Scene Safe

On the first day of EMT class the instructor asked us “Who is the most important person at the scene of either a medical or trauma event.”

Random student-“The victim.”

Instructor- “Wrong”

Random student- “Whoever is hurt.”

Instructor- “Wrong”

Random student- “The dude bleeding on the ground.”

Instructor- “Wrong” “The most important person is you.”

I looked at TSM and he looked at me. As a Marine the idea that he would put himself first was. not. computing.

The classroom began buzzing…”Why are we there if not to help?” “It seems pretty selfish to be more concerned about myself?” “I can’t just do nothing.”

I found it interesting that the prevailing thought was the idea that to be concerned about your own safety was selfish.

It is a lie we have been told not only about our own lives, but about those who are in positions to help us.

We are taught by a large portion of society that we should not harm anyone even to protect ourselves and also that the police, fire, first responders, etc. should risk their own lives at all cost to save us. We are taught dependance.

EMT training does not work on this principal. They work on the idea that while you are there to help, you can’t do squat if your hurt or dead. Good point.

The way they drill this into our heads is to force us to say, every time we approach a medical or trauma event “Is the scene safe?” And each instructor constantly repeats “This is not your emergency.”

This is not your emergency means you, the EMT, is not having the heart attack, dizzy spell, neck injury. You, the EMT is there to help and you can’t do that if your worked up with adrenalin pumping through your body. If an EMT approaches a scene and doesn’t take the time to be sure it is safe then it is entirely possible that not only will the original person not get immediate help, but now the EMT is also in need of assistance. Two patients instead of one. This is what is known in the EMT world as not a good thing.

This idea of “Not your emergency” got me to thinking about guns, gun owners and training.

After an event like the shooting that took place in the Colorado movie theatre I read lots and lots of commentary  from Conceal Carry folks that amounted to them claiming they would have saved the day. Whether they have the skill or not isn’t for me to say, but I remember thinking, would I do that? Would I put my life on the line for some person I don’t know in a theater, restaurant, bank…

Not just drawing my gun in defense of my life, but actively engaging a bad guy when I didn’t have to. For example, I am in the theatre, I have my gun on my hip, I hear shots and I see people going down. If I am right by an exit do I run out or do I stay and try to end the threat on behalf of my fellow movie goers?

I carry a gun for one purpose. That purpose is to up my chances of staying alive should I be attacked and forced to defend myself. My life, my chances, for defense. Now, that word “my” most definitely extends to my husband, children, and other folks that I care about.

If a person breaks into my home or my car and tries to do me harm, things are gonna get sporty. Can’t say exactly what I would do because each situation is different and while I think these things through and have a plan, I also recognize there is no way to know for sure how it will all play out. What I do know is that the plan will involve me actively fighting for my survival.

If I am walking into a local convenience store and as I open the door and I see what appears to be a robbery in place, what do I do?  Now, I am not going to hop in my car and go home, but am I going to try to go back in, risk my life and try to take down the bad guy??? I have an answer to that situation. I know what I would do, do you know what you would do?

Is it selfish not to intervene? If you do and in the process save the day, but die, will your being selfless be much comfort to your spouse, parents, kids?

When a life is at stake be it on the scene of a car accident or due to a crime taking place most of us can not fathom doing nothing.

I think as part of any responsible self defense training one should seriously exam scenarios where he/she is not the primary victim and mentally work through the risks and emotions of both intervening and not.

Choosing to carry a gun is a very personal choice and is a huge responsibility. There is more to consider than just you one on one with a bad guy.

I have a clear idea in my head of when I believe I would intervene. I am not going to get into specifics because it doesn’t matter. Each of us has to decide for ourselves where that line in the sand lies, but you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t take the time to prepare for those possibilities.



