Friday, August 28, 2009

Some Comments on Breaking News

As I type this, the 11pm news is covering a breaking story in our downtown area. Apparently many shots from an "assault rifle" were reported so the main freeway through the city was shut down, the place is crawling with cops, and a police helicopter is in the air while they look for suspects. So here's my comments:
  • The traffic is stopped and backed up on the freeway and the people are getting out of their cars to try to figure out what is happening. When you don't know what is happening, listen to the local news. These people are putting themselves in danger if, indeed, someone is shooting randomly in the area in which they are gridlocked.
  • People are coming out of their homes to see what is going on. Ditto the above comment. If there is a lot of action happening outside, ascertain what is happening before running outside to see--a shooter, someone trying to run from the police, a drunk driver mowing down mailboxes and vehicles in their way--all of these situations can cause death and/or bodily harm to spectators.
  • A police scanner can be useful in these situation.
  • Radio pre-sets, whether on your car radio or your home radio, when set to the local news stations can also be useful in these types of situations.
  • Other options for news include television news, checking the website of your local newspaper, Twitter, and occasionally YouTube.
  • If you do find yourself in the middle of a firefight, keep down. Whether in your house or your car, keeping down and getting under/behind something that can cover and conceal you is a good idea. Ditto for everyone else with you.
  • Engaging a shooter if you are armed, while always risky, is even more so if you are between the cops and the bad guys. If the cops hear shots coming from your area, they will assume you are one of the suspects; don't add to the confusion. Better to follow the advice in the previous point unless you, specifically, are under fire from the suspects and you have absolutely no other option to save your life.
  • Feel free to document like crazy if it can be done safely. Note times, events, descriptions (of suspects, cars, firearms, and other details you can see), and any other pertinent details. Photos and video are also nice, if this can be done safely.
  • Don't draw attention to yourself. You don't want to distract law enforcement and you don't want to make yourself a target for the suspect. If you are home, lock doors and windows, draw the curtains, turn off the lights, etc. If in a car there isn't much you can do but lock the doors and leaving yourself an escape route if possible (ie: don't be so close to the bumper in front of you that you cannot drive off--through the median if necessary--in case you need to escape).
  • React appropriately. Currently the people on the freeway do not seem to be in harm's way. Apparently they should stay where they are until given notice by the police as the suspect doesn't seem to be in the immediate area of where the cars are parked on the freeway, so it isn't necessary for all of the traffic to suddenly drive through the median and head off down the other side of the freeway (note that each situation will be different so what is appropriate in this case--to stay parked--could be different in another situation and you would DEFINITELY want to drive through the median, against traffic, etc, in order to escape. And no, if the situation is as described above, you don't need to call 911 to alert them to the problem, they already know about it, unless you have pertinent information that you don't think they have such as you just saw a man with a rifle running southbound along the freeway.
  • And some other things: if you are expecting a spouse or kids to come home soon, call them to tell them to stay away until the situation is resolved. If you (or your kids) are outside when a situation such as this occurs, you (or they) should go to the closest house and seek refuge until the situation abates. If you are outside of this type of situation but your loved one is in the middle of it, resist the urge to go charging in to save them (easier said than done). Hopefully they will be educated with the information above and get themselves into a protected position while law enforcement gets a handle on the situation (ie: fear crazed parents running into a live fire situation doesn't HELP the situation or your loved one even if that is your natural instinct).

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