The Failure to Try

I just finished viewing one of the most powerful five-minute video clips I have ever watched.  The video features Tom Satterly who retired from the United States Army as a Master Sergeant after many years of service as a Delta Force Special Operator.  Master Sergeant Satterly was awarded six Bronze Stars for his service in combat in four countries.  His first exposure to combat was an 18-hour firefight in Mogadishu and was depicted in the movie Black Hawk Down.  At the time, this was the longest sustained continuous gun battle for American soldiers since the Vietnam War.   If you have read Staying Alive – How To Survive Deadly Encounters, you likely recall that Satterly was directly involved with the captures of both Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein.  In his new video, Master Sergeant Satterly delivers a powerful and much-needed message about how important it is for people not to fail to try when confronted with opportunity, challenges and even the seemingly overwhelming odds of survival.

Master Sergeant Satterly’s new video is even more powerful and valuable.  I urge you to take five minutes to hear a powerful and important message by watching this video  I can assure you that you will find the segment to be worth your time.

Tom also contributed to a series of free training videos on our website:

Staying Alive – Combat and Lessons for Every Day Crisis Stress from Safe Havens International on Vimeo.

All of the videos can be accessed at our “Staying Alive” resources page:

Staying Alive

Feedback from visitors to our website has been that these compelling videos have been helpful to many educators and public safety officials from around the world. Master Sergeant Satterly is scheduled to testify before the United States Congress on the topics of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how our military can better serve those like him who have allowed the rest of us to enjoy the freedom and safety that is truly unique in contrast with other democracies let alone the majority of nations.

I am thankful to Tom Satterly and the thousands of other brave men and women who serve as soldiers, police officers, firefighters, security personnel, mental health professionals, educators and other selfless professionals who sacrifice in different ways to make our world a better place.   Master Sergeant Satterly’s powerful message reminds us that we can achieve much as long as we do not fail to try.

Las Vegas Concert Active Shooter Incident Has Implications for K12 Special Events

Once again, our nation has been shocked and saddened by a tragic mass casualty shooting.  Over the course of the past year, more than a dozen members of our authoring team from the United States and the United Kingdom been conducting a massive amount of research on these types of attacks for a lengthy page university textbook Extreme Violence – Preventing and Preparing for Active Shooter, Active Killer, Terrorism and Hate Crimes.  This research verifies that America and most other countries have experienced periodic active shooter attacks.  In fact, American school attacks date back to the first active shooter incident in a Catholic school in Newburgh, New York in 1891.  Our research team has found active shooter events in dozens of countries including Argentina, Mexico, Canada, Scotland, England, South Africa, South Korea, Australia, Germany, India, Vietnam, Brazil, China, the Philippines, France and Norway to mention only a few.

While active shooter incidents have been a part of the American landscape for more than a century, this week’s unusually deadly attack indicates an increased risk level for densely crowded open-air events like football games and elementary school festivals.  While there have been several sniper attacks involving American schools in the past few decades, most of these have not received widespread media coverage.  The shooting of a middle school student by the Beltway snipers is a notable exception.  Many of the averted and successfully executed planned attacks I have worked have involved pre-attack research by the aggressors.  We also know that previous attackers have been focused on setting new records for shooting victims.  Two of the most prominent examples of this in recent times is the Sandy Hook Elementary School and the Utoya Island Norway attackers.  The Sandy Hook attacker assembled a database of more than 500 attacks from around the world and planned extensively in an effort to kill more victims that the killer from Norway.  When combined with the tendency for attackers to copy specific and successful attack methods, the deadly toll of the Las Vegas attack is cause for concern.

As I have stated for many years, there are no measures that can help the United States or any country eliminate the threat of active shooter events.  As this week’s attack demonstrated, simplistic approaches such as Run, Hide, Fight can be rendered ineffective by simple variance in attack method.  In fact, as more than 100 years of fire science research documents that people in large groups move to safety slower when they attempt to run, many current active shooter training approaches can increase the opportunity for active shooters to kill more victims by causing delays in evacuation in some specific scenarios.  There are, however, a number of strategies that have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing the risk they pose.  While there no absolutes in active shooter prevention and preparedness, there are excellent possibilities and probabilities which are worth the time, energy and fiscal commitment needed to implement them.

Clinton County School

Michael Dorn meets with advocates for the children when presenting for the Clinton County, Kentucky School District.

I had the opportunity to meet some outstanding advocates for the children when I presented for the Clinton County, Kentucky School District. These amazing people were able to teach a number of new school safety tricks to an old dog. With the school year about to start, Albany Elementary School Principal Tim Armstrong and Officer Rick Marcum took time during a busy time of year to show me an array of outstanding safety, security and emergency preparedness measures that have been implemented.

I had the great privilege of presenting for the Clinton County, Kentucky School System just before the school year started. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to present at the district’s back to school event. The district has implemented a wide array of excellent practices relating to school safety, security, emergency preparedness, climate, and culture. The enthusiasm of the staff, excellent working relationships between support staff and educators and the competence of the building and district leadership personnel made working with them a true joy.

I arrived early so I could do a brief parent presentation at Albany Elementary School. After the presentation, I spent a couple of hours touring the school with Principal Tim Armstrong and the dedicated Custodial Supervisor Michael Hood. As with every building tour I have participated in, I was able to point out some options for consideration to enhance safety, security and emergency preparedness. However, I found far more things being done extremely well than I did things that could be done better. Without question, the school’s approach to a safe, orderly and efficient flow of traffic in the mornings and in the afternoons is remarkable. Mr. Armstrong has worked with a software programmer who has extensive experience developing identification systems to develop a QR code reading system that allows school staff to rapidly scan parent identification tags as they enter the parking lot. This pulls up the parent’s photo and shows that they are on the authorized list to pick up their child. At the same time, the system cues staff in the school’s gym to bring the child to the door so they can get into their vehicle. The system combined with a loop driveway and awnings has taken a situation that used to be slow, disorganized and unsafe, and turned it into a system that is far above leading practice. As data shows that student arrival and afternoon dismissal offer the most potential for death of students and staff of any school activity, this effort is among the most practical and effective efforts to reduce the dangers associated with vehicles strikes, abduction of students by noncustodial persons and vulnerability for mass casualty acts of violence during these vulnerable times.

The next morning’s activities were absolutely awesome and I had a blast delivering my thirty-minute message set in between two extremely thoughtful and impactful audio-visual presentations (www.clinton.kyschools.us). The final audio-visual segment was an extremely well-done video depicting school district personnel as superheroes. These presentations, opening remarks by the superintendent and key staff combined with my keynote were designed to help drive home an effective and important message to all categories of employee that they all have the opportunity to be super heroes for the students they all serve. At the end of the 90-minute session, staff appeared to be fully energized and pumped up to start the new school year on the following Monday. I also had the distinct honor to meet an amazing school resource officer. Officer Rick Marcum is a dedicated veteran law enforcement and highly educated officer who has worked closely with the district to help them develop a number of the impressive practices I saw during my visit. Officer Marcum is working on his doctoral degree in education. Though I have never pursued a doctorate, I know how hard it is to attend college and work as a law enforcement officer.

From the interaction between staff, students and parents the afternoon before my presentation it is clear that the dedicated and highly-motivated men and women who make up the Clinton County School System achieve superhero status for school children on a daily basis. I feel so blessed to have been afforded the opportunity to meet and interact with the remarkable people who have built what I wish every school system could be – a place where superheroes help protect, nurture, educate and inspire those who hold the keys to our future.