29 thoughts on “Scene Safe

  1. Well written! This question/scenario has loop-played through my mind quite often. The thought of attempting to actively engage someone shooting back @ me scares the beejees out of me, especially if they are not specifically shooting @ me or mine! Many of the anti-s attitude is “don’t defend me, you might shoot me instead”. I can live with that, but I don’t have a crystal ball.
    One thing that I dwell on is not so much dying as being hurt, maimed for life, a vegetable, a paraplegic, a quadriplegic, any life-altering injury, permanent or semi-permanent. Many people jump to the “life or death”, outcome but there are usually many more wounded than dead people. This is thanks to the medical field & it’s advances.
    It is truly a great question to ask yourself and dwell upon (not obsess). Not soul searching & ignoring this question it truly a disservice to everyone, especially yourself & your family.

  2. This is a quandary for those who have conditioned themselves to run towards the sound of gunfire, but the EMT instructor is absolutely correct…you can’t help anyone if you are dead in a ditch.

  3. The way it’s always been ingrained around here (and that includes the fire service, btw) is, “Me. Us. Them.” (That’s order of safety; incident priority is life before property.)

    My personal safety is number one on a scene. Why? Because the best way to make everyone else safe is to Fix The Problem. If I do something stupid and get myself in a jam, a lot of people are going to be diverted from Fixing The Problem to Saving His Dumb Ass.

    Parallel with that: risk a little to save a little. Risk a lot to save a lot. I’ll take all kinds of risks to save a life; I won’t risk much at all to save “stuff”. Barn fire? Just make sure it doesn’t spread. House fire? Read the fire, make a strong attack if you can, but don’t lose a person fighting for a house. House fire with entrapment? Risk a lot.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And “Thank you” to your instructor, also – for putting the idea so firmly into your head, although you already had worked this out in your head as it applied to self defense.

    This is but an extension of the “Sheepdog, Sheep, Wolf” crapola that has been popular with the keyboard commandos for way to long. Col. Grossman did us all a giant disservice by wrting that essay, for the only herd I am going to accept unquestioning responsibility for is my own. I’m not paid to run to the sound of the guns and take out some active shooter, but I am paid (yes – think about it) and responsible for protecting my own should they get close to an active shooter. Mostly that will mean moving them away from the area, not leaving them somewhere (supposedly behind cover) and eliminating the threat by opposing it – that threat gets eliminated just as effectively by leaving it behind, and usually a lot quicker, safer and efficiently.

    And yet after making sure that my herd is taken care of I am quite likely to give you the shirt off my back to try and help you. But that is a whle lot different than risking my life for you. Make sure my herd is safe, then make sure I am safe. After that we can discuss what I can effectively do to help you. That is not being selfish at all.

    stay safe.

  5. Before I’d consider intervening in a 3rd party dispute I’d have to know who the players were. I would have to absolute certain who the bad guy was and who the good guy was. Otherwise, I’m just going to dial 911 and be a good witness.

    In an armed robbery scenario, it would depend on the scenario. Hopefully I could find a way out without firing a shot. I’m not going to war over someone else’s money.

  6. Firefighters, EMT/Paramedics and LEO personnel, have i been critically injured or lost their lives over the years by being in too much of a hurry to respond and failing to properly assess the scene. The simple facts are the first rule is to arrive safely and then to determine whether the scene is safe enough to enter. Failing to do so may result in the first responder becoming another causality, compounding the incident and hindering initial assistance to victims.
    Basic Police Schools (Academy’s) and LEA internal trainers go in depth on the importance of an off duty LEO being a best possible witness if a robbery occurs in their presence. Identifying yourself as a LEO and taking immediate action leaves the officer at a disadvantage as well as potentially endangering other victims or bystanders. Generally you don’t want to draw your off duty weapon and engage the offender unless an immediate threat to life is present.
    Running out of a building after a business has been robbed in order to attempt an apprehension or engage the offender with gunfire sound’s really heroic but is recklessly dangerous. However following the suspect out in order to determine direction of travel, vehicle or tag information and locate other possible suspects is more preferred. Even doing this can be unnecessarily risky so individual judgment, training and common sense are critical.
    An off duty LEO or CCW/HCP holder in plain clothes brandishing a weapon or engaging in a gunfight with a suspect is an open invitation to become a friendly fire causality. Your initial response to any critical or dangerous incident should be to slow down, evaluate and move forward with cautious haste.

