The Mental Fire Drill

I’m fortunate that I get to teach self-defense in a lot of different settings around the country, and I teach on a variety of topics. But I realized that regardless of whether I’m teaching about active shooter events, personal safety, or actual fight tactics, there is a an exercise that I advocate in almost all settings:

The Mental Fire Drill

Everyone understands a fire drill. Find the quickest way out of the building you happen to be in. Slightly less practiced is the principle that you should have a secondary route out of the building in case the primary route is unavailable or blocked.

The mental fire drill is quite simple. As you go about your day to day activities, whatever setting you happen to be in, take a moment to recognize the two fastest ways out of the area. I say “area” because at times you may not be in a building or home, but should still have an idea how to vacate the premises quickly. The mental fire drill can greatly enhance your personal safety because very often one of the best survival tactics is to get out of the area as fast as possible. Everyone recognizes that to survive a building fire you must get out fast. Additionally, if the fire is blocking the primary exit, a secondary exit must be used. The same often applies for an active shooter or other dangerous event. The goal is to get out of the area fast, and if the danger is blocking the primary exit, a secondary exit must be used.

Much of the work I’ve done or been trained to do in executive protection follows a similar model. Anticipate what dangers could be present, and figure out how to avoid them. The mental fire drill does that for a myriad of situations. Here are a couple things to note:

· The fastest way out isn’t always the way you came in. Very often restaurants will have take out entrances or emergency exits closer to you.

· Many retail stores and restaurants only have one easily identifiable entrance/exit, but there is another one somewhere. If you can’t see it, it may be through a kitchen or back storage room, but it’s there.

· Shopping malls are designed to funnel shoppers by as many stores as possible. Those are rarely the fastest route out of the building. There are delivery doors and back hallways that are quicker. If you’ve ever worked in retail, odds are good you used these hallways rather than the customer entrances/exits.

· Don’t worry about being perfect. Being somewhat aware of exits will cause you to move faster if a danger ever does present itself. And in a dangerous situation, acting on a mediocre plan immediately is far better than a perfect plan that takes a few minutes.

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