Learnings from the Westgate Mall tragedy

The terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya was a horrific tragedy. What can we learn from this and what can we rehearse/ train for to help us out in the unlikely but sadly I fear inevitable case that this happens in the US? One thing people SHOULD learn is how much help a good guy with a gun can be…but this article is about how to apply a tactical mindset to survive a horrific event like this.

  • Get off the X. Move your self and your companions right away! Your priorities should be to find cover or concealment as quickly as possible- react and think on the move. Cover is always preferred but if you have to conceal yourselves and then assess a path to cover it's better than nothing.
  • Drawing your weapon is up to you (you are carrying, aren't you??). While your instinct may be to break leather, the moment that happens you risk positively identifying yourself as a threat to the bad guys. Be certain before you draw. And if you do have to use your sidearm remember to reholster.
  • One thing you may not realize about shopping malls- many stores have a back room that leads to a back door typically used for deliveries. At a minimum these are good places to get out of sight and it just might pay off as a way to discretely exit the building to safety.
  • Avoid the Fatal Funnel: don't take doorways for granted- ever.
  • Observe-Orient-Decide-Act. This is a critical mindset- effectively processing information about your environment could make all the difference between getting yourself and your loved ones out an exit or running your group into a dead-end (hopefully not a literal one).

You may have to assess the threat or threats to choose an appropriate course of action. Is this the typical lone gunman type or have you observed evidence of a coordinated team of attackers? That answer could weigh heavily on your decision: in many cases there may be opportunities to confront a 'lone gunman' type of attacker and stop them. It's always important to keep Cooper's Laws of safety in mind though- for example what's behind your target?

As with most things, practice can make execution of these techniques much more effective in the unfortunate event they are required. Rehearse as much as you can- take the family to the mall and walk everyone through some scenarios. Also be sure to ask your loved ones questions to ensure they are applying the mindset and prioritization of how to react.

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