  7. An excellent, well written post. This captures the real reason that we who choose to carry should. It also highlights the myth that is held by many anti’s and, unfortunately by a few of us who are not LE, that we carry to “serve and protect” everyone else so we can be heros. We carry to help improve our own chances to survive if the unthinkable happens. Second comes our family and those we care about.

    I remember a self-defense class I took a long time ago involving simunitions where the students simulated sitting in a restaurant where ‘something bad’ was happening in the next room. Eventually the bad guy comes in the room and every student ended up being shot, even though we had several minutes to leave without danger. It taught me a valuable lesson that I never forgot – take care of me first and foremost.

  8. I agree. Not only on the paramedic part but on using one’s weapon. One carries a weapon to defend oneself. I am not Sir Lancelot coming to the aid of Gwenivere. Sure, if it is possible I will/would always come to the aid of someone who needs it. “possible” is the operative word here. It does not mean just charge in blindly. As for those in that theatre incident….seems to me the majority of those do not have a lot of grey matter between their ears. I am not going to do something stupid to aid people who don’t have the common sense to protect themselves. Granted, there may be times where someone due to circumstances beyond their control loses the ability to protect themselves. but still…..I’m not at all sure I would turn into the Lone Ranger or something like that for them.

  9. My gals and I have had these conversations and discussed/visualized various circumstances… It may sound selfish, but – for example – we have priorities and if the gals and I are both there when the SHTF, you rank lower to me than my gals do, but I’ll try to help you if I can and it doesn’t put my gals at risk…

    These are tough discussions and decision folks have to make and while you can’t be prepared for everything, you should be thinkin’ bout them ahead of time.

    Sounds like a great learning experience… your EMT training…

    Dann in Ohio

    • I think that is the lesson…thinking about these things ahead of time. Not always a clear answer, but it’s worth the time.

      You and the gals are so ahead of the game. Lucky for me cuz I benefit from your skills:)

  10. A great many moons ago, when Partner in Crime and I were starting out, she asked one evening why I turned down the restaurant table the hostess had led us to and requested instead “the table over there.”

    Answer was, “it’s closer to an exit.” It was pointed out that I was wearing two guns under my jacket, both of which I had demonstrated fair skill with, plus handcuffs, Mace and other accoutrements. I responded that it was not my job to demonstrate my marksmanship skills should something go pear-shaped, but to keep as many people as possible alive and preferably unhurt, and beginning with her, getting as many as I could out the exit would achieve that better than other actions.

    Once that was accomplished I could move to Step 2, whatever it might be, which would depend on how successful Step 1 was.

    Learned that from the old guy who chauffeured us around for a while.

  11. Good post, and when you get in the field it will make a LOT more sense (especially after the first idjit tries to run over you)…

  12. Given the number of “blue of blue” shootings that I have read about, where officers misread the situation and shot “the scary guy with the gun”, who turned out to be another cop, my inclination is going to be to flee the situation if at all possible.

    Second, I am not a LEO, I am not privileged in the eyes of the law to intervene in a situation. If I misread things, then I’m going away for five to fifteen, maybe 30 years.

    That J-frame Smith (clone) that I carry is an emergency tool. It is for handling threats against me and those I am with. I owe no duty to society to intervene.

  13. Before carrying a gun, anyone should seriously think how they would react in various scenerios. In fact I strongly recommend scenerio training in a shoot house and with airsoft or simunitions in force on force training. The best way to handle an armed robbery is to have the situational awareness not to be there when it goes down, but that’s not always going to be the case. It they are not shooting, stay out of it, especially because one of your fellow shoppers could be the armed robber’s back up. The real issue is if they start shooting, and at that point you have to assume there is a bullet coming your way soon and you need to start to fight for your life. At least that is how I see it. Theater shooting scenerio? Yeah if you can get your protectee out safety, of course., and you get out too Sitting next to an exit, would be ideal, but how often is that possible? Movie theaters are terrible tactical environments. Someone intent on killing the most people possible likely is going to be sending rounds your way before you can get out, so engaging the shooter preferably from cover or concealment is likely to be a good option. Obviously every situation demands its own evaluation, preferably before TSHTF.

