51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52 The men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted and pursued the Philistines as far as the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the slain Philistines lay along the way to Shaaraim, even to Gath and Ekron.
It’s a typical Sunday, the 11:00 am service is ongoing and the information desk at our church is busy doing everything from handing out candy to answering people’s questions and praying for them. The security team leader is nearby, using his radio to verify the status of the 15 or so security team members spread across the campus.
Without warning a Caucasian man in his thirties walks up to the security team leader and shoots him in the head at point blank range with a handgun. The security leader goes down instantly and the shooter then proceeds to the information desk, furthering the carnage. He then moves directly into the sanctuary where he continues to purposefully shoot anyone within range.
The security team fails to react. The only radio traffic is from the camera operator who is urgently calling out the locations of the assailant as he proceeds through the sanctuary. One unarmed security team member is also calling out critical information over the radio. There is no reply from any security team members even though there are several armed security team members within easy reach of the sanctuary. Finally, after almost 5 minutes, the shooter is shot and killed by security as he exits the sanctuary on the opposite side from where he entered. Total casualties are 15 killed and 4 seriously wounded.
None of this actually happened! Whew! So what is this narrative about? The security (armed/unarmed) and medical teams were engaged in a large-scale simulation drill at the church. I had reserved the entire church main building in order to allow the teams to practice a variety of ‘what-if’ scenarios that would test their skills to move-shoot-communicate. We had ‘good-guys’, bad-guys’ and innocent bystanders to ensure the training was a real as we could make it. Each scenario, carried out to its completion, was followed by a session called an ‘After Action Review’ or AAR. The idea of an AAR is to discover, on an individual and group level, what was done right, what was done wrong and what could be done better.
So, let’s do an AAR of the events I described in the beginning of this post. Remember, the lenses we are viewing this training simulation through are move-shoot-communicate:
MOVE – Definition: the ability to proceed from one place to another quickly, efficiently and quietly (Slow is smooth, smooth is fast). The security team didn’t move at all. What is the problem here? Team reacted in-place to the incident and since no one was near the initial contact, no one moved. Why? The failure to react was due to ‘Mike, the Headless Chicken’.
The first thing that happened in our scenario was that the security team leader was shot (cutting off the head of Mike the Chicken or Goliath), eliminating that role/capability from the team. The effect of this loss was that everyone was waiting for direction from ‘the tower’, but none came. People hadn’t been trained to use their own initiative or take charge at the focus of the crisis. That was the bad. The good was a lone camera operator and unarmed security team member who both kept calling out the location of the shooter. The better would be to train team members to take charge locally at the scene rather than wait for instructions from a leader, who may not even be close to the occurrence, with the rest of the team keeping the airwaves clear.
SHOOT – Definition: neutralize a threat and cover each other’s movement under fire by providing supporting fire against the assailant(s).
The bad was that it took much to long to engage and neutralize the shooter. The good was that once, engaged, the shooter was put down quickly. The better would have been achieved if numerous armed team members had responded immediately and stopped the shooter from entering the sanctuary and perhaps reduced the number of casualties at the information desk.
COMMUNICATE – Definition: to relay information between the team members that is clear, concise and facilitates completion of the mission. Communication also involves not cluttering the air with unnecessary talk and tying up critical communication channel(s).
The bad here is that once the team leader was taken out of the scenario, all communications ceased and team members waited to be told what to do. The good in this situation was a camera operator and a team member who kept a constant stream of information flowing as to the whereabouts of the shooter. The better would be if the team members who were nearby, hearing the shots and then the sudden drop in communication, reacted by moving towards the sound of the gunfire, engaging the assailant and terminating the incident.
REALITY CHECK! “Everything works fine, until it doesn’t.” That was the title of the lesson the team learned from that evening’s simulation training exercise. Policies had been written, training had been conducted and roles had been established…but no one had ever taken these ideas and practices ‘out for a walk’.
All of this takes time. It takes time to build your team’s training and procedural foundation. It takes more time to build a sturdy house on that firm foundation. It then ‘behooves us’ to take what we have built and test it, to see if everything you have built will survive the storm of a crisis. If your work does not survive the storm of testing, rebuild it! Make it better! Practice and train!
Real life never goes according to plan!
Peace and strength in Jesus!