Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Ten Tips for Threat Assessment & Avoidance of Violence
This week I attended a mandatory training session on threat assessment at Waukesha County Technical College, where I teach creative writing. I did not want to go. The subject seemed so negative. I thought, "Has the world really come to this?"
To my surprise, the training was wonderful. It was led by Pewaukee police officer and WCTC instructor Christopher Jaekl, who must have gone home exhausted after his energetic presentation.
I purposely did not take notes because I wanted to force myself to lodge his ideas in my head. I think the officer's tips are useful for all of us. Each one of us could encounter someone who poses a threat at any time, anywhere. Here are Officer Jaekl's tips that I carried home in my head:
1. A person doesn't have to make a threat to be a threat.
2. Pay attention to when the hair rises on the back of your neck. This is nature's way of keeping us alive. If you feel something is an emergency, it is an emergency. Call 911.
3. There are many signs leading up to violence, where you can diffuse the situation. Watch for boxer stance, agitation, arms waving around, hands flicking here and there, eye contact avoidance or staring right through you, and (worst of all) dead silence like the eye of the storm.
4. Stay calm so your brain can keep working. Take DEEP breaths. Talk calmly.
5. Be respectful. Listen carefully & acknowledge any valid points the person may make. Ask the person to sit down. Say "I can help you." Say "I can't think when you're this close to me. Can you kindly back up a bit?" Give the person a choice.
6. Make yourself a human being, not a target. Use eye contact. Stand up straight.
7. There is strength in numbers. Stay with a group.
8. Create distraction. If a threat becomes active, knock something over or throw something to buy time and break the attacker-target gaze.
9. If you know an armed person is running around your building, lock your door if you can, barricade yourself inside your room or a safe nearby room, turn out the lights, and be quiet.
10. If you are personally threatened with a weapon, don't try to fight physically. Again, make yourself human - not a target - by talking. It's okay to get down on your knees, use eye contact, and tell about your family members who love and need you.
My dad always said "When you're number's up, it's up." I too am fatalistic. Even so, I like learning these tips. May we never need any of them.
Gail Grenier is the author of Calling All Horses, Dog Woman, Don't Worry Baby, and Dessert First, all available from Amazon.com.