Don’t rush to help.
When a car rams into a crowd, resist the natural American urge to rush in and render help. While your focus is on the wounded, you might next feel a knife plunged into your back, and now you are no good to anyone.
Your time to help might be short in coming though. If you read this article, you are now one of the informed, and it is my hope, being one of the informed might aid you in saving lives, including your own.
Why would I suggest such a thing? It seems so calloused and heartless to write, let alone do in real life.
Please understand, I’m not asking you to do nothing. I’m just asking you to wait a few moments. If you are in close proximity to an attack like this, rushing in may be the last thing you do.
The good hearted people who rush in to help do so because they haven’t given thought that this type of event could actually happen to them, and their Arc of Survival forces them to do nice things, but they are actually potentially detrimental things.
For normal people, seeing a car careening through a crowd and mowing people down would lead most people to believe the driver must have a medical problem. Who else but one with a health problem would run a car into a crowd?
The common sense thing for good people to do in this situation is to call the police, tend to the wounded and to check on the driver to make sure he is conscious and breathing.
That is, if we lived in a common sense, predictable world. If the world has ever been predictable, it is now arguably less so. At what other time in history have we seen such senseless acts where madmen (are they really?) run their cars into a crowd of people, exit, and begin stabbing anyone within reach of their blade?
We can no longer function in such a common sense way as we have done in the past. Just as 9/11 changed things in America, these smaller events must make us evaluate how we respond as citizens.
Could This Happen Here?
I am always stunned when I hear media talking heads trying to discover whether this same situation could happen in America. This we know: ISIS has encouraged young Jihadis to use their cars to ram into crowds and then stab those who come to help.
It is a recommended method of attack because it is so easy to do. It is low tech, low cost, and not easy to detect.
Car ramming/stabbing attacks have already happened a lot: France, United States, Great Britain.
Are our memories so short that we forget this exact scenario happened at Ohio State University just a few months ago?
You might recall how on November 28, 2016, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, suspected Islamist terrorist, inspired by ISIS propaganda, rammed his car into a crowd at OSU’s Watts Hall. Of course the students believed no sane person could possibly do this on purpose, so when they moved into help the injured, several were slashed by the suspect before being gunned down by a police officer on scene. A total of 13 people were directly injured by the terrorist before he was shot by the police.
Jihadis are on the attack, and we continue to believe it cannot happen to
us. This is our weakness: Failure to believe it can happen to us or in close proximity to us.
Understand The Arc of Survival
In her book, The Unthinkable, Amanda Ripley examines how our brains respond during emergency events. Each person’s response is different based upon their exposure to such incidents, and is dependent on whether they have allowed their brains to think about violent incidents and how they respond.
Depending on whether a human being has thought about, seen or practiced for something often determines how they respond and in some cases whether they survive violence.
The Arc of Survival involves three distinct phases of thought and action. In the first phase, Denial, humans involved in high stress events take time to process what they are seeing unfold before them. They try to determine if it is real and whether it is dangerous. The brain asks questions: Is this really happening? What do I do if it is really happening?
If you have convinced yourself you will never be in a crowd when a car comes through it, then Denial will be a very tough phase to work through. It will take longer to determine this is a real event.
In Denial our brains are working to make sense of the reality before them and deciding if they have a pre-programmed, trained response to what they are seeing. Critical seconds can pass, or a failure to move can result in injury or death.
In this scenario, if you follow the crowd and move to help, you are walking toward the danger. If you are frozen in place and trying to figure this out, the threat can come to you.
The brain then shifts to Deliberation: Should I help? If I help, what should I do? Should I run to an injured person? Should I get behind cover? Should I run away? Do I call 911? Again, spending time deliberating a response decreases reaction time, and elongates the Arc of Survival. Deliberation can last long enough to force you into a bad situation. This can also lead to being paralyzed, so you neither run away, nor run toward, you just stay in one place.
Depending on what you have been trained to do, or what you have thought to do in a given situation, this leads to the third stage, Decisive Action.
Think for a moment, how often do you hear of a car running into a crowd of people? Thankfully, this is a rare event, but lately these events have led to the driver exiting his car and stabbing anyone around him.
Knife attacks are deadly enough. What if he has a gun? What if his car is full of explosives? Obviously, running toward the action in an attempt to help may lead to injury or death for you.
What Am I Asking You To Do?
Think. Agree. Act
Upon hearing of a terrorist attack, I have found most people say, “Tsk, Tsk, shameful thing,” then go on about their lives without giving it some thought that one day they could be involved in a serious, life threatening event.
A chance to think of how they would respond in a similar or like circumstance is gone and wasted. At the basic level, I ask you to simply think, “This could happen to me or someone I love. How would I respond?”
Simply agree that something like this could happen. You may one day be present when a car runs into a crowd of people, and you are one of the people still standing after the initial attack. If you agree something like this can happen, then your Arc of Survival becomes smaller, and your time to respond becomes shorter.
What are you prepared to do in the moment? Do you have a responsibility to act? Are you trained in empty hand tactics to disarm a man slashing at a crowd? I’ve received training in how to disarm someone with a knife, but it isn’t something I want to do. I would much rather stay far away from the threat, and come up with plan that creates a barrier.
Are there weapons available to you and are you willing to do what it takes to stop his deadly aggression? A weapon isn’t always a knife or a gun. A car, a brick, a log, a beer bottle can all become weapons if necessary. Simply thinking about it before hand, can result in reacting better in a stressful environment.
Tactical retreat – running away – is always an option. There are no rules saying you have to stay and fight, running away and directing authorities to his exact location with a great description can be extremely helpful in a crowded event. This is not cowardly, this is survival, and a perfectly acceptable option if your life is in danger.
You may have heard the saying, “Only fools rush in.” I agree with this sentiment.
The greatest help you may be to anyone injured in this type of ramming event may be to momentarily seek cover, observe, and alert authorities keeping them informed as to what is happening on the ground.
If you determine after a few minutes of observation (believe me when I tell you this is a hard thing to do) there is no secondary threat, or an armed citizen or police officer has stopped the offender’s aggressive action, then you can move closer and render aid.
Simply thinking about it before hand and pre-planning a response can help you should you ever find yourself having the worst possible day ever and prevent it from your last one.
Glen Evans is an author and speaker focused on helping people save their own lives. Through entertaining talks for all ages, Glen demonstrates how our body responds to danger and steps we can take that increase our chance of survival.