  14. I think ZerCool, Dann in Ohion, and Anon on November 15, 2012 at 14:26 summed it up quite nicely.

    My first priority is getting MY loved ones out — which I probably cannot do flat on my back with a sucking chest wound. (OTH, if the only plausible way I can see to getting my family out involves me playing DLIC and becoming a big, obvious, distraction that makes it more likely that I end up flat on my back with God’s personal reminder I need to slow down, well, that’s life. Specifically, my life, my choice.)

    If, after I have secured MY family, I think that I have a REASONABLE chance of saving other innocents, I’ll *consider* engaging. After all, I DID take the oath to do so, and mine didn’t come with a “Best if used by” date on it, nor am I a mercenary whose oathbinding is predicated on cashing a paycheck for it recently. Again, my life, my choice – I would think no less of someone else who (off duty and not geared up for head stomping, whether actively in service or not) chose to do otherwise. Their life, their choice. My drill sergeant was VERY clear on his opinions of “heroic warriors” — “Dead soldiers kill NO Commies for Mommy. Make THAT M*F* a Hero of the Soviet Union — uselessly dead idiots don’t even make good sandbags. Stay alive, stay dangerous. ”

    Of course, it isn’t always a binary solution. Sometimes, even if you aren’t in the crosshairs at that moment, the SAFEST course of action for your family is to directly engage, to stop the incident BEFORE he gets around to hunting stragglers. After all, if you are close enough to hit HIM, he is close enough already to hit YOU. Just like every military teaches how to deal with ambushes – if it’s a “far” ambush, you disengage and flank (or simply withdraw, if preferable to your higher mission). If it’s a “close” ambush, the SAFEST thing to do is immediately charge into it and attack like a rabid chainsaw on crystal meth. Once you’ve already opened the door to the Stop-n-Rob, it’s really too late to just turn around and safely leave an armed robbery in progress. . . for better or worse, you’re now PART of the incident until its conclusion.

    This is the difference between most public safety scenes and an active shooter – fire, flood, building collapse, electricity, and random traffic are not _actively_ and _maliciously_ looking for victims – they do not specifically hunt you down if they “notice” you. Like wasps, they’ll pretty much leave you alone unless you walk into them or just stand there while they randomly wander your way. . . The active shooter, however, is sentient and LOOKING to do harm to people in his field of fire.

  15. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’ve come to the conclusion that if my family is safe, I know what’s going on, and I can do something without putting myself at great risk I will do what I can. Sometimes that may mean just sitting tight and being a good witness.

  16. Don’t ask me – I’m the Alpha Hotel who ran into the fire.

    Seriously, you, ZerCool, Anon, Dann, all have it right. Assess first and if you are not sure of your own safety do not enter, initiate, or engage, is what I taught. And tell TSM that I had the same issue as a pup. I asked my E-8 and my Gunny at separate times about that, and each advised in a remarkably similar fashion (and I paraphrase here): Keep Doc alive and chilly because he’ll keep us alive and warm.


  17. I was an EMT and the same thing was drilled into me; if it ain’t safe, call the cops. Ask for assistance if it seems needed.
    Make sure that you are not going into an ambush for instance: if it looks suspect, it may BE suspect.
    I would like to presume however, that had I been in that theatre, I would have gone after that Son-Of-The-Devil. If it was only with a knife. It was another Luby’s and 1 was too many for me.
    That does not make me brave and you a quavering paper tiger. But it is just something that I have considered, that is, how will I die?
    I don’t mind dying so much, if it means that I died well. I do mind some other things though, like liveing with myself.

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