by Lori, Guest Contributor
There was an obvious call for panic last Friday afternoon when a gunman open-fired into a group of people at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. As I sat at work and was told the news, I thought to myself how I couldn’t imagine the distress going through the hearts and minds of those involved and of those immediately close to them. Then I realized that even though I couldn’t imagine this moment of devastation, I could have easily been a part of it, in the middle of it, experiencing it.
You see, I live and work in South Florida. For some time, I have commuted between Fort Lauderdale and the Army installation where my husband is stationed.
I am a regular patron of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport, flying almost every other weekend. I feel quite relieved that my family and I were not counted among the scores of people involved. My heart aches for those who were.
Considering the fact that I could have been flying that very day, I thought to myself:
“What would I have done the moment I heard the shots? Where would I have run?”
Fight, flight, or freeze are natural, instinctual reactions to uncertain situations. Even though life is unpredictable, there are things we can do to help prepare us for when we find ourselves in moments of panic.
The shooting at the Fort Launderdale airport served as a personal wake-up call that I could (and should) invest a little bit more in being prepared.
You Can’t Prevent It So You Better Be Prepared for It
Don’t get me wrong! I’m not completely oblivious to safety planning. As a child, my parents built with us 72-hour kits and long-term food storage, and they taught us safety plans and the importance of family code words.
When I lived in Manhattan as a young adult, my roommates and I would have a “family meeting,” pull out the notebooks, and read through our emergency plan every quarter. We reminded each other of our rendezvous point. We practiced the various ways of evacuating the building, doing everything just short of actually climbing out onto the fire escapes (we were only to do that in the event of an actual emergency, not merely a drill!).
I’m grateful to be married to a man who is serious about being prepared and about protecting his family. Everywhere we go, he is constantly thinking about where to go and what to do and how to keep his family safe should an emergency strike.
You can’t be prepared for everything (surely, no one expected the incidents of 2016 in Nice, France or Orlando, Fla.) but you can make an action plan. Being prepared increases our options and could help our outcomes during these crisis situations.
How to Shift from Panic Mode to Prepare Mode
Take a first-aid course. At the Fort Lauderdale airport, patrons attended to the needs of those injured in the shooting prior to medical staff being able to assist. You never know when you may need to tend to the needs of others.
Keep basic first aid kits in your purse and/or in your car. I bought an inexpensive one from the dollar store! It is small and compact.
Get in even better shape so that you can better help yourself should you need to fight or take flight. Take a self-defense course. Learn to use a firearm if you feel comfortable doing so.
Be alert. Minimize distractions so that you can stay alert. That means you might need to put away the phone and the ear phones.
Be aware. Everywhere we go, my husband makes a point to pay attention to his surroundings. Why? Well, by having situational awareness, you minimize the amount of time between danger happening, you recognizing the danger, and acting appropriately. As you start to implement this practice, don’t just notice the physical place – you should also notice the people around you and any resources that might be at your disposal should you need them.
Teach your family about certain character traits which could come in handy when thoughts of panic start to take over. Teach them how to be creative and resourceful, proactive, and determined. Teach them that even in hard times, we can move forward.
Use social media to your advantage. As I mentioned, I didn’t have a flight booked for the Friday of this dreaded event. However, I had a friend who flew out of Fort Lauderdale airport earlier that day with his wife and daughter. He marked himself on social media as being “Safe during the Violent Incident in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.” Facebook safety checks turn on for people known to be in the area of a natural disaster or mass shooting.
Similarly, keep your eye out for hotlines. Sometimes family members get separated, cell phones don’t have reception or a charged battery. How do you get in touch? The news will broadcast a number for a hotline where inquiries can be made to check on individuals or check on the status of the situation.
Military Families Must Make a Special Effort
So obviously all families and individuals should take steps to be more safety cognizant. But why am I specifically calling military families to action?
Well, for one, we know that military personnel and their supporters (i.e., us – their family!) are targets for terrorist acts. As targets, we need to step up our knowledge and our ability to protect ourselves. Our spouses have training for emergency and survival, but what about us?
Can we keep up with them should we need to flee?
Can we have endurance and push hard when we need to fight?
Can we think fast and be resourceful?
For our spouses, survival training is part of their job, but for us, it will be an extracurricular that we need to be self-motivated to accomplish.
Make Crisis Preparation a Goal
The ideas above are a simple list. You can do a quick internet search to find more in depth information about any of those points and better tailor them for the needs of your family.
Don’t wait for a catastrophe to convince you to take action. It’s still early in the year…perhaps you can make it a formal goal. Let’s hope for a happy, safe, and healthy new year.
Lori is an Army spouse who does her best to stay busy. She loves to challenge herself physically and mentally. As an avid reader and chronic goal-setter, she lives by the motto “Never Plateau.”