

Is it likely to happen in this church the evening I was attending?  No.

Will it happen in a church somewhere in America during the next year?  Maybe.  Probably.

Will it happen in some public building or arena within the next year?  Almost for sure.

Is it worth thinking about as a mental exercise....if only to hone your problem solving skills?  Yeah, I think so.

So, what was the plan?

Do you see that small, red rectangle on the extreme left of the picture?  It is a fire alarm.

I would pull it.

In all likelihood it would trigger 9-1-1 to call to verify that it had not been pulled by a kid.

It would also start fire engines and ambulances to the scene.

It would also send cops (who are likely to arrive soonest) to do crowd control, including the evacuation of worshipers.  That is one of the upsides of being in an area with a night life.  There are cops in close proximity.  I just hope that they are trained to approach "fire alarms" in public buildings as potential "active shooter" scenarios. me out on this.

Do you see the "crash bars"?

Fire safety rules require that doors on public buildings open outward.  That way, the crush of a crowd will spill them outward rather than locking up the doors.

Contrary to the current fashion which omits the belt and requires that pants sag, I wear a belt.  Actually, it is a pretty stout belt.  It is leather and it is an inch-and-a-half wide (37mm) and an honest 1/8" (3mm) thick.  It has a nickel-silver buckle.  I bought it to support a holster, although it rarely serves that function.

I would be able to pull out my belt and make two wraps of the belt through the crash handles and buckle it.  I can do it in a shade less than ten seconds if I know this is EXACTLY what I must do.  There is no time for dithering or planning.

The reason for the double wrap is because, since retiring, I have become (cough, cough) more "girthy".  Regrettable but true.  The belt needs to be double wrapped to keep the doors closed tightly enough to prevent the bad-guys from simply reaching in and undoing it.  Ideally, the buckle would be below the crashbars to limit accessibility from outside should they think to break the windows.

From the Bad Guy's standpoint

We know from after-action debriefings of active shootings that shooters go into tunnel vision.  They experience sensory exclusion.  Situational awareness goes to zero.  Peripheral vision stops working.  Hyper-focus on the threat (or target) consumes all of the actor's cognitive resources.  That becomes their weakness.

Once the bad guys start to execute their plan, they becomes extremely fragile with regard to unexpected hurdles.  These guys are not pros.  They do not have a Plan B and a Plan C.  Their natural tendency will to be to keep drilling forward or to bail.  They do not have the training to abandon that natural tendancy.

The best possible outcome would be for the bad guys to mistake the noise of the fire alarm as proof that they were busted and for them to bail out.  ERJ might have a lot of explaining to do for pulling the fire alarm.  But that is life.

The next best outcome would be for the bad guys to be hammering on the doors, AK's slung over their backs when the local cops came hauling azz up the alley way.

Secondary details

I would tell Kubota to find Mrs ERJ in the sanctuary and to get her out-of-sight.  To find an office or go down the back staircase.  Call 9-1-1 informing them of the circumstances.

Take away points

Nobody is able to come up with a viable defense plan in the five-to-fifteen seconds they might have to respond to a situation like this.  You need to have one on-the-shelf.  We like to think that we will rise to the occasion.  Most often, the best we can do is to regress to the level of training that we have mastered.

I do not glory in my paranoia.  I am sharing this should you, my readers, ever find yourself needing to come up with a plan on the speedy-quick.  I had the luxury of thinking about it for five minutes.  In a "situation" you would not have that luxury.

Stress causes everybody to drop into the primitive, reptilian brain.  That can work to your advantage if you can get ahead of the bad guys in the OODA loop, even if it is just a little bit ahead.

Yup, I am paranoid. Guilty as charged.  But once I had a plan-in-the-can I was able to hear Father Mark's outstanding homily:  

We are not made unclean by what we consume but by what comes out of us.  It is not the state of our hands that make us unclean, it is the state of our hearts and the inaction of our hands (which gives testimony to the state of our hearts) that makes us unclean.


  1. Any plan is better than no plan. 15 seconds? Not a lot of time to execute, but I'd have to agree on the fire alarm. That would at least get people up and moving, presenting moving targets rather than stable, defenseless ones...

  2. Any plan is better than no plan. 15 seconds? Not a lot of time to execute, but I'd have to agree on the fire alarm. That would at least get people up and moving, presenting moving targets rather than stable, defenseless ones...

  3. Bring your gun too.
    What struck me in your description was the walk to the building entrance from the parking garage. Transition spaces like alleys, shortcuts, parking lots,plaza's are a favorite for muggers. People are thinking about where they were, or where they will be, fussing with car keys, cell phone, etc.


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