Feeling safe in a time of crisis; psychologist, security expert offer tips

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Sunday’s tragedy is raising tough questions about hotel security.

Nearly 43 million visitors went to Las Vegas in 2016.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority says hotel occupancy last year was at 90 percent, compared to the national average of 65.5 percent.

When police found shooter Stephen Paddock in his 32nd floor hotel room at Mandalay Bay, they also found nearly two dozen weapons.

When asked if the massacre will prompt change among hotel security protocols, Las Vegas-based security consultant Robert Gardner replied, “Security is always being evaluated and re-evaluated every time there’s an incident. The entire industry will take a close look at it. Was there anything that could have prevented that?”

Gardner says the idea of searching guests each time one enters a hotel would be difficult.

“What you would have to do is something similar to TSA airport screenings to guarantee that no weapons get in. Las Vegas sees millions and millions of tourists every year. There is a problem. Just logistically, trying to screen guests would be a nightmare,” Gardner said.

In Hawaii, retired police chief Lee Donohue says an active shooter situation can happen anywhere, and it’s important to constantly be aware of your surroundings.

“Everybody has to do that today, unfortunately. It’s the world we live in now. It’s crazy,” said Donohue.

Personal safety tips

Federal guidelines say you have three options if you’re caught in an active shooter situation: run, hide, or fight.

Run

  • Running is the top priority. Get away from the shooter or shooters. Leave your belongings behind and get away.
  • Help others escape, if possible, but evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
  • Warn and prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
  • Call 911 when you are safe, and describe shooter, location, and weapons.

Hide

  • If you can’t run, hide and stay in place until police give you the all-clear.
  • Get out of the shooter’s view and stay very quiet. Your hiding place should be out of the shooter’s view and provide protection if shots are fired in your direction.
  • Silence all electronic devices and make sure they won’t vibrate.
  • Lock and block doors, close blinds, and turn off lights.
  • Don’t hide in groups. Spread out along walls or hide separately to make it more difficult for the shooter.
  • Try to communicate with police silently through text message or social media so they know your geo-tagged location, or by putting a sign in a window.

Fight

  • Your last resort is to fight. Recruit others to distract and disarm the shooter.
  • Commit to your actions and act as aggressively as possible against him/her.
  • Recruit others to ambush the shooter with makeshift weapons like chairs, fire extinguishers, scissors, books, etc. to distract and disarm the shooter.
  • Be prepared to cause severe or lethal injury to the shooter.
  • Throw items and improvise weapons.

Sunday’s tragedy did not happen in a confined place. The festival was held in an open-field event near Mandalay Bay hotel.

Donohue says keep your eye out for the nearest two exits and stay on guard.

“Once you get into the venue, in your mind, have it set. If anything happens, what you would do to protect yourself,” he advised.

The Honolulu Police Department’s Major Events Division gives presentations on active shooter and other similar critical incident situations upon request.

Click here to submit a request.

Emotional, psychological well-being

Coming to terms with the Las Vegas shooting can be tough, whether you’re a child or an adult.

KHON2 spoke with a psychologist about how the shooting can impact you and your family.

There’s a constant stream of pictures and videos of the shooting on social media, and it’s hard to erase.

“That’s normal. It’s normal to feel stressed. It’s normal to feel scared about these things,” said David Cicero, an associate professor in the psychology department at University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Cicero said it’s important for parents to let children know they’re safe.

“The important thing to remember is that these events are really rare, so the chances of it happening to us or someone we love is still very low,” he said. “A lot of that comes from seeing how the parent reacts, and so I think it can be really useful there too to get in the normal routine.”

We’re told avoiding crowds or things you enjoy can make anxiety worse, so keeping your normal routine and limiting social media use are some of the best ways to cope following tragedies.

“If you’re afraid of going to the movie theater or something like that, then the more you do it and see that you’re safe, then the more comfortable you feel with it and the anxiety fades as a result,” Cicero said.

Cicero said those who lived through the shooting and those who watched it unfold through pictures and videos could develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“People who see those videos, or see those events, can have similar reactions to people who were actually there,” he said.

Everyone copes differently, but if you have lingering feelings, trouble sleeping, or fear of leaving your home, it’s a good idea to seek professional help.

Psychologists also say focusing on the good that comes out of tragedies, like people coming together and acts of kindness, is another positive way to cope.

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